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Better Know a Filmmaker: In a World… Director/Writer/Actress Lake Bell

At the suggestion of one our readers, we are going to start periodically highlighting up and coming directors, writers, and/or actors we like and think you should too.  Because we are huge Colbert Report fans who very much so love his recurring “Better Know a District” segment, we have decided to name this new regular feature Better Know a Filmmaker. 

The Filmmaker: Lake Bell

"Childrens Hospital" photo by Darren Michaels
Lake Bell in front of the director’s monitor on the set of Children’s Hospital, the Adult Swim show she both stars in as well as directs a couple of episodes per season.

Her Current Film: In a World…

What It’s About: Lake Bell stars as a voice dialect coach in Hollywood who is struggling to make it in the male-dominated, cliquey voice acting world.  The inciting action of the plot involves a major film which is proposing to revive the cliched opening line and accompanying narration “In a world…” in its premiere trailer.  Bell finds herself in direct competition with her father and love interest, the former a legend of the industry and the latter an up-and-comer, for the gig.  Bell won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for In a World… at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Here’s the trailer:

Why It’s Notable: It is tempting to simply write In a World… off as a standard uneven comedic indie film that is primarily benefiting at the moment because its subject matter (i.e., the voice over industry) seems novel and under-explored and its feminist point-of-view perfectly timed and easy to champion.  However, thankfully, Bell’s screenwriting and acting is far too nuanced to allow In a World... to simply end up as the strident “boy, it sure sucks being a woman in the voice acting industry” tale one might expect.  Bell’s inventive narrative continually surprises the audience and utilizes its sprawling casts of modern comedy scene all-stars (Rob Corddry, Ken Marino, Demetri Martin, Tig Nataro) efficiently and effectively.  The film is uneven, and it does look around as cheap as its micro-budget actually was.  Plus, it tends to somewhat lose focus whenever it veers away from the central plot involving the voice acting world.  However, as first features go it is impressively self-assured, and even with its imperfections it announces Bell as a filmmaker with a unique viewpoint and something interesting to say.

Professional Background: Lake Bell’s career has been so varied it’s difficult to know where to begin. She’s been a model, appearing at Pirelli’s Fashion Week in Italy and posing for magazines like Elle, Maxim, and Esquire.  Heck, she landed the cover of Maxim just two years ago this month. Don’t hate her because she’s beautiful…mostly because once you see the rest of her resume you’ll have even more reason to hate her.

She’s been an actress in television and film, appearing as a regular on the shows Boston Legal, How To Make It In America, and Children’s Hospital and in supporting roles in films like It’s Complicated, No Strings Attached, and A Good Old Fashioned Orgy.  Screenwriting and directing is actually a relatively recent part of her career, beginning with her 2010 short film Worst Enemy which directly led to her getting the chance to direct several episodes of Children’s Hospital (two last season, at least one this season). This experience helped her make In a World… happen, which in addition to writing, directing, and starring in she also produced.  The film’s premise was inspired by Bell’s own struggles to enter the voice over industry as a means of supplementary college after college, as she had long since been passionate about voice acting but shocked to find the industry incredibly gender-ed and unfriendly (in her experience) to newcomers.  Also,  because she’s apparently forever terrified of having too few sources of income she also writes an automotive column for The Hollywood Reporter.  

This might be the part where we want to finally whisper about Bell under our breathe, “What a bitch!” in the time-honored, catty practice of insulting out of jealousy.  However, I beg of you to wait because there’s actually even more reason to be jealous than just all that.  Wait for it…

Personal Background:  Bell went to drama school in England.

That bitch!

As an American anglophile that last bit was the final straw.  

Oh, yeah, I mentioned she writes an auto column for The Hollywood Report.  Her father began his career in real estate management before specializing in the development and restoration of race car tracks, which he pursued due to his lifelong passion for racing.  As a result, Bell was constantly around race car tracks throughout her childhood, and probably knows more about cars than many an ashamed man (damn you, gender stereotypes!).

What’s Next: Children’s Hospital‘s fifth season is currently airing on Adult Swim, although like all of the other actors on the show Bell’s character will go absent from the show across multiple episodes for absolutely no explained reason.  In her recent interview on the podcast Bullseye With Jesse Thorn, Bell indicated she was turning down future acting and writing offers at the moment because she’s hard at work on the script for her second feature-length film.  In a World is still playing in limited release, having grossed just over $1 million to date on no more than 102 screens.  For the majority of film-loving audiences it’ll never come remotely close to where you live, and should be noted and remembered as a future rental or V.O.D. download/streaming candidate.

I’ll leave you with an incredibly curious YouTube find.  It is a short film Lake Bell directed last year as part of Intel and W Hotels Worldwide’s 4 Stories, a series of four short films each by a different director.  This is the type of odd (it had to be filmed at one of W Hotels’ worldwide hotels, made with an UltraBook) corporate-sponsored opportunity that in another era would torpedo credibility but is exactly the type of thing modern aspiring filmmakers have to take advantage of.

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