An unusual new film focuses on vocal coaching and voice-overs. We’ve asked vocal coach Hannah Northedge to take a closer look.
The opening mockumentary sequence of this film explains the off-beat title: the lead character’s father is a renowned voiceover artist, delivering his iconic opening line “in a world” from several dramatic, apocalyptic, alien-invasion-type thriller film trailers.
His daughter Carol plans to break into this male dominated niche and comes up against much resistance and hostility.
This is a quirky rom-com and singers can definitely take away an extra layer of meaning.
Does Tone Convey Authority?
First, there’s the issue of society’s impression of a “right” voice.
In one scene the lead character Carol is teaching a female lawyer how to speak with more gravitas since she isn’t successful at getting employment due to her high pitch shriek.
In fact, all the authoritative, assertive female characters in the film spoke in low, paced tones and all the “silly” female characters in higher, squeakier tones.
In many films we are presented with the same idea: a powerful, no nonsense female with low pitched, decisive voice such as Sigourney Weaver’s character Ripley in the “Alien” films and a frivolous, sexy female with a breathy, higher pitch such as Marilyn Monroe’s character Sugar “Kane” Kowalczyk in “Some Like it Hot”.
It is interesting to note that seemingly, in order to be listened to and taken seriously by society, women must speak at a pitch closer resembling that of the male voice.
Is this association between tone and authority just the way it is? I’d love to read your comments on this below!
A Tough Industry
The film’s portrayal of a tough, competitive industry certainly rings true. The film’s “voiceover king” Sam Sotto is bitter and twisted – though this does not need to be our fate.
It’s a reminder of how we need a thick skin to succeed and take rejection. Singing really isn’t a career choice for the easily offended, unmotivated or those solely seeking a glamorous lifestyle.
I would want all aspiring singers and voice users to understand that you may be chosen (or turned down) for a job simply because you are brunette or you were the first person the audition panel heard that day.
Ascertain what makes your voice unique – a rich timbre, a rasp, a lisp – and play on that to make it your strength and vocal identity.
In fact, Carol secured the voiceover job for the film “quadrilogy”, The Amazon Games – not because she was the “best” voice for the job but because she was a woman; Geena Davis’s character wanted her to be a role model to other girls, aware that her voice would be heard by thousands of viewers.
Other Vocal Matters
The scenes where the voiceover artists became precious about their vocal instruments, steaming their throats, gargling and doggedly doing lip trills and sirens are both hilarious and identical to the ritual of a singer!
Finally, I have to confess that I find the film particularly misleading in promoting the idea that one can’t make a living from being a vocal coach.
I am living proof of the opposite: if you develop a good reputation and proactively promote yourself to build up a steady database of clientele, you can make it.
You can’t be lazy hanging around your dad’s house all day waiting for the phone to ring as Carol did!
Check out “In A World” for insights on first impressions and how factors beyond your skills often conspire for failure – or success.
Hannah Northedge is a pop and jazz singer, vocal coach and director of www.voicecity.co.uk. She’s sung at Ronnie Scott’s, Wireless Festival and Abbey Road Studios. This year she’ll conduct a choir in a film called “POSH”. She has coached X Factor finalists and judged Live and Unsigned.