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Home » Archives » May 2007 » Voiceoverused
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05/07/2007: Voiceoverused

More news from the front! Remember the friend-of-the-blog who is currently reading stacks of spec scripts as he sets about staffing a show? Well he's moved on from reading crushingly unemotional specs of The Office to reading spec pilots instead. And you should perk up at what he's found, gentle readers, since once again your work is improving by comparison with underperforming professionals!

The problem this time? Voiceovers. Now, a voiceover can sometimes be a stylish choice, often used to good effect in stories where you want to feature an unreliable character whose internal monologue doesn't actually match the events around him or her. And of course, there have been many successful and/or well-written shows with voiceovers: Sex and the City, Wonder Years, and Arrested Development, for example. But it takes a very specific situation or a very light hand to do it well.

The problem, of course, is that it can be a tempting way to avoid the inherit limiting feature of what we do. We are not novelists; we have chosen to work in a branch of fiction which takes an external, not an internal, look at characters. We get the tricky but rewarding task of giving viewers/readers clues that allow them to infer inner motivations, rather than making them explicit. We're just brimmin' with subtext and that's on purpose. Voiceovers often make it too tempting to just make the subtext into text. Which makes for a very boring and obvious read.

But let's imagine that you've managed to do it well. You've used a light touch, some ironic touches, a bit of magic, and you've employed a voiceover effectively in your spec. But you're going to be sending that script out into an environment that, for whatever reason, seems to be unusually full of voiced-over scripts right now. Our friend-of-the-blog reports that the concentration of them is as at an all-time high; he's finding one-third of the scripts he's reading have voiceovers. It's not going to be easy to make your use of the device stand out in that talky crowd. So think hard about it.

Writing your script without voiceover may seem dauntingly difficult, but that's actually a good sign. Every time you up the degree of difficulty, you're giving yourself a chance to show off. And the scripts that show off best get the jobs.

Lunch: instant noodle soup with added hot sauce, followed by an apple


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