From producing and directing six Emmy award-winning documentaries to teaching at Drexel University, Martin Zied is well seasoned when it comes to the television industry. For most of his life, Zied has been tuned into the power and beauty of the human voice, provoked initially by a mesmerizing voice he heard in the third grade. That obsession inspired Zied's latest project, "Voice Messages," that focuses on all aspects of the human voice. The documentary includes interviews with Grammy Award-winning artists, medical experts, and unforgettable voices such as Martin Luther King, Jr.'s to build the story of a powerful instrument we all have, but many overlook.
Q: Marty, tell us more about the mesmerizing experience that got you so interested in the human voice?
I was in the auditorium with my mom and a sixth grader sang and it brought me to tears. It wasn’t until years later that I realized why I cried. It was because his voice was so tender and emotional that it really moved me. That was the first time I became aware of the power of the voice.
Q: You produced work on Dateline and 20/20, what made this project so important to you?
I worked in television my whole career including my 15 years in network television. I came across people with great voices and I LOVE vocal harmony. So, working around people with awesome voices inspired me to make the film.
Q: You've devoted five years to "Voice Messages." Has the angle for the documentary changed at all over that span of time?
I’ve become a lot more interested in the science and the sociology of the voice. Initially, I was interested in the vocal harmony, vocal impression, and voice actors like Billy West and Michael Winslow. The more I learned about how many ways we use our actual voice in our everyday lives, the more interested I became in just how powerful the voice is. I got interested in what happens when you lose your voice. Individuals like Linda Ronstadt, who lost her voice to Parkinson’s disease, spoke about the impact of losing something that has been her identity for most of her adult life. Speaking with surgeons and medical experts got me more interested in how the voice ages and how to keep it healthy.
Q: Living in Philadelphia, you've said, was a major inspiration for making "Voice Messages." Are you incorporating elements of Philadelphia into your film?
Growing up in Philadelphia was the inspiration and impetus for making the film. The culture I was raised in had great singers like Teddy Pendergrass who inspired me. But also, the Chief medical expert in the film is Robert Sadtoloff, who is a Philadelphia voice surgeon and Chairman of the Voice Foundation.
Q: When creating a timeline of voices, how far back in history do you take us in the film?
I go as far back as 140 and 150 years when the first telephone was invented. One of the great stories from that era is that people could not comprehend how they could hear someone else’s voice and not be in the same room. The telephone was a remarkable and frightening invention.
Q: How did you choose who to interview and why?
I knew I wanted to work with the vocal group Take 6! because I admired their work and I was thrilled when they said yes. Then I just started to research. I read everything I could get my hands on and I started to pursue the people that are interesting to me. I know some people will wonder why I didn’t cover accents but I cannot be that broad I am focusing on the things that have meaning to me.
Q: Money. That's often a big hurdle for documentarians. How are you funding the "Voice Messages" campaign?
I decided to do crowd funding because in this day and age it is one of the only ways to make an independent film and must rely on the crowds to support your vision. So far, we have raised about 40 percent of the necessary funds.
Q: What's the ultimate mission for "Voice Messages?"
I want people to support the growing knowledge of our voices and to let your voice be heard.
Q: And personally, what do you hope viewers take away from this documentary?
I’d like them to pay more attention to this incredible instrument and respect the ways in which we use it, abuse it, and can keep it healthy.
Q: What’s next for Marty Zied?
I will continue teaching at Drexel and the future is unknown with the next inspiration.
Click here, to donate or learn more about 'Voice Messages.'