by Samantha Paris
To riff off that Shakira hit song, “My Hips Don’t Lie”, the lips may try to lie but they won’t be able to get away with it if a microphone is involved.
Even after more than forty-something years of voice acting, and thirty years of teaching, it never ceases to amaze me how that simple piece of hardware known as a “mic” can ferret out the truth as well as any lie detector ever could. That mic picks up absolutely ev-er-y-thing in the voice, and can sniff out inauthenticty like a airport K-9 hound detects all things illicit.
The mic magnifies the fact that people can only sound authentic when they truly mean what they are saying. But you cannot truly mean what you are saying if you don’t even understand the full measure of what you are saying.
The voice actor’s quest for authenticity begins with tapping into the truth that lies within every script and connecting with your own powers of imagination, empathy and expression to deliver on it. These skills can be taught and developed like the aptitudes required for many types of professions.
As my Voicetrax students will readily tell you, the real work of a voice actor begins well before you ever draw a breath and move your lips to utter a syllable. The “heavy lifting” takes place between your ears…that means diligently analyzing a script, seeking out and absorbing the true meaning in every word of every line of copy, and reading between those lines in search of that all-important hidden “bunny” that lies in just about every script (and situation in life).
So what does Finding the Bunny mean?
This challenging yet satisfying process is revealed in my memoir, Finding the Bunny (Voice Haven Productions, 2018) in a scene borrowed from an actual Script Analysis class at Voicetrax. Here’s an excerpt, from a point in the story when I explain the genesis of the principle:
“….when I first started studying voice-over all those years ago, I knew that because I didn’t have an amazing voice, I was going to have to do something different to stand out from all the other actors. I was going to have to act better than anyone. Period. I knew my job would be to really bring the writers’ words to life; to see everything in the copy that each writer intended and, sometimes, see even more! So that’s what I did. And I made a career out of it. On countless occasions, I was told by producers that I was cast because my interpretation was better than anyone else’s. I really took pride in that. It felt good knowing that I booked jobs because I had a brain; because I could act and I didn’t just have a pretty voice.”
I continue on, later explaining:
“I was the middle child. My siblings and I are each three years apart. There is my younger sister, Lori; then me; and then my older brother, Larry. Before my parents’ divorce, my brother was about eleven-ish and I was eight-ish. My father used to subscribe to Playboy.”
I look around the room. “For the articles, right?” Everyone laughs.
“My brother was allowed to take out the centerfolds, and he had Miss January through Miss December plastered on his bedroom walls. Larry taught me that on the cover of the magazine, there was always a small Playboy bunny hidden somewhere. You know, their logo, with the big ears and all. Larry would test me to see if I could find it, and sometimes I would spend what seemed like hours staring at the cover, trying to find the bunny. I loved it when I found one! So, what’s my point? I started to learn voice-over when I was fifteen years old. I didn’t have a lot of life experience to use. So, looking at my scripts back then and knowing I didn’t have a special voice, I knew I had to try to see as much as I could in the copy. In other words, I was looking for the bunny.”
This simple yet profound idea has significantly influenced my life’s work. It’s so rewarding to share this concept with aspiring and working voice actors and non-voice actors alike, since nearly every script known to mankind has a hidden bunny just waiting to be discovered, and metaphorically, so does every situation in life.
So, where’s the “bunny” in your life?
Samantha Paris is the author of “Finding the Bunny – The secrets of America’s most influential and invisible art revealed through the struggles of one woman’s journey”, with the foreword by Peter Coyote (Voice Haven Productions, Sausalito, CA, 2018). Visit:
The book is available in print and e-book. If you’ve already enjoyed “Finding the Bunny”, we invite you to leave a review on GoodReads and/or Amazon. If you have a question for the author, contact: email@example.com