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The VO Boss podcast blends business advice with inspiration & motivation for today's voice talent. Each week, host Anne Ganguzza shares guest interviews + voice over industry insights to help you grow your business and stay focused on what matters...

Apr 26, 2022

Every script is the answer to a question. It’s up to the actor to discover (and sometimes create) that question. In this episode, Anne & Pilar are here to keep you on your toes with improv techniques + exercises. They will teach you how to stay fresh with your reads, and - more importantly - why it’s necessary to know the script, scene, and emotions for everything you read. Whether it be E-Learning, IVR, or commercial, you’ll be ready to tackle it with authentic reactions + diverse copy interpretations like a #VOBOSS.


>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premiere Business Owner Strategies and Successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a BOSS, a VO BOSS! Now let’s welcome your host, Anne Ganguzza.

Pilar: Hola, BOSS Voces. Bienvenidos al podcast, con Anne Ganguzza y Pilar Uribe.

Anne: Hey Pilar. I'm trying to figure out how to lead into today's episode. And I've been thinking about different scenes that maybe I could place myself in. So maybe I'll come at the introduction not like I've come at the introduction like people expect, so I want to do something different. So what are you thinking? Where can I start?

Pilar: Where can you start? "Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start." What's that from?

Anne: I'm on a mountainside.

Pilar: No, quick, what's that from?

Anne: No wait. Okay. I'm on a mountain side in the sun and I'm feeling like I'm very happy, and I want to sing because I dunno, I like to sing when I'm happy.

Pilar: And you're twirling your arms.

Anne: I am twirling my arms, and I'm going to not have a dress on with an apron. Okay. So, well, let's just put it this way. I'll have a dress on that really works with the twirl, but it won't have an apron on.

Pilar: Nix the apron, okay.

Anne: And I'm going to be young with long flowing hair.

Pilar: Long blonde flowing hair.

Anne: Yep. That's it. That's it. And there's going to be animals.

Pilar: Okay.

Anne: There's going to be, well, there'll be cats. Of course. Actually --

Pilar: How about llamas? How about llamas?

Anne: Okay, cats and llamas I think go well, lots of cats.

Pilar: Except that llamas spit.

Anne: Yeah, but they're not going to spit on the cats. They're going to spit on me because maybe I'm not in tune.

Pilar: You're going to ride off into the sunset on top of a llama.

Anne: But then I'll make friends with the llama, and I will carry the cats in my arms and hop on the llama, and ride off into the sunset because I've had a wonderful morning and day of singing on the mountain side.

Pilar: And you're singing "Do, a deer" at the same time.


Anne: Yes, exactly. Wow.

Pilar: That's improv.

Anne: Hey BOSSes. That's improv with that said, hey, everyone. I completely was so in the scene that I forgot my introduction.

Pilar: You forgot who you were.

Anne: I forgot who I was for just a moment. So here we go. Hey everyone. Welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I'm your host Anne Ganguzza, up on the mountain, singing and twirling with my cats and llamas, along with my special guest cohost Pilar Uribe. Pilar, come to the mountain and sing with me.

Pilar: "The hills are alive with the sound of llamas."

Anne: -- "VO BOSSes."

Pilar: "Llamas and VO BOSSes."

Anne: So Pilar, that was fun.

Pilar: That was fun.

Anne: I think understanding and practicing improv can really, really help us in our performance and in our business. So I think we should have today's episode featuring improv, and talking about improv, and how can we better our performances with improv?

Pilar: Yes. Improv is something that I -- it's funny, 'cause I've always been scared of it, and I've never really understood it, although I've done it most of my acting career without realizing it. It's just really funny. We improv all the time in our lives when we're talking. So improv is all about taking what somebody is saying and you keep going. It's that? Yes. And moment with improv. That's that's like the biggest rule.

Anne: Yes, and.

Pilar: Yes, and, meaning --

Anne: Yes, and, and then what happens?

