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Getting To Grips With Improv

In the world of acting and voice over, you will often be expected to read from a script. This is definitely true for professional pieces, such as advertising work and business tutorials, for example. However, voice over artists often take on the roles of characters, where they must act, and this is where improvisation can become a great tool.

Improvisation, a.k.a. ad-libbing or improv, has long been used by actors and voice actors to add something more to their character. Jim Carrey is well-known for improvising most of his films, as was Robin Williams (who improvised nearly all of his lines as Aladdin's Genie). Mike Myers is another actor who uses improv, which can best be seen in the Austin Powers films and when he voiced the character of Shrek.

So, how can you become better at improvisation?

1. Become the character.

 Learn everything about your characters and imagine them in different situations. What would they do? What would they say? How would they react? What noises would they make? Creating a full personality for your character will benefit you when faced with a script where you can let your imagination run wild.

2. Expand on the setting and scene.

Read the script and think about how it will look on screen with your voice over it. Ask the script-writers and animators how much freedom you have to use the scene in your improvisation. With improvised scripts, animators often add their input after recording. Therefore, if your character finds himself in, for example, a joke shop or circus, there are millions of jokes and lines you can ad-lib. Be creative!

3. Use the other characters.

When you're reading a script that gives you room to improvise, be aware of the other characters and their improvisation as well. When you're recording your voice over, you need to listen and react to the other characters. Their lines are just as important as yours in making sure that the script, and its improvised lines, all work together.

4. Do your research.

Watch actors like Jim, Robin and Mike do their thing! Learn from the way they incorporate improvisation into the script. Do they make funny noises? Add random lines? Make jokes? You may find it difficult to pick out which bits are scripted and which are ad-libbed, however, the personalities of these actors shine through in all of their roles. You should aim to make your voice sound just as memorable.

If you are finding improvisation tough to master, you can always take an acting or improvisation class. This will give you the chance to build your confidence. You will also benefit from practising with other voice artists and actors before you take on a role where you must improvise. [Insert ad-lib here]!

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