Exploring the world of the Italian "doppiatori," the elite group voice actors that dub English language films into Italian!
Per leggere questo riassunto in italiano, vai qui!
FINALLY, THE FULL COMPLETE PITCH VIDEO, WITH ALL OUR FABULOUS INTERVIEWS, VIDEO CLIPS, AND NONE OF ME TALKING TO THE CAMERA (but if you really want to see me talk about the movie, watch the clip above!)
As an American cinema audience, thousands of characters have captured our hearts. Through their iconic performances on the silver screen and our TV sets, we have come to know and love the actors that have portrayed glory bound kings, street savvy cops, and dopey everymans.
Tonino Accolla, above, has voiced the Italian language versions of Tom Hanks, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Murphy, Homer Simpson, and many more. Although he has only appeared on screen in 3 films, he has dubbed over 70 feature length films and many television series, including every episode of The Simpsons. While his face is unknown to the world, his voice is ubiquitous in Italy—a film in theaters every weekend, a television show playing in every home, and a voice more recognizable to an Italian than the speech of any American actor in the world.
Tonino is part of a select group of in demand actors that provide the Italian voices to all the foreign language films and television programs that are distributed in Italy. He and the rest of this unparalleled group of talent reside in Rome, where over 90% of the foreign films marketed in Italy are redubbed from their original language into Italian—a €50 billion industry annually.
The process of dubbing a film isn’t simply translating English into Italian and pressing record on the tape machine; it is a complex art form in which seemingly untranslatable ideas are transformed into Italian that not only captures the sentiment of the script, but mirrors the original actor’s performance and syncs perfectly with their lips on screen. The Italians are so masterful at this process that many bilingual audience members will argue that Eddie Murphy is funnier in Italian than he is in English simply due to Tonino Accolla’s spot-on voice performance, or that Samuel L. Jackson is even more badass with Luca Ward’s emphatic “Fanculo!”
In this documentary, I’ll show in-depth the odd and artful process of recreating the English voices of American films into Italian, but more importantly, I'll show you the doppiatori, who they are and what their lives are like off the dub stage as they pursue their dreams in an Italy that is changing everyday. This is a wacky world of incredibly unique characters, and best of all, they all know each other from working together on countless movies and TV shows. I’ll also use the camera to capture the lives of these artists in the cinematic style of their film counterparts, making homages to the American movies they made popular with their Italian voices, and ultimately placing these “voices in the shadows” in the spotlight of a Hollywood movie.
It's particularly important that we make this movie now. Due to the influx of media content in the internet age, the dubbing industry has begun to trade quality for speed, a change that many lament as the end of the golden age of Italian dubbing. Furthermore, Italy itself has undergone massive tectonic shifts due to Europe's financial crisis, which as led many young Italians to seek opportunities abroad. Satellite television gives viewers the option to watch shows in their original language, and many are choosing to do so in order to improve their English. With our cameras we will follow both established and aspiring doppiatori and will see firsthand how these changes to the industry and Italy are reflected in their day-to-day lives.
Born and raised in New York City, Jordan Ledy has performed in all aspects of filmmaking. During his studies at Columbia University, where he earned a BA in English Literature and Jazz Studies, Jordan studied in Florence, Italy, where he lived with an Italian family and fell in love with the Italian language and culture. Upon graduation, Jordan began working at Ghost Robot, where he assisted independent producer Joshua Zeman and post-coordinated two feature films: the narrative film Against the Current (Sundance 2008) and the documentary film Cropsey (TriBeCa Film Fest 2008). He has gone on to direct several international documentary films, including Beyond Shepherd’s Field, the story of two Chinese orphans living in an orphan village near Beijing, and What is Ya-Ka-May?, a short film on the eclectic music scene of New Orleans, which garnered over 170,000 hits on YouTube. He also edited the USC thesis doc Cyberbullied and produced The Red Woman, which won the 2010 Bel-Air Film Festival's Best Audience Student Feature award. Jordan is a current MFA student at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, and hopes that his films instill a passion for fine arts and foreign cultures in their audiences.
Magee Clegg is a director/producer pursuing an MFA at The USC School of Cinematic Arts. He began his career as a filmmaker when he traveled to India to direct a documentary about urban migration titled A Box with a View. Shortly after India, Magee became a Fulbright Scholar in the Philippines where he spent one year directing Filipino Rice Policy, a documentary which explores the corrupt politics surrounding rice importation in the Philippines. While living in Manila, Magee also directed music videos for Filipino rock groups as well as an HIV Awareness PSA that aired nationally on MTV ASIA. Magee has screened his work in India, Philippines, Macau, and at many festivals throughout the United States including the Chicago International Children's Film Festival. Most recently Magee directed and produced the branded web series Bite Night for Subway Sandwiches that screened at SXSW. He loves to tell stories about coming of age, family, and young love.
Brian Frager is completing his MFA with a focus on cinematography and writing at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where he enjoys penning everything except personal bios. He studied English and Creative Writing at UCLA as a Regents Academic Scholar. He shoots for commercial house REP Interactive, and produces and directs campaigns for JumpSport Fitness. Spearheading the half-hour comedy pilot Off Campus remains his most formative filmmaking experience, fueling aspirations of showrunning in television.