Pilar: And then you add onto the story, and the intent is to be positive always. I mean, unless it's a tragedy kind of a thing which improv is, is really about it's taking whatever that person gives you and running with it, however you're going to do it, so.

Anne: Well, I think it needs to fit into the context, right? So if we're going to try to improv and get ourselves into a scene for a script that already sits in front of us, so that maybe we can improve our auditions, right, there is some context to the script. Maybe we should just talk from genre specific right now, like commercial or corporate or e-learning, those types of -- versus character-driven spots like animation and video games. We can talk about that in a minute, but let's focus on the genres where people go in, and they have a commercial audition to get out the gate. Right? What is it that we're going to do once we look at the context of the script there, how are we going to work the improv into it?

Pilar: What I've learned early on is it's so important to have a moment before.

Anne: Yes. Agreed.

Pilar: Especially if it's a product, let's say, that you don't know much about, or it's a storyline, let's say it's a medical narration, for example. And you're kind of, you know, what is this drug that has seven syllables? And I don't even know how to pronounce it. Well, you have to come in, if you're talking from a voice of authority, you have to come in with that knowledge.

Anne: Right.

Pilar: Now, you don't necessarily have to have knowledge of that particular drug. You can use something else that you have knowledge about. And then you set the stage by making up like a little sort of maybe 15-second play, which can be your lead-in which you don't have to record, but you're making the story up about this particular product and how it affected you. And you basically just start doing storytelling.

Anne: Well, I think that's absolutely wonderful advice. And I think too, again, going with the context of it, let's kind of go with the medical, right? Because I do a lot of medical work, medical narration. I think it's important to know that in this storyline who you're talking to, and a lot of times people will, if want it to be conversational, they'll say something like, oh, as if you're talking to your best friend, but I think you need to go deeper into this, because you want to talk to a person that's genuinely going to be interested in that product because your task in most copy like that is either going to be to educate or to sell.

So you need to be very clear as to who you're speaking with. And I think that that needs to come into your improv, understanding that let's say you might be a pharmaceutical representative, that's coming into an office and speaking to a doctor who might be interested in this particular medicine that might be able to help his patients. And so going with that, setting that scene and then improv-ing in that before you even open your mouth, because that will help you develop a point of view that makes sense and an emotion that makes sense and a voice that makes sense for that scene.

Pilar: Yeah. Yeah. Very true. And what you were saying, which ties right into that is the more specific you are, the better.

Anne: Yes. Agreed.

Pilar: A lot of the times, if you're doing medical copy -- let's say you've got the job. It's not like you're going to rewrite it or change, necessarily change the words, but you can give it a little bit of flavor by imagining different scenarios while you're speaking.

Anne: And thinking of different subtexts too.

Pilar: Yeah. Even like, you know, breaths or --

Anne: Rhythm.

Pilar: Yeah. And just like little inflections that aren't necessarily in the script itself are going to give it a different flavor.

Anne: I like that.

Pilar: Yeah. So because it can't be all about the reading. It's -- there has to be -- a lot of people say, oh, well, you know, they, they won't let me improv. And it's like, it's not necessarily, it's about using those moments of improv where you can just kind of give a little inflection here, do a little something over there.

Anne: Absolutely. Absolutely. Like that scene is playing while you are voicing the script, right? There's a scene that's playing. And so that improv, it doesn't necessarily have to come out in words, right? The improv, like you said, can be in breaths. It can be in rhythm. It can be in, again, if it's a medical narration and you're informing somebody about the capabilities of the product, right, it can be that subtext where maybe you're looking at the person that you're speaking to and they're not quite understanding. So you become more confident or you've slowed down on that explanation a little bit more. And so the subtext is, let me help you understand better what I'm saying. And so that improv comes into your scene, as you are voicing and into the storyteller, the sell of the spot. It really is something that I think adds a really nice layer and a realistic, authentic layer to when you are voicing.

