Sunday, 2 February 2014

Lessons in Voice Direction...

One of the more daunting tasks on Deadly was recording the voices.  I had done a little bit of voice directing with some of our great child actors on Wildernuts, but as everyone kept telling me - directing adults is a different kettle of fish.  Lesson  1, I was informed was, for the love of God, don't give a line read to an adult actor...

And what adult actors we had!  When I was working on developing the idea of Bridie, I had the wonderful (not to mention Oscar-winning) actress, Brenda Fricker in my mind.  I never really thought we could get her to do it, but her on-screen characters helped ground Bridie in the script and slightly later, even informed the design.  

Then through an unlikely set of circumstances we managed to get a script to Brenda, who politely refused several times before finally giving in to my pestering! I was shocked. Then delighted. Then terrified.  I was going to have to direct an actress, who'd forgotten more about acting than I'll ever know! Things weren't helped by a quick Wikipedia search ("Fricker has been reported to be difficult to work with").  Lesson 2, I was very happy to learn on my own - never trust Wikipedia!
Myself and Brenda Fricker making some improvements to the script 

The night before the voice record was a fairly restless one for me.  How was this amazing actress going to react to being directed by a guy who draws cartoon animals for a living?  My only saving grace was, I kept telling myself, that the character was based on Ms Fricker and basically anything she did was going to work, because she was Bridie.  I hoped.

Luckily I was right.  Brenda arrived (with her two dogs in tow) to the recording studio (the wonderful Gorilla) and was friendly, professional and wonderful to work with.  She brought a subtlety and warmth to Bridie that was more than I could have hoped for. She also showed her wealth of experience - "Can you say that line a bit more quickly, please Brenda?" .  "I can, but I don't think that's going to work as well ".  It didn't. Perhaps the most obvious lesson I learned that day was Lesson 3 - when you base a character on Brenda Fricker, listen to Brenda Fricker (or trust the woman with the Oscar for acting!)

For our other character, Grimm, we were lucky to get none other than Fran himself, Peter Coonan.  We had sent the script out to his agent and Peter had been keen on it from the beginning.  I really liked the huskiness in his voice.  Sometimes animated voices can sound alike, but Peter's voice is unique and brought a real richness to the character.

That voice record was only slightly less daunting and a very different experience as Peter actively encouraged my feedback after each line read. The character of Grimm is younger than him and I very much appreciated Peter's vocal acrobatics to give Grimm a more high pitched and naive voice.  This was no mean feat as Peter's natural, lower voice came out very occasionally making Grimm sound like (as he said himself) "Ronny Drew selling crack"

Our final character was voiced by Andrew Kavanagh, who counts voice acting among his many talents.  Andrew brought a deep and resonant tone that worked well with Grimm.  So here we are - a few lessons learned, some excellent voice work in the can and now onto the next phase with a new problem - making the acting in the animation as good as the acting in the voices!

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