Filmmaker Interview: “In a World” – Lake Bell on making her directing debut and the world of voice over’ing

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open this Friday August 23rd at the following theatres: Cinemark West Plano 20, Angelika Film Center Dallas and Plano Locations

By: Gordon K. Smith

IN A WORLD… is a bright and original new comedy, set in a world never before the subject of a fiction film, that of Hollywood’s highly competitive voice over business, those guys – and a very few gals – who narrate movie trailers with stentorian tones guaranteed to make anything look Oscar-worthy.   Lake Bell (Adult Swim’s Children’s Hospital), a rising voice talent herself,  stars in and makes her directing debut with IN A WORLD…, and wrote the screenplay that won a top award at Sundance earlier this year. Her character, Carol, is pushed into being a groundbreaking female announcer by her v.o. veteran father (Fred Malemed), then winds up competing with him for the most desired gig in the industry.   At an early August roundtable interview in Dallas’ Palomar Hotel, she discussed scoring a bulls-eye with her debut effort.

“In voice work you can be anybody.   In the movie Ken Marino is constantly on speaker phone with his big fat old Jewish agent – it’s played by me.  I couldn’t do that in plain site, and that’s pretty cool.  I learned so much about the voice industry by desperately auditioning for it…when I fell in love with it I came to Hollywood and thought I’d clean up…but it’s very clique-ish and difficult to infiltrate…there’s only so many jobs and they have it locked down.  They’re very protective.  That was interesting to me as a subgroup.  Culturally it reminded me of my father’s passion for race car driving.  I saw a lot of male inter-ego dynamics going on in a male-dominated world.  It had a lot of similarities that I thought was a great breeding ground for comedy.  I used a lot of those dynamics (in my screenplay).”

“I really do think that writing is therapeutic as you guys all know.  You can express yourselves different ways.  When you’re creating characters there’s always amalgamations of characters and experiences you’ve all had in the past, whether it’s your own personal dilemmas or that of your family…that dynamic has been very close to me.”

“Carol’s real path is to become this star.  It’s a want and goal in vain, because it’s the goal of her father, so she’s attacking in vain.  What she’s really good at is helping other people, being attuned to them. She’s constantly trying to help and then squashing that instinct as she starts to empower herself, and seeing the results of helping Dani (Micheala Watkins) and helping Moe (Rob Corddry), which she’s good at.  So at the end when she gets cut down a bit by Geena Davis it rattles her world and she deposits herself in a decision she enjoys, to help young women in their “sexy baby vocal virus pandemic”, which is what I find so interesting about it.  Here’s a protagonist finding her voice, maybe you could too, if you’re listening.”

L-R:  Gordon Smith, Director/Writer Lake Bell

L-R: Gordon Smith, Director/Writer Lake Bell

A big fan of such accent masters as Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchette, Ben Kingsley and Daniel Day-Lewis, Bell studied the art with vocal training in England.  ‘You can totally do any accent in the world phonetically, because you’re dissecting it in such a scientific way.  You don’t just listen to a Scottish accent a couple of times and get it.  It’s so scientific, and it’s so cool!  British RP, all very posh, is very frontal in the mouth, while American is way in the back.  It’s like throwing it in the right place, in the nose, below the nose, where the breath is supported.”

She counts Martin Scorsese’s KING OF COMEDY and Woody Allen’s HANNAH AND HER SISTERS as personal faves and huge influences, the ones she puts on when she needs “a kick in the creative ass”.  “The hardest part of writing, directing, and starring in a movie is writing, directing and starring in a movie…directing a movie is hard.  Acting well in a movie is hard.  Writing a film is also very hard.  Put them all together, plus co-producing, and it’s a wonderful chaos of things going on.   If you prepare, like madness, then you can be okay…comfortable shoes are also very key…On Children’s Hospital, we barely improvise because there’s no time.  We shoot two episodes in four days…in this film, I shot it in 20 days at under $1 million.  We stuck to the script.  But once we got the scene in the can, we had some playful takes, so some little things I got to add in the final edit, like Nick Offerman’s ad libs.”

“I like working with friends.  I like to surround myself with people I know with good attitude, don’t like cynics or divas.  It’s the coolest job in the world, what are you bitching about?  Life’s too short.”

The title of IN A WORLD… refers to the classic movie trailer pitch line made famous by announcer Don LaFontaine, who died in 2008.  The film pays tribute to him, including the famous Geico commercial that gave most movie fans their first look at the legend, although Bell chose not to narrate the trailer for her own film.  “Don La Fontaine wrote that line – no one in this industry will be able to take on the quality that he had.  When he died, it was epic in the industry.  It’s become an archaic way to represent a movie, because voice overs are not “in trend” with how movie trailers are done today due in part to the fact that Don is no longer there.”

Her, and her film’s success at Sundance earlier this year was a pleasant shock.  “In competition at Sundance, it was the first year they had half female and half male directors.  A great year for ladies.  I did great!  Just being there is great, I was beyond moved.  It won the Screenwriting Award, the most unexpected, wonderful thing I ever experienced in my life.  I’m massively thankful.  I wasn’t expecting it because it was a comedy.”

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