Reminders and Actors

On top of my monitor I’ve taped up the following text: “What’s she thinking? What’s she feeling?” I put it there as a reminder for me when animating the characters in my film. It’s important to keep in mind what’s going on in the character’s head because that’s what should drive the action. Or, as Ed Hooks says in his book Acting for Animators: thinking tends to lead to conclusions, and emotion tends to lead to action.

It’s easy to forget stuff like this. There’s actually a whole set of principles to follow when animating, some of which are almost second nature to me at this point, but some of which slip my mind from time to time.

I guess I’ll talk about recording and actors and stuff.

While I was working on my animatic I put up posters around the film school and the theater school at UCLA. The theater school was what really did it for me. Holy crap, there are tons of actors over there who want to do stuff like this. There’s this seemingly endless lack of communication between the various schools on campus, despite the fact that they have mutually compatible stuff like this. What I mean is that there are lots of actors who want to do films and voiceovers and there are tons of composers who want to do film work. To not take advantage of that would be a real shame.

Anyway, getting back to it. I got like 18 responses to the posters I put up in the theater school – all girls except one. That’s okay, since I was only advertising for girls. I had decided that I would try and do the two male lines in the story myself. The one guy who responded assured me he could do female voices. I’m an open-minded kind of guy; I was skeptical but certainly willing to give him a chance.

I scheduled auditions with all the people who responded to my posters. The basic drill was that we would read through the script three times – once for Sarah (the little girl), once for Jenny (the babysitter), and once for the mom. (We would leave out any sections that didn’t include those characters.) Most of the actresses were ready to jump right in after I described the characters for them, but some of them asked for a few minutes to prepare.

When we did the read-through I first asked them to say their name into my tape recorder and then we went through the parts. I recorded the whole thing, which let me review their performances later and compare them closely. I even ended up loading them into an audio editing program I have and comparing the various voices in response to each other (switching out who was on what part, and so on). This way I was able to figure out who sounded best in context.

In the end I decided on two actresses – one for Jenny and Sarah and the other for Mom. I reserved a recording studio in the film school and we had a big session where we recorded everything.

The thing about that recording studio is that it’s complex. Like, really complex. There are wires everywhere. There are several different boards, each with a million knobs, buttons, and sliders, most of which I have no idea what they do. I’m only able to use this studio because there’s a set of instructions there on how to use the equipment in the most common configuration. Even then, though I wasn’t able to figure everything out perfectly. For instance, on some of the lines where a character yells I just couldn’t get it to stop distorting (when the signal goes louder than the dynamic range of the equipment), so I ended up having the actress stand back from the mic. It was a less than perfect solution, because then it sounds like someone yelling from across the room 🙁 I’m still thinking about trying to do another session at some point to fix those takes as well as do pickups (mostly nonverbal vocalizations like grunts and stuff like that).

Oh, and about that guy who auditioned for my female roles: He sounded terrible. He sounded like a man trying to sound like a woman. I can’t comment on his acting ability because I was too distracted by how wrong he sounded for the parts.

By the way: is anyone reading this?  Is this stuff interesting?  Is there anything else you’d like to hear about in this blog?  Leave a comment here or email me with your thoughts.

2 thoughts on “Reminders and Actors

  1. Barbara says:

    It’s interesting, for sure. We’ve heard before about the storyboard process (although the details have been new and interesting), but this is the first time I’ve heard about finding actors and the recording session. So here’s my question: Now that you no longer have easy access to the UCLA recording studio and theater students, what will you do about future recording sessions? (You mentioned possibly re-recording the whole thing as your thoughts change about timing etc.) Will those actors you used before be willing to do it again? Will you have to pay them since you’re no longer a student there? What about music?

    Even though you’re talking about history now, it would be nice to know (even if very briefly) where in the process you are now.

    Keep up the good work! — Love, Mom

  2. Sharon says:

    Hey, I’m one of those actors! I play the Mom and I would come to LA to record it again for sure! It’s interesting to hear David’s take on the auditioning and recording process. It was a lot of fun to record. But I may be in Hawaii for Grad school by mid-August. So let’s fix it before then!

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