Voice acting is one of the more mysterious parts of the animation production process and while luminaries like Mel Blanc managed to garner a high degree of public awareness, there is a legion of talented actors working away behind the microphone that most members of the public would never recognise. One of them, John DiMaggio, decided to change that and went about creating the documentary ‘I Know That Voice’ to highlight the job and the players that take part.
I was lucky enough to attend the east coast premiere at the National Press Club in DC and after a hard day of work, it was just what I needed. Playing to a packed house comprising fans, enthusiasts, eager upstarts and one Irishman, I Know That Voice was warmly received, as was DiMaggio himself who was in attendance.
The wide range of the audience turned out to be a blessing because it highlighted the ability if I Know That Voice to entertain anyone and not just die-hard fans and know-it-alls.
Given that many people outside of the industry don’t know an awful lot about it, DiMaggio wisely eschewed presenting a highly technical film in favour of one that gives a broad overview. Starting with some history, the film gradually winds its way through the basic mechanics of voice acting, how one finds work (and what kind of work they can expect), why it’s called voice acting, the business of being a voice actor, and lastly, finishing off with why it really is a fun job.
Throughout the film, we are treated to litany of very talented individuals who are more than happy to talk about their craft. Besides seeing them exhibit their most famous voices, there was ample scenes where they were able to talk candidly or engage in some of the humour that is apparently rife throughout the industry and which had the audience at the screening laughing the whole time.
After the screening, DiMaggio engaged in a lengthy Q&A session with questions ranging from how to get into the business to why the film is being distributed a bit differently than many others (the answer was simply that many distributors weren’t interested.) Things got a bit serious when someone asked about profanity, but DiMaggio handled with the aplomb that is his trademark.
In the end, the film conveyed to me the central place that voice acting holds in the minds of fans. Artists may create and bring characters to life, but voice actors are the physical embodiment for the vast majority of fans. They are ambassadors for things that don’t belong to them, and yet they are so willing to bring happiness and joy to anyone who asks.
Highly recommended for both the highly curious as well as those who think they know all there is to know about the business, I Know That Voice is part documentary, part love letter to a business that underpins the wider animation industry and whose many players are characters in their own right.
Thanks to Emily Whitten and the rest of the Press Club Youth team for hosting this incredible event.