Born and raised in Santiago, Chile. Diego Perez first came to the United States to become a professional musician. During his studies at Berklee College of Music, he learned to manipulate sound to create new experiences in interactive music, live performance and sound design, sparking his interest in sound as a storytelling device. As a student at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Diego has been involved in projects ranging from web-series to documentaries and thesis films doing production and post-production sound, editing and re-recording mixing. Recently he has also discovered his interest in producing and picture editing. Diego is a constant evangelizer of the power of sound to tell a story, and has worked as a sound designer in feature films, animations and short films in Los Angeles, Boston and Santiago, and is a two-time nominee for the Motion Picture Sound Editors' Golden Reel Awards.
P.S. Unlike Ben, Diego loves pasta, period.
Saira Haider is currently in the production program completing her masters at the School of Cinematic Arts. She shows her passion for detailed and creative work on set and off set by editing films and designing sets. Before pursuing a career in film, she studied journalism at Virginia Tech and spent a year after graduating interning and freelancing as a journalist in New York and D.C.
Besides making movies Saira loves to spend an excessive amount of time on the Internet, read, draw, run, ride her bike, and to sip Diet Coke daily. Her other interests include fashion, all print media, and playing in the snow. Coming from a background of writing, design and many interests, she is reminded daily of why she is committed to becoming a filmmaker: because it’s a career where one has the opportunity to remain a perpetual student to the arts.
Ben Stillerman is a South African born director/editor, currently pursuing an MFA at USC's School of Cinematic Arts, with a focus on writing, directing and editing documentary films. His undergraduate in literature and philosophy from the University of Cape Town has given him an eclectic and analytical interest in films and their subjects. He has particular interest in making films which explore the absurdity of society without blatant agenda or judgement. His first films were made in 2010 as part of a media project at Equal Education, a South African NGO, and since then, he has made documentary films in South Africa, Los Angeles, and Beijing, China. His most recent completed project documented the lives of construction workers in Los Angeles, and he is currently editing a film about the performers on the Santa Monica pier. His next big project after It's Better in Italian will be a feature documentary about his father's retail business in South Africa.
He loves pasta, when it is cooked right.
Our USC faculty mentor is the Emmy award-winning director and producer Amanda Pope, who directed the wonderful feature documentary "The Desert of Forbidden Art" and the Emmy award-winning doc "The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club." She has overseen and advised Jordan throughout the development of It's Better In Italian and on many other projects, and is extremely jealous he's going to Rome without her!
Italy has relied on the dubbing process since the first sound films were distributed internationally in the early 1930s. Fearful of outside cultural influences, Mussolini censored all foreign languages from Italian media outlets. At the time, literacy was extremely low in Italy, and subtitled films bombed at the box office, leaving theaters empty. Hollywood’s attempted to monetize Italian markets by providing dubbed soundtracks, which led Mussolini to ban all films dubbed abroad in 1933 and subsequently created the Italian film dubbing industry.
The studios that arose from the demand for translating foreign films also gained a huge amount of success dubbing domestic Italian films; stars like Claudia Cardinale and Sophia Loren, who spoke in thick southern accents that were considered vulgar to northern sensibilities, were dubbed by northern voice over actors, and directors such as Federico Fellini and Sergio Leone would routinely use the dubbing stage as a place to refine performance and even rewrite dialogue! Although Italian literacy is now incredibly high, the convention of dubbing has remained.
Today sync-sound production is the standard for Italian film productions, so most Italian actors are allowed to speak for themselves, although there are still a small number of television shows that overdub Italian face actors with new voices. The larger sector of the industry lies in dubbing foreign language films, and compensation for these services mirrors the industry: a studio booked for session time, extra money is paid for premium talent, and both the studio and well-known actors are given royalties for exploitation of the film that uses the new Italian soundtrack.
Currently the dubbing industry is undergoing a change in dynamic; more films are being produced internationally and the information age has increased access to media. The time frame for a film to be dubbed is growing shorter, and there is concern that the quality the Italians are famous for may be suffering from the demand for speed. Furthermore, Italy as a country is changing; the combination of its shrinking population and financial woes following the economic crisis have led more Italians to defy tradition by seek opportunities abroad, and with access to satellite TV, many young Italians can watch Hollywood movies with their original soundtracks as a means of improving their English and bolstering their resumes.
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This is a film that I've wanted to make ever since I studied abroad in Florence six years ago, and now that I'm taking it on as my thesis film and culmination of my masters studies at USC, it is a film I must make and finish in a timely fashion. I'm blessed with an amazing team of filmmakers that have all made many movies before, and we are confident that the challenges we will face when we receive funding and begin shooting will be met with the confidence and experience we've gained over the years.
A million things can go wrong when making a documentary--characters can drop out, equipment can break or get stolen, right in the middle of your key interview a plane flies overhead and ruins your sound--but this is the work we do, and with our experience we know how to prepare for these issues and solve them as they come. The problems of a film production are part of the reason why it is such an invigorating work environment: you gotta make the best movie you can and roll with the punches!
Once we receive funding, our backers should rest assured that this film will be completed, not only because I won't be able to complete my graduate degree without it, but because we love this movie and we'll die making it happen! The true challenges lie in our execution of the film--of connecting with the best doppiatori with the most interesting stories, of capturing those stories with our cameras in the most cinematic way, and letting that story unfold in the editing and sound design so that you as an audience member connect and get to see a strange new world unfold before your eyes--and that is no easy feat. However, I've been preparing this film for over a year now, and with the extraordinary team of my fellow USC students, I have no doubt we will give you a great film you'll be happy you supported in this early stage of its creation.
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