DAVE FENNOY WEEKEND 2017- by Isi ‘The Scribe’ Adeola
Nowhere was this truer during the two days I spent with fellow VO friends and colleagues and the absolute mensch that is Dave Fennoy.
Dave is someone I affectionately call the ‘Morgan Freeman of video games’. He has one of those distinctive, baritone voices that drips with charisma and gravitas, as well a laundry list of voice acting credits too long to list.
I first heard of Dave on the VO Buzz Weekly podcast a few years back and was familiar with many of his credits for animation and video games. When I learned he was in town doing a Q&A night with VON in 2016, I made every effort to be where he was. With a sore throat and on crutches no less! (Dodgeball accident. Long story…)
The lovely Rachael Naylor who founded VON had some spaces left on her waiting list to join Dave’s workshop and kindly put my name down. After a whole year of rapidly accumulating excitement, in 2017 I was ready to embark on his two day workshop on ‘Character Development for Video Games and Interactive Entertainment’. A weekend spent learning about how to effectively embody characters for what is currently one of the fastest growing genres in the voiceover industry.
The acting is nuanced, natural and real
As the weekend began I was giddy with excitement and had fellow VO friends like Tim Odofin, Ally Murphy and Leisa Fisicaro joining me. Some of us were avid gamers, most us weren’t. Dave, despite racking up numerous video game credits admitted that he wasn’t much of a gamer himself!
One of the first things we learned was that acting for video games is very much the closest you come to in voiceover to acting for film or TV. The acting is nuanced, natural and real.
The ‘dark, gritty and serious’ tone that’s trending in many titles like Uncharted, The Last of Us, Call of Duty and Tales from the Borderlands very much informs your performance and how you bring characters to life often using just your natural voice.
Laughter and Learning
The weekend was one of laughter and learning. On day 1 Dave taught us techniques and regaled us with stories from his voiceover journey with wisdom and humour. He was an open book and we had many opportunities to ask him questions about the current video game industry, what to include on our gaming demos and what to expect in a casting session for a game.
Most importantly we all had the opportunity to do reads from real scripts that Dave provided on the day. With each read he gave constructive feedback and encouraged us to do the same. He was constantly asking ‘How can we make this read better?’ all within the confines of a safe space where we could learn from our mistakes and other people’s mistakes. We also had to pick a couple of different characters from different scripts and familiarize ourselves with who the characters were as we would be embodying them in a studio the next day under Dave’s watchful eyes and ears! Yipe!
I especially enjoyed doing what are known as ‘efforts’. The grunts, cries, screams, laughs and dying sounds a character makes when they’re being shot with an AK-47, doing a psychotic laugh or running from a pack of zombies.
Bring the characters to life
Day 2 involved us getting behind the mic at the very lush Coda Post Studios to bring the characters to life we had spent the last few hours getting to grips with. As daunting as this was (for me at least!) the supportive, creative energy in the room was palpable. We all wanted to be the best we could be with our reads and everyone brought their A-game as they worked the mic! I had the opportunity to voice an unhinged scientist, a vicious female reptilian mercenary and a charming, homicidal manipulator with Daddy issues. All had their challenges but were so enjoyable to play!
Dave brought out ‘the good stuff’ in all of us and even actors who felt the video game genre was outside of their comfort zones had great reads. He had many words of wisdom to share with us but a few that stuck out the most to me were,
‘Don’t be precious with the words, be precious with the character.’
‘The words are only there to remind you of what you’re saying.’
‘Slow down, you are worth listening to.’
The second quote is useful for creating scenarios for a character when given little information and the third was particularly meaningful and poignant for me. I have a tendency to speed through my reads and even in general conversation so to hear that from Dave meant a lot. The weekend ended on a high and I was still buzzing all the way into the night long after we parted with Dave.
Although I’m still very much up and coming in my voiceover journey but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to audition and act in games and apply what I’ve learned in this brilliant workshop.
Thank you Dave! I’ll never forget this!
By Isi Adeola
Isi Adeola is a voiceover artist, poet, actor and zoologist.