How One Company Is Stepping Up To The Plate To Amplify The Voices Of Women In Hollywood

By Dana Corddry

There’s a not-so-quiet revolution afoot in Hollywood. And perhaps for the first time in history, women are reaping the benefits.

In an environment that can be downright hostile to women over a certain age, the casting choices for female actresses and other professionals are inarguably already limited, compared to the long ranging career viability available to their male counterparts. Given the reality of an industry that is marked by an extraordinary wage gap between men and women, the responsibility falls upon the Hollywood agents, Production Heads, and decision makers to balance the scales.

The recent backlashes against everything from the formerly open secrets held by powerful men in Hollywood who have long established reputations for mistreating their female employees and/or co- stars, to the staggering differences in pay (for example, Mark Wahlberg pulled in $5 million for Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World, whereas his co-star Michelle Williams, who was pushed for awards for the film, made a comparatively paltry $625,000, according to The Hollywood Reporter), are a call-to- action for those in leadership positions, and the leaders at one Dubbing Studio in Los Angeles, Encore Voices, are stepping up to the challenge.

Encore Voices, which specializes in dubbing international films and TV series is currently dubbing a 10 episode Belgian series from French to English. Although the lead is a woman, there are 54 male characters in the series, and only 32 female characters. On the series dubbed just prior, also a 10 episode French language series, there were 51 male roles to only 19 female roles, revealing the typical under representation of women in casting. They are also currently working on a feature in which out of 10 main characters only 2 are women, and of these 2, only 1 is a lead.

“I don’t see much of an evolution for the development of more female parts in our business”, says Fannie Brett-Rabault, a Dubbing Producer and Casting Director at Encore Voices. “What I see though, is the female parts are not restrained to being only the lover/ wife / or mother anymore; they do have more of an arch and challenges within the story lines.”

Encore Voices is very aware of this gender gap and tries to remedy the disparity in roles whenever possible. “We need to do our part to compensate for the under representation of female roles,” says Charles Fathy, Encore Voices’ Owner, who makes a pro-active effort to hire women directors, writers and project managers to make up for the lack of female characters in most movies. “A seemingly obvious response to the gender gap issue, Fathy’s response is surprisingly still a rare thing in Hollywood…” according to one of his Voice Over talents.

While recording the Audio Description of two recent American original network series, Fathy made the unexpected choice to select female voice over actresses to narrate the episodes, despite the latter series being comprised of an entirely male cast, and centered in the traditionally male subject of hunting in the wild. Historically, Fathy’s body of work has tended to favor women in voice over roles when a project doesn’t specify the gender, and contingent on the choice’s being in line with the artistic vision of the project. In the latter case, the Studio team agreed during recording that the female narrator’s voice actually lent a nice balance to the project, and was an intuitive call by Fathy, no doubt led by his decades of experience in dubbing. Still, Fathy observes, “The disparity between male and female characters in film and TV is outstandingly large and outrageous”.

And this seems to be true across the board, in every country.

“I’ve directed the dubbing of over 20 feature films and 70 episodes for television, and I would have to say that the average ratio in typical films is 70-80% male to 30-20% female roles, says Sergine Dumais, a Director who has worked with Encore Voices. “In all of my years directing I have only directed two films that had an equal number of female characters. Two years ago, I directed the English dub of two Japanese TV series. On the first one, not only were only two out of twenty main characters female, but the percentage of lines spoken by female characters was even lower than that, closer to 5%. I got to do something about it on the second one where a lot of the characters were aliens—and it could be argued that they were androgynous, so I went ahead and made the artistic choice to cast female actresses to voice these aliens (which had been played by male actors in the original). By doing that, I brought the cast from two women to six. As a female director, you do what you can.”

While there is still a lot of traction to be made in the area of balancing the scales of the gender gap in Hollywood from casting to salary, Encore Voices is proud of being part of the change in every way it can. To that end, the studio does its part by giving strong attention at all times to pay equality, and to building its team of female writers, directors, producers, and other talent.

As Monia Ayachi, a dubbing Director with Encore Voices, says optimistically: “Women are still widely unrepresented in our industry, but I am starting to notice a new trend. Women are master multitaskers, so I truly believe they are a great asset. I am proud to be a director, but I’m even prouder to be a woman director. Here is to hoping the trend continues to change and we get to see more and more women in power positions.”

Perhaps if more studios begin to follow in Encore Voices’ footsteps, that will be the way of the future.

Dana Corddry is a writer and publicist who lives in Los Angeles, California. She works on Encore Voices’ team of creative writers and voice over directors, and enjoys collaborating on several ongoing films and series.

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