And this, by the way, does not allow you any time to listen to what you sound like. Again, I say this over and over and over again. Right? You cannot listen to what you sound like and say, oh, does that sound like they want it? No, you have to be in that improv, that story, in that scene, and really being there and telling the story.

Pilar: I just want to clarify something for the VO BOSS warriors, that everyone thinks of improv as Second City or Saturday Night Live, but improv, you can use some of those rules and those tips of improv to give your script a different flavor, whether it's medical narration, whether it's e-learning, whether it's even, let's say, IVR, and you're saying, you know, "please hold." You know, you don't have to sound like the mechanical thing that you've always heard. If you maybe make a joke to yourself right beforehand, or you imagine something very specific.

Anne: Imagine the person that's picking up the phone and listening to you and they're angry.

Pilar: There you go.

Anne: Because they want to speak to a person, right? So you're in that scene, and they're screaming at the other end. Right? And you're like, "thank you for calling. Your call is important to us." So as they're screaming, so it can change your voice. Right? It can change the way you're responding in a very interesting way, because I always used to say that I love telephony because I imagine that that person is on the other end of the line, and that they're not happy and they're concerned, they want to get to somebody quickly. So I actually will speed up a little bit. As long as I'm articulate, I'll speed up. I'll be kinder. And I'll try not to be that annoying sound at the other end of the line that I even get annoyed with.

Pilar: Yes. Yes. And the important thing is specificity, which you've just mentioned. It's just to be as specific as possible.

Anne: Right, because your message, when you're, that let's say telephony, right -- and this is crazy. We're talking about improv with telephony and medical narration, like the two genres that nobody would think, right, that you would use improv with, but think about telephony for a doctor's office, right? People are typically, they're not feeling well, or they're calling for maybe a member of the family that's not feeling well; they're upset. They could be nervous. They could be scared. And so that puts a different light on how I'm going to voice my message, right? Versus maybe a party store, you know, so understanding that scene and who you're going to be talking to again, is paramount. It is so important to get yourself in that scene and then play that scene before you even start talking. Because again, that helps you hit the notes. It helps you hit the emotion, the point of view that you need to be in once you start voicing that copy.

Pilar: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. All true.

Anne: Let's talk about a commercial, commercial genre, right?

Pilar: Okay.

Anne: Because I think a lot of people think that might be more resonant with them. It might come to them simpler if you're thinking about a commercial, because there's, I think there's more realms of scenes that can take place. There's more emotions that can take place. It could be a funny commercial. It could be a serious commercial. It could be all different types of commercials and scenarios that are, and you have to create that scene and improv your way into the voicing.

Pilar: And here's the thing. If you listen to actors, when they talk about the roles that they did, when they admit, they say, well, no, actually it was all scripted, and you sit there and you go, oh, hey, how did they do that? It looked completely improv. That's because they had a very, very specific pre-life into going into the scene.

Anne: Oh yeah, absolutely.

Pilar: Since as voice actors, we don't have to memorize. We've got the copy right in front of us.

We can mark our script up. We can imagine a scene beforehand. There's always the moment before, you know, who, what, when, where and why you're talking.

Anne: Right.

Pilar: And then you bring those colors in. And this is something that I always think about too, when I'm doing commercial copy. And this is Mary Lynn Wisner taught me this, what is the answer I'm giving? There's always a question. So put the question before, and then you give the answer.

Anne: Right. Act, react.

Pilar: Right, exactly. And all those things being specific and question and putting yourself in the scene, let's say you're a Taco Bell. Don't just read the Taco Bell. Imagine you're sitting at a Taco Bell and you're looking at, at the menu and you're going, oh my gosh, the waffle. I mean, I don't go to Taco Bell anymore because, cause I will order that big, huge mother of a waffle thing.

And it's so delicious and it's so caloric. So I'd like I have to stay away from them. So I like, I give that to myself once a month as like a prize. But if you focus on the scene and that --

Anne: Maybe you're eating that in the scene. And so you'll have a different reaction.

