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Boom! When On-Camera and Voice Over Worlds Collide

Different genres, common ground. Like a performance Venn diagram for actors.

Remember those overlapping circles you learned about in school? Venn diagrams graphically show relationships among different things, specifically how some objects belonging to one group can also belong to another.

Or in mother-speak: sharing. As in: "Susie has her toys. Mikey has his. Both of you can play with the boardgames we have stored in the family way, which by the way, take at least two people to play. Now, no fighting or I'll have to go over there and then no one will be playing with anything." That's called "disjointed sets" in mathematics. And in mother-speak: time out.

If I were to draw a Venn diagram for actors, I'd make the different genres (on-camera, voice over, theater) my sets and the many skills within each genre would be my objects. There'd be a lot of overlap, because after all, they all require acting, but there'd be some exclusionary skills, too. Voice actors don't use dance in their work and theater actors aren't concerned with how they're framed on camera. Voice actors generally don't have to get all gussied up with hair, makeup, and wardrobe, while those things play an important part in on-camera and theatrical work. You get the idea.

I get a big kick whenever I hear a client or casting director ask for something that's less prevalent in their world, but a mainstay in another. This is where it pays off for an actor to be skilled in more than one media. Hello, crossover! Convergence! Collision! Or intersection amongst sets for you mathematically-inclined types.

Active in more than one field?
Cultivate common skills for a stronger foundation.

Crossover skills

I've run into on-camera jobs and auditions lately that draw neatly from the voice over world. That's when I do my happy dance. Not that non-voice actors couldn't handle these things, but I love it when I have the extra experience to draw on.

My last couple of jobs, plus a recent audition, had me using a teleprompter. Oh happy day! Tap, tap, shimmy, shimmy. I love the teleprompter. Mainly because it means that no memorization is needed. The actor's dream! The nightmare? Getting up on stage to perform and suddenly, totally forgetting all your lines. Thank goodness that's not an issue when there's a teleprompter to, well, prompt you.

I don't like to depend totally on the 'prompter, though. If anything can go wrong, it usually does, and I don't want to be caught looking less than fully professional. I actually prefer to memorize, or at least greatly familiarize myself with the script, and use the teleprompter more as a backup.

Perhaps It's the old stage actor deep inside of me that's just more comfortable knowing exactly what to say when the lights go up. Or in this case, when the cameras start rolling and the director is calling, "Action!" (Yes, they really do that. It's very helpful knowing when to to start talking when you have the first line.) I can focus more intently on the message and any physical actions that I need to take. The added confidence of really knowing the script makes it easier to have more fun with the material, too. And strangely enough, it opens the door to a little improvisation when the director is up for it, 'cause you can always go back to the script when it's right there in front of you in big block letters.

Familiar, comfortable territory

Another reason I love reading off the teleprompter is because ... well, it's pretty much what we voice actors do every day. Teleprompter work is essentially voice over! There is that matter of a camera recording your every move, not that it should concern us much if we just focus on the material. After all, as voice actors, we bring our whole selves to our work, including hand, body, and facial gestures that translate as natural performances on camera, too.

Teleprompter work is familiar territory. Just with a few extra lights, a camera, and some guy (or gal) calling "Action!" - thought we may get something like that in client-directed voiceover sessions, too. Throw in a little additional fuss about your hair, makeup, and wardrobe, but that's about it. The essential work is the same: Connect with the message within the script. Though knowing something about how to play to the camera is a definite plus.

On-camera actors with voiceover experience have another advantage: we're used to performing alone, without a scene partner. Sometimes, the teleprompter work finds us in character, talking to the camera as part of a scene with other actors speaking their lines off camera. On other occasions, we're delivering long monologues to the camera, either as a character or as a spokesperson. Most on-camera actors are used to working with other actors in their scenes, and some are visibly uncomfortable without other people to play off of. Usually these are the less experienced actors, but occasionally even a seasoned pro may feel a bit adrift in these circumstances.

Give yourself plenty of opportunities to do your happy dance. The more skills you acquire, the easier it is to navigate new or unexpected challenges.

Conversational, not presentational

Don't you love knowing how to fill in the gaps in one genre with your experience in another? That happened to me when a different type of crossover skill presented itself a few weeks ago.

I had just arrived for an in-person audition as an on-camera spokesperson. I have to say that I was thrilled to have an in-person audition - there've been relatively few in the past several years, thanks to Covid. This audition was more than just a little unusual. There was literally no preparation; the casting director wanted to the talent to come in cold to see how we could handle his material and work with a teleprompter, without the benefit of seeing the script beforehand or even knowing much about it. Fine, I like thinking on my feet and I love improv! And hey, the teleprompter is my friend.

