I just came back from a fantastic new movie. If In a World... is playing in a theatre near you, go! It's very cleverly written (winning Best Screenplay at Sundance) and directed by the talented Lake Bell. A blend of romcom and family dramedy, it is a funny and heart-warming film. But voice coaches like me and our clients will appreciate it on a different level: it offers a glimpse of the actual work that produces those rich, compelling tones we hear in movie trailers and on TV. In homage to the late, great Don LaFontaine, we also see the payoff that comes when you can make your sound convey so much more that words alone do.
This movie shines a spotlight on the little known, but very important corner of the world inhabited by unseen, ubiquitous voice artists. As the Big Producer played by Geena Davis says to our heroine Carol Soloman (also played brilliantly by Ms. Bell), what these people do is important, because "voice is power."
I won't spoil the movie for you by giving away the ending, but as I walked out of the theatre minutes ago I felt tremendously validated. It shows people who make their living from making sound as they ply their craft--doing so much more than just reading what is in front of them. Most people are unaware, but it takes work to get your sound "in shape." Vocal exercises are just a part of what I do with clients and students, but they are a foundational building block. Speaking is a physical activity, and your speaking technique depends on your ability to have a powerful voice. This, in turn, is made by discovering and strengthening your own powerful sound. And that sound depends on a variety of factors, only some of which you can control. So you better believe you need to exercise control over the ones you can!
Most of my clients come to me because they have realized that to get from where they are to where they want to be they need to step up their vocal and speaking game. And that means learning new skills, and yes, making funny faces and silly sounds. But it is all worth it, because in the end they have new techniques to integrate into their everyday speaking. And a more powerful sound.
But don't take my word for it: go see Lake Bell's very funny movie! And be thankful you are not trying to make a living in the hyper-competitive world of movie trailer voice-overs.