Pilar: Right. You're chomping on it. And it's like, you know, the, the sour cream and the avocados just spilling down your mouth and everything, you know, and the more colorful details you give yourself, the more that's going to come out in your read.

Anne: Absolutely. Absolutely. And, and you know, what's interesting is commercial spot, I think sometimes when there's dialogue, it makes things easier for the improv when it's a dialogue or first person written. I know that when I do dialogue spots for, let's say, e-learning characters in e-learning -- when it's a written dialogue on the piece of paper, I find that there are so many -- it's harder than most people think, because I'll find that initially people will read the dialogue instead of being in the dialogue. And that's where improv can really help you because set that scene. And what it will do is if you are engaged in that scene --

Let's say you're walking in the hallway with your colleague, Sally, and you want Sally to make sure she gets the accounting numbers to Joe before Friday. You can, as you're walking along, "oh Sally." And then you imagine yourself walking, right? And so the rhythm of your line that you're going to say is going to change as you're thinking about, "oh, we need you to get these numbers to Joe by Friday because he's going to need them for this." So it will really change the rhythm as you're walking along or creating that scene, as you're thinking of things to say to Sally, in order to get your point across, because that's what will happen. All that like subtext, where she's looking at you going, "why do I have to get these to Joe by Friday? Because this is a lot of work, Anne." You know, so that kind of improv where you're imagining that as you were speaking of voicing, the dialogue can really, really help.

Pilar: Yup. Yup. Absolutely. Location is so important. Putting yourself into the scene wherever you are, focusing on the here and now of it. Because a lot of the times we think, okay, I have to get through the copy or it's 30 seconds. Forget all that. The most important is what is going on right at this moment? What is the, the person who is not maybe physically there, but you are speaking to someone, are they standing next to you? Are they standing moving away from you? And you're trying to get their attention? "Oh my goodness, let me get your attention," and all that stuff you can put, you know, obviously you can put into your body, but you can put into your intention and that's how you can improv a scene or a, a commercial or, you know, a piece of longer copy. So the here and now, the establishing the location --

Anne: And establishing movement, movement through it.

Pilar: Establishing movement. Yes.

Anne: Yeah. That's the biggest thing I find people forget is they'll set the scene up, but then they'll forget to move through it. They'll set it up and the first sentence will be very much in the scene. But then after that first sentence, they just go into their own little monologue, and they forget about the scene. They forget about who they're interacting with. And again, that movement through the scene and the sound as if you're moving through the scene is super important. Now there's a lot to be said for leading in to help you get into that. But I think just the verbal lead-in is not enough to get you through an entire piece of copy, because we can't be completely improvising every single line, but we can certainly lead into a line that helps us get to the place where we need to be.

And some of those can even be left -- I would say in the commercial genre, you can kind of, oh, you can kind of lead in with maybe a, a sound, I think, maybe a little bit of a word, but in other types of copy, let's say for narration, corporate narration, medical narration, telephony, you can't really keep those lead in words in there, but they can certainly help you as to get you in the place. And then you can, you can take them out. I mean, we all, we all know how to edit our stuff. So if it helps you get there, I say, leave it in and then take it out in post, you know?

Pilar: Exactly. Yeah, absolutely. But like extending a sentence. We don't say words the same way. We don't talk the exact same rhythm, every single -- I mean, some people do, but I'm always speeding up and slowing down. So why wouldn't I put that in? I mean, and it depends, obviously, because sometimes, you know, if you're doing a biography, you do need to have a certain pace, but -- and I'm speaking specifically for commercial copy, but improv is also about changing. It's like how the character changes. In a 30-second piece, there's always like, there's a problem. It's described.

Anne: There's a solution.

Pilar: And then there's the solution at the end. So the person reading the copy is going to go through all these changes, and they're not necessarily going to say them at the same time.

Anne: Right.

Pilar: So change is a big part obviously of, of that, which you can incorporate into, into the copy.

