This weekend I had a chance to watch In a World…, a movie that I’m a little surprised had escaped my radar until now. It was released last year to a limited number of theaters and small fanfare, but ended up winning debut writer/director/producer (as well as lead actor) Lake Bell the award for best screenplay at Sundance. Bell plays Carol Solomon, a struggling voice coach who lives in the shadow of her dad, Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed). Sam is “one of the five people in the voice over industry making any money,” thanks to his sonorous movie trailer voice. In the film trailer voice over business, Sotto is often mentioned in the same breath as Don LaFontaine, the real-life King of the Movie Trailers, who died in 2008, and was well known for his trademark “In a world…” heard in a plethora of movie trailers for years. From the beginning of the film, there’s tension between Sam and Carol, as she dreams of cracking the gender barrier of movie trailer voice overs, and Sam sees himself as a protector of the old guard. “The industry does not crave a female sound,” he pontificates, “I’m not being sexist, that’s just the truth.” Instead, he thinks Carol should focus on her niche — whimsical accents.
As Sam prepares to receive a lifetime achievement award for his work in the film trailer voice over industry, he decides it’s time to pass on the torch to a younger protege, the self-obsessed new golden boy, Gustav Warner (Ken Marino). When Gustav is unable to record a movie trailer due to a hoarse voice, Carol steps in to record a placeholder version. The studio decides to go with Carol for the actual trailer, which leads to more VO work, eventually setting her up as the potential voice for megahit ‘quadrilogy,’ The Amazon Games. (Although it isn’t mentioned in the film, this is similar to how LaFontaine started his Lou Gehrig like run.) This series of films promises to be such an epic that the studio has resurrected the legendary LaFontaine introduction, “In a world…” As Gustav and Sam discover who ‘stole’ the job from Gustav, a competition for the gig ensues, tangling pride, loyalty, and family dynamics. There are plenty of meta references not lost on the film’s audience, even if the characters themselves don’t pick up on them. The tension between father and daughter come to a head as they both read lines for a trailer to a movie “about these fierce mutated female Amazonian warriors as the sole future world-inhabiting species battling cloned prehistoric cavemen hybrids.” In a world dominated by golden voiced men, Carol battles her two male competitors over the lines,
“A time where mankind has been replaced by womankind. A battle of epic strength will collapse a barbaric enemy. One woman…dared to rise up and exceed the boundaries of the impossible…It’s a broad new world.”
It was, in fact, Bell’s own observations about this male-dominated world of trailer voice overs that inspired her to make this movie in the first place. Bell approaches the subject with charm and humor, and while there are a couple characters who seem too one-dimensional for us to really care about, her heroes are flawed works in progress, and we’re invited to laugh with and at them. The movie is funny — at times very funny. It’s well cast, well acted, and as evidenced by the Sundance award, well written. Sub-plots include Carol’s shy romance with studio engineer Louis (Demetri Martin) and her unrequested-yet-appreciated marriage counseling for sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) and brother-in-law Moe (Rob Corddry). I would have enjoyed In A World… even if I weren’t a voice over artist, but I was particularly glad to see a film was made about the industry — even if it was only about one very specific corner of the VO room (and one that isn’t my niche, at that). Because as Gina Davis’ character says in her cameo appearance, “Whether the general public chooses to acknowledge it or not, voice over matters. Everyone in the world watches movie trailers. Everyone in the world sees commercials on television. Or they hear them on the radio. And that is power!”
I recommend checking this one out from your district library, or however it is you bring good movies into your world.
So, how was the trailer handled for this movie about movie trailers? Check it out, below: