Discover more from Harlem Queen
What I Listen for in Voice Actors
and more of how I made an audio drama...
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Last time, I mentioned the steps I took to make an audio drama.
Write a great script (we’ve already been over this).
Get your Cast and Crew together.
Now we are up to step 5; Edit.
I hate, yes, hate, editing (if anyone reading this loves to edit or you know someone who edits, PLEASE let me know).
As you may know, editing is another step or opportunity to craft the story.
To edit an audio drama, you must first listen to all of your recordings - that’s hours and hours of recordings of each character. Each character gets their own audio track. Hopefully, you have your recordings labeled well so that you can find what you are looking for easily. For example, if you need to find Stephanies’s third line on page seven, you want to be able to find it easily.
As you listen to all of the audio, you select the audio clips that you like for each character.
Then you line up all of the dialogue. I use GarageBand to edit.
That’s it. That is your basic “dialogue edit”.
My first time editing, it took me a whole week to listen to and select my clips for a twenty minute episode. The audio was labeled, but not in a way that I understood so I had to listen to everything, all six hours of ten characters - yes, that’s sixty hours of audio.
I must say it sounds amazing when it all comes together. When you have one actor recording in their closet in Brooklyn and another recording in their closet in L.A. and you edit their conversation together - it sounds like they are speaking in the same room to one another - and it sounds pretty dope!
During the edit, you’re removing bloopers and only putting in the best dialogue recordings. You should also think about sounds that can be added to heighten the drama, energy and engagement in the scene. For example, in an early scene in my audio drama titled 1972, Angela Davis is giving a speech to a crowd. While I was editing I thought it would be good to have police car sirens off in the distance. Angela’s dramatic arrest comes later in the story so I thought the police car sirens in this early scene added to the stakes in that scene and provided foreshadowing.
My first editor for Harlem Queen was Chris Manley and the episodes sound great. By episode three I needed to save what little money I had, so I started editing all of my shows myself.
What do I listen for in voice actors?
Let me start off by saying that because I think actors are super heroes and the actors I work with are incredible. I think actors can do anything - when they can’t do something they tell me - and I look at them confused and surprised, like, “really”? You mean to tell me you can’t speak Portuguese with a little 70s “urban” slang and sing Shining Star by Earth Wind and Fire a cappella?
I am in awe of actors who have very flexible, “turn on a dime” voices. In my opinion, you need more than a nice voice to do voice acting, you have to be able to act as well.
I like to create short scenes where a lot has to be completed. Each character has to enter a scene on a mission ready to fix a problem, get dissuaded by another character (who is on their own mission) so the scene turns on a dime, the characters come up with a new plan and launch off into the next scene with that plan.
A person has to make a single word sound like all of the things in that moment.
For example, when a character says, ‘Oh, how lovely’. We need to hear the sarcasm, glee, subdued surprise, sincerity all at once.
I have had the opportunity to work with magnificent actors!:
Gabrielle Adkins as Madame Stephanie St. Clair in Harlem Queen. She performs a French-Caribbean accent (she is not French-Caribbean) while saying 1920s slang. (Hello!) She can can turn a word on a dime.
Ebonie Ellington is incredible as Shirley Chisholm in 1972. Her voice is like a singer’s voice. She has so much range. She can sound low and down home and high and uptight.
Jac’leen Smith is amazing as Angela Davis in 1972. Some people think I used actual audio of Ms. Davis because Jac’leen sounds so much like her.
Journey Browne-Saintel, several parts in Harlem Queen. I love the southern charm and warmth in her voice. She can express doubt, incredulity, understanding in one ‘Oh’. with mature, yet youthful voice.
Ian Bell as Dutch Schultz in Harlem Queen is truly a heavy hitter. He can be brutal and pull it back to be mellow and “soft”.
Kara Young as Wilhemina in Harlem Queen can sound smooth and mellow. She can turn a phrase. There is a toughness underneath that smooth exterior.
I love hesitations, pauses, doubts, confusion, sighs, relief, ums and uhs….believe me, we can hear your hesitation, concern and fear even if we can not see your face.
One more bit of advice; learn, maintain, practice your languages and accents.
Specialize in what makes you special.
You should feel comfortable reading aloud.
That’s it for now.
Next time, I will write about sound design.
Thank you for reading and sharing!!