Two Golden Rules For Getting Better

I’ve been revising what rules I have around voice over recently, as part of a mental spring cleaning, and digging at the fundamentals as part of a writing project of sorts.

I was reminded of one of them on Thursday night. I study at the Melbourne Actor’s Lab, and I’m working on a scene at the moment with a great guy who’s an absolute sweetheart and far more talented than I. We got a fairly detailed set of notes this week, and you could see in my scene partner’s body straight away that he took it on the chin as failure. When we got back to our seats, he was quietly shaking his head. “Too many notes”. This brings me to:

Rule #1: Enjoy The Process of Getting Better

Courtesy of Crispin Freeman’s most excellent podcasts, this has made a huge difference to my outlook. One of the reasons I study at the Lab is that Peter Kalos is so thorough as a teacher. If something needs fixing, he’ll tell you. I’m likely the least talented person there, but I don’t mind at all. That makes the whole class my teacher if I have the eyes to look, and sets the bar high for me. And I know I’m a good learner.

So when something doesn’t go right, or hits a few sour notes, that doesn’t shake me, because that’s a chance to learn. It’s just on me to not need that advice a second time.

The other gold rule is one I actually learned at the Lab, from Peter himself:

Rule #2: Turn up, especially on the nights you don’t feel like it.

I don’t know how true this holds for other crafts, but the nights you’d rather be doing anything other than being on stage are the ones that get you past the artificial layers of “creativity” where we put together all these confected, intellectual approaches, and start dipping into the more primal, authentic stuff. That’s when we need to really dig for something connected. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that when it came to weight training, the last reps – the hardest, were the ones he was there for:

The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.

Read this page of the The Last of Us post-mortem (warning – contains many spoilers!) where Neil Druckmann talks about guiding Troy Baker through the scene where Sarah dies. Troy and Hana Hayes created a performance that was incredibly affecting, so much so that it destroyed one of the stunt people on set. But Neil could see that there was something beyond that surface. Something even more incredible and authentic that Troy was capable of. But he had to push Troy to get there.


So, what are your hard and fast golden rules? The ones that you’ve found have become rocket fuel to get you where you want to go?