Anne: And change, even in the middle of sentences, right? 'Cause emotion, because right, you've got a problem. Commercial copy, usually you have a problem or an implied problem. And then you have a solution. So as you have this problem, you know, it's I kind of have this problem, but oh, now I've got a solution. You can hear the change, right? You can hear the change within even a sentence. And that's where that improv and subtexts and imagination and being in the scene can really help you to make that a more authentic and believable voicing. Now question, Pilar. What about commercial copy that's written very selly, that doesn't seem to have, you know, those are always the ones that people talk about. They're like, oh God, look at the way they wrote this copy. And now they want me to sound like I'm talking to my best friend. So what are your tips there?

Pilar: Well, honestly, I mean, that's not true. I mean, I get pieces of copy and I go, wow, this is really good. But a lot of the times they'll tell you, you want to sound, you know, conversational. That's like the big, the big word, conversation -- Like you're not going to, you're going to sound like a robot, but conversational and not announcer-like, and then they give you this copy. And you're like, you know, what do I do with it? You break it down, you break it down into beats. You run through it. You sing it.

Anne: Question, answer. Right? Act, react.

Pilar: Yes, question, answer. Right.

Anne: For every sentence.

Pilar: Yes. But that's not what you're going to put into the final part of the copy.

Anne: No, no.

Pilar: But it's basically like when you've got a piece of copy that you have to work on, it's like stretching your body. You have to stretch your body. So whatever, like let's say, I'm stretching my arms right now, and I'm stretching them forward. I'm also going to stretch my arms up, and I'm going to stretch my arms to the back. I'm not just going to do it one way. I think voice actors get a little stuck, and they go, oh, okay. I did it this way. This sounds okay. Let me stay there. And then we get stuck. 'Cause that happens to me all the time, and I'll listen back and I'll be like, what are you talking about, Pilar? All three reads were exactly the same.

So I have to go back and I have to like, and I think I've used this before on the podcast, but it's kind of like when my dog would turn around three times and then, you know, all of a sudden he would go and do something else. And my cat does the same thing. So I, I do that too, because I realized that if I turned around three times really quickly, I either get dizzy or I start laughing, but I don't go back to where I was before. So I need that change. You know, improv is all about change. So it's like, if you get stuck, all you need to do is shake it off, go outside, touch your toes, scream in the booth, and start again because that's going to give you a little bit of a different scenario so you don't slide into that sameness, that sameness of reading the copy the same way.

Anne: Then when your director is asking you for that ABC take, right, improv is going to help you get there. I'm always like --

Pilar: Yes, yes.

Anne: You know, and I've said this before on a previous episode, everybody thinks about let's do the different sounds. This is take A. This is take B. This is take C. And that just is a, a simple, like change in your pitch. It's not even -- I want you guys, you BOSSes out there to really improv your way into ABC. And that is a skill, that is a muscle that, if you work on it, can really improve your ABC reads or your second take. And that is so important that, that second take, that ABC, they're all different. And I think there could be an entire like course on ABC takes and how you can get to them better because they do have to be different. And there's a lot of times myself even, Pilar, where I'm like, okay, let me give a second read. Right? And I haven't done the work enough. And I listen to that second read. I'm like, oh, that's kind of sounds the same.

So really spend the extra moments and figure out what's happening in the scene or a change in the scene that can give you a different, alternate take. And don't just do the start of it. Right? Don't just say, okay, well now I'm on a mountain. Here, I'm in my office. But start and continue throughout the script. As you're reading the script, things change, right? The product solves your problem. And so then there's an evolution, and it may evolve in a different way. So create the scene all the way through the text. I would say, create the scene, be in the scene between the periods of the copy.

Pilar: Yeah. I mean, I think it's simple that you could say, let's say for example, off the top of my head, um, I'm going to the store this morning. So I could say it, oh my God, it's 10:00, I'm going to the store this morning.

Anne: Exactly.

PIlar: Oh my God. I forgot the tomato sauce. I'm going to the store this morning. Or, oh my God, they're coming. They're coming at 7:00 and at six 15, I'm going to the store. I'm going to the store this evening. You know, I mean, and I'm exaggerating, but I just did three to four ideas.

