Date of Award

8-11-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Dr. Patricia Davis

Second Advisor

Dr. Ted Friedman

Third Advisor

Dr. David Cheshier

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Sonja Foss

Fifth Advisor

Dr. William Waters

Abstract

The primary purpose of this study was to discover whether and how the voice alone can change audiences’ perception of character in films. It further sought to determine some of the specific changes in vocal performance that might construct that difference. Data were gathered from three focus groups that screened film clips between two and five minutes long. The clips were edited from five pairs of matched films—an original and its remake. Films were chosen to represent a variety of genres and release dates, and they included scenes where the dialogue was identical or similar. Although each focus group experienced the same set of edited film clips from the matched film pairs, one group experienced only the sound without any visuals, a second group watched only the visuals of the same clips without any sound, and a third group watched the clips as they were produced with sound and visuals. Participants completed a short questionnaire and engaged in a discussion regarding the characters in the films. Data were analyzed using grounded-theory. Analysis included sorting and coding data into categories by focus group, film, character, and scene. Units of analysis were terms or phrases about how focus-group participants perceived or understood a character and the vocal techniques they used to describe them. After the variables were identified, data across focus groups were checked for redundancy, seeking instances where characterizations were the same for the visual or both the visual and vocal techniques. Characteristics that presented in multiple groups were eliminated, leaving only characterizations attributed to voice. Seventy-two character traits emerged that participants saw as developed through the voice, with 11 vocal techniques used to create those characteristics. A vocal continuum was developed to show how the actors in the study were perceived to use those vocal techniques to construct certain character traits. These results have potential practical uses for actors, vocal performers, acting and vocal coaches, screenwriters, and others involved in filmmaking.

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