In a World Where Women Never Narrate Movie Previews
a stab-in-the-dark marketing gimmick to a serious line item in the budget. A trailer for a summer blockbuster can cost more than $1 million to produce. This year, these little two-and-a-half-minute teasers that establish both the story beats and tone of a film have been watched more than a billion times on YouTube (GOOG), and rising. Americans searched for trailers three times more this year than in 2008. Still, why no women?
The conventional wisdom among Hollywood studio executives is that a mans voice commands attention and cuts through the clutter of explosions and car crashes, says Danis. There also appears to be a scientific basis for featuring brawnier voices. According to Clifford Nass, a professor at Stanford and the author of The Man Who Lied to His Laptop, while the human brain is hardwired to prefer the sound of a female voice (this is why even men speak to babies in high-pitched voices), trust is another issue entirely. Deeper voices are associated with more perceived intelligence and competence, he says. A small fraternity of men dominates the world of movie trailersguys like Ashton Smith (Wolverine) and Howard Parker (Pacific Rim), who earn $50,000 to $100,000 for a major studio campaign, which also includes promotional TV spots. They earn upwards of seven figures a year. When asked about the money, Parker doesnt blush: Ill tell you, he says, the money is wonderful. I worked in radio and was in poverty for quite a bit of time. Don LaFontaine, the man who popularized the In a world phrase and recorded more than 5,000 trailers before his death in 2008, famously took a limousine to his recording sessions.
As for women, you can count on one hand the number that have voiced trailers. In 2000, Melissa Disney narrated the spot for Angelina Jolies Gone in 60 Seconds. A full decade later, Tasia Valenza voiced the campaign for the horror flick Piranha 3D. But, as she says, It never happened again. She posits: Piranha worked because it was that kind of summery, sexy, everything-is-going-great and then it turns really bad. It was the right time, right place, right trailer. Still, shes earned a very healthy living as the voice of SoapNet for 10 years, and has also worked frequently in video games, which draws on her background in front of the camera. I like to call myself a recovering actress and a fully functioning voiceover artist, she says. In other words, she makes more money now than she ever did on The Bold and the Beautiful. Even without trailers. Still, John Zaffarano of the Los Angeles-based ad agency Cimarron Group is hopeful that more women will get voiceover work in trailers. The Cimarron Group produced the trailers for all of the Twilight movies, and rather than employ a traditional voiceover for the first film, it used star Kristen Stewarts narration to establish the story. Our job is to figure out who the consumer is, Zaffarano says. And Kristens voice really spoke to the audience for that movie. Without spoiling In a World , Bells character does get a shot in the voiceover big leagues. Theres been some progress, Zaffarano says, but I dont believe women in trailers will ever have the career that men have. Weve talked about it for years. For her part, Bell would certainly welcome the shot. Shes voicing the role of the Mona Lisa in next years DreamWorks (DWA) animated film, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and hopes shell get a crack at voicing the trailer. Listen, Bell says, Im campaigning hard.