Christine Bellier : others’ voicePhotography : Jérôme Prévost - Text : Elisabeth Grosdhomme
Christine Bellier is a live summary of the French-speaking world. Born in Québec from a French father and a Belgian mother, she is a comedian and dedicates herself especially to the practice of dubbing : she « does » the French voice of many foreign actresses and cartoon characters.
The québecois voice of Kate Winslet, playing the character of Rose in « Titanic », that was hers. Barbie’s voice in « Toy Story 2 », that was also hers. The voices of Jennifer Lopez, Nathalie Portman, Cate Blanchett or Drew Barrymore in innumerable productions, hers again.
Dubbing requires rigorous precision. Comedians have little time to get prepared ; more often than not, they haven’t even seen the movie beforehand. Work is carried out scene by scene, not necessarily following the flow of the story but rather according to the constraints of comedians’ calendars : recording sessions are scheduled in order to process in one go all the scenes involving the same characters. Comedians watch the scene once, listen to the stage director’s instructions, and off they go with the sole help of the rythmographic band scrolling across the screen.
Few or no rehearsals, but a lot of diction exercises day after day so as to avoid babbling on a syllable at the last minute ; and a lot of concentration while performing, in order to render as accurately as possible whatever you were able to grasp from the original expression.
Christine Bellier knows the ins and outs of dubbing better than anyone. Her father already praticed that craft. Her mother, her uncle and her aunt were also comedians, one for television, one for cinema, one for theater. A good part of her childhood was spent backstage, observing and dreaming. She performed her first voiceover at the age of four and hasn’t stopped ever since.
In parallel, Christine also developed her career as an actress in several television series, all very popular in Québec : « Majeurs et vaccinés » in 1995-1996, or Bouscotte, a serial drama made of 109 episodes, which aired from 1997 to 2001. Here again, it is a very peculiar way of practicing the art of acting : shooting happens in public so that the laughs and reactions of the audience can be recorded as well. The rhythm is intense : one week of rehearsals, then a very long day of shooting, sometimes up to 16 hours at once, where they act out an episode twice in front of two different crowds so that the director has several shots for each scene, with a fresh reaction from a new audience each time.
In 2003, Christine left Québec and moved over to France in order to get close to the man who would become her companion. The back-and-forth between Paris and Montreal to live and work both here and there rapidly became exhausting. So Christine progressively abandoned her activities in Quebec, built connections with French studios and took up dubbing work again with new, long-term roles : « Parenthood », an American series which aired on TF1 for six years, where she voices the character of Julia Graham, a tireless and jolly lawyer trying to balance work and family life ; or « Rookie Blue », a Canadian series of 74 episodes, where she dubs the character of Andy McNally, a young policewoman with a charismatic and energetic temperament. But Christine is also, to young children (and sometimes their parents), the voice of Tchoupi’s mother, which she created in Canada and kept doing in France.
Christine has recently grown up to a new role : that of stage director. It is a function similar to that of an orchestra’s conductor to its musicians : giving comedians the overall tone, bringing each of them to the best of their expression thanks to a couple of instructions, as few and insightful as possible, which will allow them to appropriate their roles even without the help of long rehearsals.
Christine has already directed two seasons of « Hand of God » and « Good Girls Revolt », two series produced and broadcast by Amazon. She is now starting the third season of « The Royals », a British series which tells the fictional story of the British royal family, as well as « Killjoys », a science-fiction series airing on the SyFy network.
Christine acknowledges that she was at the right time in the right job. This is a golden age for television series. The rivalry between Amazon Video, Netflix, Sony Pictures and traditional television stations has completely changed the scenery : series have become, in fifteen years’ time, a hotbed for creativity in a manner that was hitherto the privilege of cinema. For whomever has proven their savoir-faire, opportunities are plenty.
In contrast with the hustle and bustle of recording sets, Christine lives in Senlis because there she finds the peacefulness, congeniality and proximity to nature which she grew up with as a child in Montreal. What she would love to do is to introduce here the spirit of sharing and mutual help which prevails more spontaneously in Québec. Inspired by the Incredible Edible Network, she dreams of setting up in front of her house, in the Val d’Aunette neighbourhood, a vegetable garden that passers-by and neighbours could enjoy freely : fruit and vegetable from her gardening would thus be available to less fortunate people. Anybody willing to help ?