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Culture

Best Voice in a Supporting Role Goes to...

The cream of Germany's under-appreciated industry gathered on Thursday to pay homage to the stars of movie dubbing at the annual German Synchronizing Prize.

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Unfortunately, Tom and Penelope can't be with us tonight...but their voices can!

Where can dead film stars share the stage at awards ceremonies with the living? No, we're not talking about the Voodoo Oscars. It's the annual German Synchronizing Prize where the people behind the voices of actors and actresses, past and present, are celebrated by Germany's dubbing fraternity.

The ceremony for the 2002 German Synchronizing Prize in the Brandenburg town of Burg played host to Hugh Grant, Penelope Cruz, Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly among a host of star-studded others. A rare trick for Princess Grace, you may say, as the former Ms. Kelly died in a car crash twenty years ago. But with all the star names on the guest list, alive or dead, there is not a single Hollywood A-list star attending the awards in person.

Those with nominations are the mostly unsung heroes and heroines of the silver screen. They are the voice actors that bring foreign language films to life in their native German tongue. They are the German alter egos of the cinematic glitterati. They are the stars of dubbing.

The award ceremony, held on Thursday evening, celebrated winners from a number of categories, including Best Male and Female in Synchro Work, Direction and Script Adaptation.

And the winners are Thomas Fritsch, Corinna Harfouch...

Thomas Fritsch won the Best Male Synchro Award for lending his dulcet tones to the American production, "Second Chance," a story about a man who travels back in time to Fort Worth, Texas on November 22, 1963 and prevents the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The Best Female Award was picked up by Corinna Harfouch for her role as Erika Kohut in the German adaptation of the French production "The Piano Teacher," the film adapted from a novel by the Austrian author Elfriede Jelinek's.

Other top awards went to Hilke Flickeshildt for her German version of the script for the Swedish movie "Jalla! Jalla!" while the Best Director went to Matthias Grimm for his work on the German version of the leftfield Danish gangster comedy "Flickering Lights."

Voice actors dubbing for big stars can earn big bucks

All the glitz of the award ceremony is well deserved as dubbing is big business, especially in Germany, Italy and Spain where most films have synchronized dialogue. Actors that secure the voice role of a major Hollywood star with a regular turnover of films are almost guaranteed work for as long as their on-screen persona continues to make movies.

For many actors working in these countries, performing in the dubbing studio is the only possibility for a steady income. And experienced voices can earn big bucks. On average they complete 300 takes a day. That’s about a third of a full-length movie.

The basic fee for a speaker varies between 25 and 75 euro a day depending on the quality and qualification of a voice. In addition, a speaker earns a set rate per take, and sometimes, depending on the film's budget, there are even flat day wages.

The under-appreciated movie stars of European film

Unfortunately, voice actors seldom find themselves being chased by the gossip hungry paparazzi or mobbed at premieres. Synchronizers hardly ever get recognized for their work. When the credits roll at the end of a film, the dozens of speakers involved in the production are never named.

Joachim Kerzel, the German voice for Jack Nicholson, is frustrated with the lack of recognition in the business: "We only have our selves to blame, we’re not organized. Everyone fights for himself, and the industry can do with us what they want. We give up our rights for all time, for all the still to be developed media on all the still to be discovered planets."

But Kerzel should take comfort from the fact that the numerous awards ceremonies held around Europe go some way to rewarding the faceless stars of cinema’s best voices.

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