Movie-Trailer versus ‘gravitas’
“In a world…”.
These are often the 3 words uttered by many well known (and not-so well known) voice-over artists over the past 30 something years at the very beginning of the soundtrack to what’s called the “trailer”, a short clip shown as a precursor to and means of promoting a variety of movies, mostly in the categories of drama, action, thriller, sci-fi, horror – and even sometimes comedy and romance.
Often, when asked to voice something which requires a “big”, “rich”, “ethereal” or even “punchy” delivery, I’m briefed to not make it sound all movie-trailery.
Nope, they just want a good, firm, hard, slightly heavy read with a sense of urgency so as to try to “grab people’s attention”.
No no no, they do not want to ram-it-down their potential customer’s throats.
They just want the ad to stand out amongst all the others – which sound the same.
What they’re really asking is for the script to be read with “gravitas”.
Gravitas: dignity, seriousness, or solemnity of manner – “a post for which he has the expertise and the gravitas” – solemnity, gravity, loftiness, grandeur, decorum, sobriety, sedateness – “a man of gravitas”.
I particularly like the “dignity, seriousness, gravity, decorum and grandeur” parts of that definition – at least that’s my idea of how text should be read when asked to give some meaning and purpose to the words on the page.
And I agree with the concept of endeavouring to deliver a radio or TV ad, a short narrative, documentary, on-hold message or anything else really, in such a manner as befits the script – if it calls for “gravitas”.
What I haven’t yet figured out is why, having been briefed to read “with gravitas”, after sometimes several dozen takes, and after ongoing direction from the writer and/or the client, the ad usually ends up – like a movie-trailer.
You can almost hear those 3 immortal words “in a world…” at the beginning of so many voice-overs all over the world where a commercial, from a simple ad for a new shop or service through to something high-tech or the latest model car, will sound like the movie-trailer for a forthcoming summer blockbuster film.
Imagine – the screen you’re viewing the whatever-it-is on is dark, but maybe there’s a twinkling of light pulsing from the lower section.
A huge music “stab” followed by a drone of epic proportion blasts the speakers apart, and then, the voice of a thousand whiskeys and cigars comes in…
“…in a world, where only you can get 20% off all groceries, Fred’s Food Emporium beckons you into their new supermarket – where the prices, are so low (drone track comes to a crescendo and then abruptly stops here), they’d slide right under the belly of a snake (heavy music track now bursts in and the voice-over shifts up a few gears). Yes, this week, it’s all going to happen in one, final and absolute sale at Fred’s Food Emporium as they make way for (dramatic shift in music, maybe with some nice explosions and helicopter SFX thrown in) their latest stock (pause) of (pause) PINEAPPLES!!!”
The kicker is that after all this comes the obligatory “terms and conditions apply”.
I voice ads like this now and then.
I’m so ashamed…