Anne: You just got up and you had a plant. I'm going to the store this morning, right?

Pilar: Right. Or, or like, I'm going to, I'm going to surprise you. I'm going to the store this morning.

Anne: I like that.

Pilar: So you've just created different worlds.

Anne: You just had four or five different reads, exactly different worlds, different scenes to react to. And that's where, BOSSes, I want you to start practicing, take a sentence, a tagline, and think of three different scenarios for it. Or take every piece of copy that you ever auditioned for and give yourself different scenes. Or maybe just take a line out of it and give yourself different scenes so that you can read it differently. And don't think about what sounds like. Don't think about what it -- think about being in the scene and reacting to the scene and improv-ing that scene. That's what's going to get you that different read.

Pilar: Yeah. It's really important too, because I, I didn't even know what improv was, even though I was doing it. I was always a little scared of it. And so like, when I was working in Colombia, I used to improv all the time, not realizing that that's what I was doing, but stuff would come out of my mouth, and I would just do it. And they'd be like, oh my gosh. Yeah, let's keep that. And then I finally finally, because I read books about it and I would take like classes here and there. But finally, when I came out here to LA, I took an improv class at Second City. And then all of a sudden it all came together because all this stuff I'd kind of heard willy nilly randomly and what I'd seen and the way television and movies, people improv-ing, I was like, oh, that's what it is. You know, there, there are rules and there are things that you can do. And so I, you know, I think it's important. I mean, you know, that we are still going through what we're going through, but there are classes online that you can take.

Anne: Absolutely. I've got one coming up as a matter of fact.

Pilar: Oh, oh really? Oh, okay.

Anne: Yeah. Yeah. With Scott Parkin, who is amazing --

Pilar: He's awesome.

Anne: He is awesome at improv.

Pilar: Yeah, yeah. He's really good. Yeah. And so it's about becoming loose because that's the whole point. When you're in the booth, then that's why you need to take classes. 'Cause it's like exercising that muscle.

Anne: Yes, it's a muscle.

Pilar: So when you're in the booth by yourself, and you've got a piece of copy, and you're like, what do I do with it? You've got these tools that you can use, the yes, and, the imagining, the being specific, you know, the being goofy. And you never know what's going to come out, but allowing yourself the space to say something and fall down and maybe not have it be right, and that's okay.

Anne: Absolutely. I mean, I think that that is all part of it. Right? If it didn't work out, no, that's okay. Right? This is improv. Right? You change the scene. Right?

Pilar: Exactly. Exactly. Because one thing that's really important to know is that yes, improv is an art, but it's also a craft. You have to practice it. You have to work on it.

Anne: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that's a daily thing. Like honestly, I think you should take a sentence every day and give yourself three different scenes and three different ways. And I think do that, or do that with your auditions, right? Do that with your auditions daily. Even if you don't have an audition, take an old audition and do that. And I'll tell you what, it will keep you, I think, on your toes. And it will give you a better performance. What a great discussion, Pilar.

Pilar: Yeah.

Anne: So much fun.

Pilar: That was really fun.

Anne: So much fun. BOSSes, make sure that you get in the booth and practice, practice, practice, and that will help you perform at your very best. I'd like to give a great, big shout-out to our sponsor, ipDTL. You too can network like a BOSS and find out more at Thanks so much, Pilar.

Pilar: Thank you.

Anne: Yeah.

Pilar: You know, there's a new song that just came into my head when you said that it could be like, "network like a BOSS, network like BOSS"

Anne: Who!

Pilar: "Network like a BOSS. Yeah. Yeah."

Anne: Alright. BOSSes. Have a great week, and we'll see you next week.

Pilar: Bye.

Anne: Bye.

>> Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your host Anne Ganguzza. And take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies, and new ways to rock your business like a BOSS. Redistribution with permission. Coast to coast connectivity via ipDTL.