“In a World”… New Comedy Turns Up Volume on Women Voice-Overs

September 26, 2013

TV actress Lake Bell‘s directorial debut, In a World, affirms that the voice-over industry is not one that women can simply talk their way into.

Bell puts a comedic spin on a real issue by inserting her awkward humor into a very serious struggle to succeed in the male-dominated field of movie trailer narration. She is determined, even if that does mean imitating harsh accents of people she secretly records.

Carol Solomon (Lake Bell), a struggling voice coach, is anything but graceful. She is clumsy, messy, and swears like a sailor (but with a quirky charm). Her family is dysfunctional and constantly discourages her from pursuing a career as a voice-over professional.

Against her family’s advice, however, Carol fearlessly takes on the industry’s big boys, one of whom is her own father, legendary voice-over artist Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed), who claims that women are all of a sudden “ruling” the world: “Nowadays, they’re flying planes and taking jobs,” Sam says. Both characters attempt to fill the shoes of the late and great Don LaFontaine, who coined the term “in a world.” Her sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins), and husband, Moe (Rob Corddry), her only sources of support, guide her through her journey, which is filled with baritone voices of disapproval.

The movie also features a cameo appearance by feminist advocate Geena Davis, who plays top movie executive Katherine Huling. Carol, starstruck by Katherine, for once can’t find her voice when Katherine says that she represents a bigger purpose: to combat the norm and make people shift their thinking. A woman’s voice behind a move trailer, Katherine believes, should be a fathomable concept.

In the real world, however, commercials and public service announcements are almost the only voice-over gigs that women celebrities book, and even these are few and far between. Prominent names include Oprah, who was the voice behind a commercial for the Super Bowl, the most-viewed sports event of the year, and Julia Roberts, who was chosen to be the Nationwide Insurance spokesperson in several commercials.

So why aren’t women booking bigger roles, like movie trailers?

While there are no hard statistics that explain the lack of women in the industry, surveys suggest that audiences trust a man’s voice over a woman’s voice. A man’s voice was also said to be more “authoritative” and “forceful,” while a woman’s voice was said to be more “soothing.”

So, how are women supposed to make their voices heard (pun intended)?

There are online communities that cater to aspiring women voice-over artists. These sites offer voice relaxation techniques and networking tips to make relevant professional connections. There are even websites that help people to hone their skills by having participants choose an image or movie line and record a dialogue around it.

As women continue to work for admittance into this industry, one can only hope we soon hear a “forceful” female voice emanating from the big screen.

In the meantime, it’s a good thing Lake Bell stepped up to the mic.

"In a World" movie poster featuring Lake Bell in headphones

By:   |   September 26, 2013

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