One sign of the super intelligent is their ability to utilize a variety of simple resources to their greatest potential. No one expects you to be
I suppose the opposite could be said to be true, too: a sign of the not-so-bright might be ignoring perfectly good resources and floundering
as a result. Well, if you haven’t recognized yourself in the latter equation once or twice, then maybe you’re not paying attention. We’ve all
ignored the obvious or failed to act to turn a situation around at one time or another. Twenty-twenty hindsight typically kicks in, offering
numerous ways we shoulda-woulda-coulda averted disaster at an audition or a session.
Well, on a far less dramatic level, if you’re given the script in advance of the session (it does happen from time to time), it may seem
simplistic to state it here, but—LOOK UP anything that’s foreign to you.  Otherwise there’s a great deal of backstory here you might be
neglecting! The aim, as an actor, is to continually tap into your greatest potential, therefore I offer you one of my favorite RESOURCES: a
PROPER dictionary.

Do yourself a favor: check out
Merriam-Webster.com (m-w.com) and actually USE IT!

For hardcopy, I prefer the Microsoft ENCARTA College Dictionary or the OXFORD English Dictionary. Yes, I do have my faves here,
because not all dictionaries are created equal; even hardcopy compared to on-line. I find Merriam-Webster’s the easiest and most helpful
in lieu of lugging an actual library around with you. Another great resource is
onelook.com, which looks up your word in a bunch of on-line
dictionaries at once, and you can choose which definition suits your usage best. This is great for narrative copy which may have technical
or obscure and confusing, hard-to-find words.

Now here’s why: if you don’t know the usage of the word then you honestly don’t know what the script is talking about. So, for crying out
loud, look it up! You may feel you’d be interrupting the session, but I promise you, NO ONE will think less of you if you strive for true clarity.  
We’re talking the difference between being moments away from streamlining the entire gig or allowing the entire thing to completely go
aground because you’re too busy trying to save face.

Further, if you’re not sure how to pronounce the word…that too calls for m-w.com because they will even pronounce it for you! (This has
solved more bets than I can mention, my friend.)  Okay, I’ll give you there’s a ‘Midland’ dialect at play here, as any linguist might tell you,
(and why not? That’s how Americans sound to Americans!)—but you’ll get the idea and be able to move on. So, go ahead–pinch your nose
and dive in! It’s the intelligent thing to do!

If you’re looking down the barrel of some massively complicated word you’re unfamiliar with, look it up, listen to how Merriman-Webster’s
pronounces it, then write the word out phonetically on your script (i.e. “onomatopoeia” is ‘Ah-no-matta-pea’-uh’, for instance.)

The world is hooked up to the Internet these days. This is true, too, in any self-respecting recording studio or set. So, look up what you don’t
know and raise the intelligence of the entire session. Even if you think you already know what the word means.
There is often more than one meaning to most words. Can you honestly say you know ALL of them? Even Einstein had to refresh the gray
cells from time to time. I promise you NO ONE will think less of you, in fact quite the opposite. The irony of NOT looking up what you don’t
know runs the risk of making everyone on the session look foolish because the production will continue to flounder since no one ultimately
knew what they’re were talking about.

So, SAVE yourself. Save the session. Be the hero for the day!

And for a little added insight, that brings the thing full circle—derivations offer terrific insight into the full meaning of the word, which in turn
increases your ability to play yet another level of understanding. Besides you will increase the likelihood you’ll use the term correctly from
here on out. (You, Brainiac, you. I knew there was something I liked about you. It’s the way you flex that major muscle between your ears.)

Two more toughies that generally stall or stop a session are acronyms and idioms. Acronyms are words created from the first letter of few
words to create a new word such as NATO or SAG or AFTRA, or even terms in which we use the initials as the term such as FBI or CIA
can also be considered acronyms. Idioms are expressions from which the connotation cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of
its elements, such as ‘Holy Cow’ or ‘no bed of roses’, which may also require some clarification while you’re mid-production. If so, check
out
http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com.  These are important to note since scripts and direction are often FULL of acronyms and
idioms—as commercials and film are more about expression than grammar.

So, refer to Merriam-Webster’s on-line (
m-w.com) whenever you’re in doubt and guess what? You may find it becomes you’re favorite
resource besides the Internet. You can’t play it if you haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re talking about.  Doing basic homework such as
this, even ON the gig (better late than never) will make you a force to be reckoned with, because as we all know… knowledge is power!

It may not be written anywhere in the job description, but trust me, as an actor, it’s your job to know what you’re talking about.  I’m just giving
you license to FIND out what you need to know when you need to know it.

Own your session—own the gig. You Learned it.  

Kate McClanaghan
SOUND ADVICE
323.464.0990
www.voiceoverinfo.com
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