The real question was figuring out the right tone and character for a role that you know virtually nothing about and are walking in cold on. Not that it was terribly challenging, as most spokespersons fall into the friendly and personable camp. Though an exceptionally ornery or eccentric character could be rather fun to watch. Fortunately, the casting assistant took a few minutes to explain what they were looking for as we walked down the hallway. Ha! Yes, they wanted a casual, friendly demeanor on camera. This was to be for a series of training films, internal use only. OK, I thought: eLearning. Teacher mode. Caring, instructive, helpful, that sort of thing.

The casting assistant elaborated. They didn't want anything too presentational, formal, or businesslike. More like ... like ... what's the word? "Conversational?" I suggested. "Yes, exactly!" he heartily agreed. "That's what we're after. Like you're talking to a friend." I smiled on the inside. Every voice actor reading this is knows what I'm talking about. "No problem," said I. "Conversational is the most requested delivery style in voiceover work today." And there it was: Conversational eLearning style. The voice actor stepped up to the plate, disguised as an on-camera talent, and began to teach.

Boom! I love it when performance worlds converge. Thank you, voice over.

Laura's Quick Tips

  1. What works for you in one skill area ... can work well for you in another.

  2. In a new situation? Relate it to an experience where you're a pro. A degree of familiarity will help you do your best.

  3. Your expertise in an adjacent skill set can be of immense value to your client, giving them a greater clarity of vision on their own project. And possibly more opportunity for you, too.

  4. One trick ponies are so yesterday.

  5. It's fun to do a happy dance. Stress-relieving and good exercise, all in one.

  6. Now you finally have a use for at least one thing you learned in math so long ago.

The Venn diagram is a pretty helpful graphical tool for illustrating relationships between things. It's doubly useful when you choose to work it from the outside in (such as discovering common skills or attributes between two types of work) or from the inside out (seeing where else your skills are needed and valued).

It's similar to what my college freshman daughter is doing right now to figure out her course study. Oftentimes, two majors or concentrations offered within the same college are adjacent enough to draw on the same core classes (in addition to the basic university requirements, of course). So it's easy to double major when it's just a few more classes to add to the four year schedule.

The result? A stronger, more competitive you. And quite possibly a happy result the next time you walk in cold to a live audition.

Want to know more about developing and using crossover skills? Read on, my friend, read on.... >

Laura Doman smiling

I'm Laura Doman, a former tech industry sales executive, hands-on mom, voice & TV/film actress, and improv performer. I create memorable characters that tell my client's stories, from the friendly CEO touting new upgrades to your sassy best gal pal dispensing some necessary, real-world advice...Let's Talk!


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Kim Handysides
Kim Handysides
Nov 20, 2022

I constantly think in Venn Diagrams! And my first consistent (daily) teleprompter work was working as a CBC weather woman - I had been used to weather for 2 competing networks, where it was always ad-libbed (never scripted) - switching to teleprompter reading was weird at first, but fun - personally I still preferred unscripted ad libbing - I just found it SO much easier 😊

Laura Doman
Laura Doman
Dec 03, 2022
Replying to

How cool (no pun intended!) that you were a weather woman! I have always been fascinated with meteorology, even took a class in college, and took a little pride in the Weather Channel being based in Atlanta. I like ad libbing best, too, though I know just the thought of it scares many other people silly.


Unknown member
Nov 15, 2022

Boy, I had never thought of the crossover between the two, though I very much enjoyed your Venn Diagram explanation because otherwise I would have tried to crack two eggs together and that doesn't make a good diagram. There's OVERLAP...not egg crap. You probably didn't get that, and that's OK with me, because this is my comment and not yours. At any rate, good times. Thanks for sharing this with us. I had never thought of my scripts or iPad as a teleprompter, but now I'm going to. Watch me wow as I put one hand slightly in my side pocket and brandish my index finger as deliver lines poignantly and point just like Han Solo as I r…

Laura Doman
Laura Doman
Nov 16, 2022
Replying to

Thanks, Josh, I hope you didn't hurt yourself with all that pointing during your most conversational presentation. 😆


Nov 15, 2022

It is very true that being well versed in the various forms of acting helps enormously when doing the crossover from one type of acting to another. It's great that you're so well trained in so many areas!

Laura Doman
Laura Doman
Nov 16, 2022
Replying to

Thanks, Theresa! It certainly helps to bridge the surprises that pop up now and then.