'In A World ...' looks at voice-over business
LOS ANGELES — Film fans everywhere can identify that movie-trailer voice: A booming baritone that entices viewers with cryptic explanations of the latest upcoming epic.
The business behind such voice work is the backdrop of Lake Bell’s new film, “In A World...,” of which she is writer, director and star.
Real voice-over artists — the men and women who’ve spent years invisibly announcing the latest Taco Bell temptation, the promise of Firestone tires or upcoming Lifetime programs — say it’s good to watch their profession being acknowledged on screen, even if the portrayal isn’t perfect.
“It was fun to have that be a thing — that voice-over even got mentioned,” said actor Steve Staley after seeing the film. “It was great to see our field get screen time in a realistic way,” added Staley, who gives voice to cartoon and video-game characters and commercials.
The film, which expanded to more theaters on Friday, begins with images of the most famous voice-over artist ever: Don LaFontaine, whose deep recitation of the phrase “in a world” opened countless movie trailers and made him a multimillionaire.
Since the actor’s death in 2008, voice-over artists have vied for his crown, both in Bell’s film and in real life.
In the film, Bell’s character aims to break gender boundaries by competing against the big boys to become the first female trailer voice. But to get the job, she’d have to beat out the reigning king: Her dad.
Things really have changed since LaFontaine’s death, voice-over artists said, with most movie trailers now opting to go without any announcer at all.
The previews that played before a recent Los Angeles showing of “In A World...” relied on onscreen text and clips of the actors talking rather than the bellowing “voice of God” to describe the picture.
The industry’s marginalization of women is real, too.
“Women, in general, don’t do trailers,” said Martha Mayakis, a voice-over casting director and coach with TalkShop in Los Angeles. “Women do promos for TV shows.”
There really are fewer outlets for female voices, echoed Chuck Klausmeyer, a voice-over artist, director and teacher.
“Women don’t get as much copy as the men,” he said. “Men are requested more than women for voice-overs for sure, partly because of that deep, authoritative voice that exists.”
But just like when doctors watch medical shows, these experts spotted a few unrealistic elements on screen that everyday viewers would overlook.
Bell’s character learns about the movie-trailer gig (for an upcoming “quadrilogy” called “The Amazon Games”) from a recording-studio engineer.
In real life, it would be an agent providing that information. In the film, the engineer also serves as the director, but that’s not how real voice-over recording sessions go down.
“If only all I ever had to do was impress an engineer,” Staley said, adding that a director would actually call the shots.
Klausmeyer said the business also isn’t as cutthroat as it seems on screen.
“It worked for the dramatic nature of the film,” he said, “but I find the voice-over industry filled with the nicest people who really understand that anybody can book anything.”
Bell’s film, which won a screenwriting award at the Sundance Film Festival, is really about a family that happens to do voice-overs.
“It gives a little flavor of what the industry is like,” Mayakis said.
“It’s a sweet little movie ... not because of the voice-over angle, but the relationships in the family.”
PHOTO: This publicity photo released by Roadside Attractions shows Lake Bell in a scene from the film "In a World...," a comedy about a struggling voice coach. Written and directed by Bell, who also stars in the film, it won the Sundance 2013 Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for the script. Real voice-over artists, the men and women who’ve spent years invisibly announcing the latest Taco Bell temptation, the promise of Firestone tires or upcoming Lifetime programs, who’ve seen the film (which expands to more than 30 locations Aug. 16, 2013) say it’s great to watch their profession on screen. (AP Photo/Roadside Attractions, Seamus Tierney)