Travelling from Monaco to Disneyland Paris on a tight budget was always going to be tricky. And we were a group of 8, including three teenagers and an 80-year-old.
It was August 2017. I’d been in a play in Monaco, and my family had come out to join me. While the rest of the cast and crew flew back to London, we thought we’d make the most of the trip and take the train up through France to Paris. And the kids wanted to go to Disneyland.
The pre-planning for this 36-hour detour was quite a palaver. We needed to travel light, so the costumes were shipped back to the UK. We had to get two interconnecting trains to Paris, find a hotel near the right Metro to get us to the airport in the morning (to drop the cases), and then on to EuroDisney. And then everything had to dovetail for the rest of the day – enough time at the park, a train back to Charles de Gaulle and the night plane to get us to London before the tube shut.
The budget was the main block. Let’s face it – stage acting isn’t brilliantly paid so our funds were limited. We had no money for any taxis, posh hotels, or frivolities like the Eurostar. We’d spent all our cash simply getting the family to Monaco – let alone a trip to Paris. Everything had to be pre-booked on budget rates. Any mistakes would be costly.
Oh – and my husband wasn’t wild about EuroDisney – so this needed to work without a hitch or I’d have a sulker on my hands.
I am not an enthusiastic planner and my sense of direction is shockingly bad – but plan I did. Interconnecting trains and planes, maps to stations and baggage holds, a pretty (and cheap) hotel overlooking the Sorbonne, an itinerary that didn’t suck the joy out of the travelling plus enough time to ride all the rides and even have a burger at Captain Jack’s Restaurant des Pirates (sic).
I had a big fat file in my rucksack with all the information, tickets, passports, and itinerary. And once we left Monaco – I followed the plan.
I share this because – although planning can be dull – it can also be the key to success.
Recently, along with many others, my work has changed. I used to spend much of my time recording out and about in studios, but now everything is being run from my audio booth at home.
And surprise, surprise – the smoothest projects have been the well-planned ones.
The ones where I’ve been able to chat through the project with the director before the recording. The ones where we’ve done a test to check the tech is all running properly and where I’ve had a script in advance or even an animatic to watch. The ones where we’re not squeezing everything in at the last minute – or, if we have been, I haven’t been aware of it. Because tension shows up in the voice, and experienced directors know that.
Good planning has even allowed for some experimentation – fun for me and more options for my director.
It’s a brave new broadcasting world right now.
And whether you’re directing in real-time – using software like Source Connect and Cleanfeed – or getting your voice artist to self-direct, proper planning means you can get the max from every session.
(1) Checkout the Studio
You need to be sure that your voiceover can produce excellent audio. They may have a fancy demo reel, but if they don’t have a professional studio – you’ll be disappointed. So before you confirm the booking, ask them for a studio test.
And on the day of the booking, it’s always wise to check everything is ready to go with a quick studio link-up an hour before you’re due to record.
(2) Brief your Voice
Briefing your voice is often overlooked – “I just don’t have the time” – but without a proper brief, your voice will have to make assumptions about what you’re looking for. This is your project – so get clear on what you want and let your voice artist know. If you can chat over the phone or via Zoom – brilliant. Sending info by email can also be useful. Both are even better.
(3) Successful Scripts
An accurate, signed-off script is a rare treat. Experienced voices are generally excellent sight-readers, but you will almost always get a better result if you send over a script in good time.
It’s also worth giving it a final check before sending it to check for any anomalies or inaccuracies.
Clarify tricky pronunciations – company and place names, people’s names, unfamiliar languages, acronyms, or any jargon. Write them phonetically or even send through a quick sound file.
And – my favourite topic – a well-timed script is voiceover gold. It can be tricky AF to squeeze a lot of words into tight time frames and still sound conversational. Less is often more – and your listeners can only take in so much information. (Though we do understand if this part is out of your hands!)
(4) Helpful Extras
An animatic or offline film – preferably with a guide voice. If you have such a wonder and you’re allowed to, do send it over. It’s hugely helpful for timings and pace.
A music track. If you’re using music on your project – even if you can only send over the unedited music track – that is still a massive help for your voice in nailing the style and tone. If you can cut the music to time that’s great, but the whole track can still be mighty useful if you’re up against it.
And I can tell you’re dying to know if our trip was a winner.
Honestly, it was one of the most memorable parts of the holiday.
From the romantic train journey through Cannes and Nice to Marseille, to the little 1930s Parisian hotel with the rickety one-person lift, to the iconic shot of the kids jumping in front of the castle, and yes, even the part where we all walked (exhausted) back home from the last tube out of Heathrow.
So I’ll say it again. Planning really is the key to success. (Mostly – but that’s another blog…)
Do follow me on Instagram for my latest blog posts, news and behind-the-scenes peeks – plus all the info on my new podcast “The Gun in My Hand Is Loaded” coming in September.