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Quickie: In a world where men do voiceovers…

17/08/2010

As I was vacuuming today, I randomly thought of Don LaFontaine. You know him, or at least, you know his voice. He’s the movie voice over guy. LaFontaine’s gravelly, dramatic voice has been heard in cinemas all over the English-speaking world on thousands of movie trailers. He’s a talented fellow. With his voice on your film’s trailer, chances are, it’s going to be a hit. Whether that is a causative correlation, I don’t know, but we’ve been listening to him tell us “if there’s one movie you see this summer…” for decades. (Edit: This paragraph should have been in past tense. Apparently, he died back in 2008. How did I miss that?)

Then, as I was unplugging the vacuum, another thought occured to me, and I posed a question on my Twitter page: When was the last time you heard a woman’s voice on a movie trailer, which didn’t belong to a character from the film?

I couldn’t think of a single one.

Nor could any of my friends on Twitter.

So I started Googling around a little. My suspicions were confirmed. Most movie trailer voice overs are done by men. Even for movies aimed at female audiences. I thought this was odd, but not surprising. There are several notable women voiceover artists who have done work for major movie trailers, Sylvia Villagran and Melissa Disney are a couple of examples. But it makes me wonder, why do men do all the voiceovers?

Is it a product of the industry? There are relatively few people who specialise in movie trailer voice overs in the first place. It’s a fairly specialised skill, apparently. Maybe there are few people at all who can do it well, so studios use the same people over and over.  Or what if it’s something psychological, that people trust a familiar voice, like Don LaFontaine’s? If that’s the case, then it’s self-perpetuating. (Edit: Now that he’s gone, could a woman fill the voiceover void?) Or is there something undesirable about a woman’s voice? Is it too sexy? Too strident? Too soft?

How can we break this cycle? What can a person do to demand more female voice overs in movie trailers? Write to studios? Only see movies which feature a female voiceover in the trailer? Boycott movies that use a male voiceover? What’s the solution? Any ideas?

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5 Comments
  1. 19/08/2010 1:11 pm

    Remember the movie ‘The Women’ (notable for the lack of male actors)?
    Instead of having a female voiceover for the trailer, there is no voice over.

    Interesting pickup, Liz!

    • noblecaboose permalink*
      19/08/2010 1:27 pm

      That seems to be the case a lot. There’s either a.) A male voiceover, b.) No voiceover, or c.) A voiceover by a female character.

      Example of c.) which is almost a kind of bait and switch.

  2. 19/08/2010 1:12 pm

    Blindingly obvious. Yet I have somehow missed it – male privilege perhaps

  3. noblecaboose permalink*
    19/08/2010 1:56 pm

    I just watched this video about Don LaFontaine:

    At about 3:48 he gets at something which may be a key to why his voice was so popular.
    Basically, his voice can be heard over all the noise and sound effects in movie trailers, so he can speak quite softly and still have a strong impact. I wonder if this has anything to do with why studios use mostly men’s voices; if a woman’s voice lacks this precious quality.

    Notice in this trailer (featuring the voice talent of Sylvia Villagran) the background noise is minimal during her voiceover parts:

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