by Leslie Shatz
Kay Roses career began in a film class at Hunter College in New York. When the professor realized that Kay knew more about film history than she did, she let her teach the class. In 1942,
She left the Signal Corps and came to Hollywood in 1944. In 1951, she married film editor Sherman Rose, and together they produced what is now considered a sci-fi cult classic, 'Target Earth'. Sherman directed and edited and Kay cut the sound. They were the first to create an educational childrens television series in the 50s, with folksingers Marais and Miranda. They shared a soundstage with Orson Welles, who was shooting a little (never-released) film on his own, which Kay and Sherman then edited. When they divorced, Kay resumed full-time work.
Kays approach to sound editing has always been through story. "The story dictates what you do to it," has been her mantra. It is her caring about the total filmmaking process that has attracted her to the directors shes worked with: Sydney Pollack, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Altman, Gene Kelly, Michael Ritchie, Martin Scorcese, Alan Pakula, Blake Edwards, Richard Brooks, Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand, Haskell Wexler, Robert Towne, Carl Reiner and Mark Rydell. It was her work on a Rydell film, 'The River', that earned her an Oscar for Best Achievement in Sound Editing, making her the first woman to be so honored. She served on the Board of Governors of the Aca demy from 1987-1993 and was chairperson of the Sound Effects Editing Award Committee. In addition to her Oscar, she has also won Best Sound Editing for 'The River' from the Motion Picture Sound Editors. In 1994, she was honored with the MPSEs Lifetime Achievement Award.
Her credits include: 'Intersection', 'The River', 'The Rose', 'Ordinary People', 'On Golden Pond', 'The Prince of Tides', 'For the Boys', 'The Way We Were', 'Tequila Sunrise', 'Milagro Beanfield War', 'Looking for Mr. Goodbar', 'Wrong is Right', 'The Professionals', 'The Cowboys', 'Paper Moon', 'California Split', 'Crimes of the Heart', 'Frances', 'All of Me', 'Wheres Poppa?', 'Nickelodeon', 'Daisy Miller', 'Bite the Bullet', 'New York, New York', 'The Candidate', 'Cinderella Liberty', 'Medium Cool', 'The Fox', and 'The Pit and the Pendulum'.
We first met, I think, on Nashville. I dont know if you remember
Well, I wasnt on 'Nashville'.
You didnt work on 'Nashville'?
No, I didnt. I worked on 'California Split', the first movie where dialogue was recorded on 8-track 1-inch tape. They were filming 'Nashville' in Nashville while we were finishing 'California Split' in Los Angeles.
I just remember this picture of you at the synchronizer with 8 dialogue tracks all lined up. Id never seen such a thing I remember thinking how incredibly innovative that was and still is.
That was such fun, making something work that had not been done before and that nobody knew how to do. It was a challenge to work with Bob Altman and his crew.
When I worked there, I would see the door to the editing room open and a big cloud of marijuana smoke would blow out and at 5:00 pm theyd open a bottle of scotch. How did you deal with that?
The picture editing crew worked upstairs I worked downstairs. It was a good thing Im allergic to marijuana. After we ran the picture the first time Bob asked, "Whats this movie about?" I said it was about losers and he said, "Thats good you do whatever you want to do just make it work." The only conversations we had after that were about crossword puzzles honestly.
Whose idea was it to record 8-track dialogue on the set?
When Bob Altman shot 'McCabe and Mrs. Miller' he experimented using existing sound processes to get dramatic effects. For example, in the sequence where Warren Beatty and Julie Christie meet for the first time in a very noisy saloon, she propositions him to run a house of prostitution together.
As a dialogue editor youre not usually presented with exotic things.
Well, I was never a dialogue editor only. I was either the supervisor or the only sound editor on a film. It depended either on the content of the film or its time schedule. I was very fortunate because I started as a picture assistant and as such was on a picture from its beginning. On one small independent film early in my career, the producer/director decided that I could cut the sound, since assistants always replaced all the optical work tracks with new clean prints. But I had never done sound effects I had no library all I had was what they made while shooting. Some of my work on that film was a disaster. There was a ten-truck convoy starting and pulling out and I cut ten tracks with the same truck pulling out ten times! After we got to the third one, the mixers couldnt contain themselves they laughed and laughed.
So what do you think of the title of "sound designer?" Do you think its just a new name for something that
It took the early group of sound editors such a long time to get recognized by the Academy for their work. In the beginning, each studios sound department had a sound director who ran it and was the only one credited on its films. In 1939 a new category was established called the Special Effects Award, which was made up of Sound Effects bunched together with Visual Effects and called Photographic and Sound. The awards for these were given to the studio department heads. By 1957 the titles changed now the awards were to be given to the Audible Effects Department supervisor and/or the Visual Effects Department supervisor. Each studio could enter its selections to be considered for one or both of the categories and each film excerpt was run for the nominating committee, which was made up of the Visual Effects department heads and the Audible Effects department heads. In 1961 I did a picture called 'The Pit and the Pendulum' for American International Pictures. Linwood Dunn (visual effects) had seen the film at an Academy screening for Special Effects. He liked the sound job, so he nominated it. When the Academy sent its notification to AIP, the company said, "What department head?" because they had no sound or visual effects departments. But I was there working on another film so they sent me. And so it was the special effects committee that year had all the top sound men in the business and all the top visual effects supervisors and me! I didnt win but it was thrilling.
So did you consider what you were doing creative?
Oh sure. I loved it whenever I could put unrelated sounds together and make something out of them. My sparse library was not adequate for the 'Pit and the Pendulum' torture chamber so I went to Universal to see about renting their foley stage which, it turned out, was too expensive for AIPs modest budget. Waldo Watson, Universals Sound Department head, said, "You dont need foley just use Universals library." So I did and made it all up as I went along. You see, working on those kinds of low budget, mostly independent pictures caused me to be more creative out of necessity.
Do you think the soundtracks are better now than they were?
I liked yours. ['The Mummy']
I appreciate that. Your daughter [Victoria Sampson] told me you didnt have to put in earplugs for it at the bake-off! [A special committee screening for Academy Award consideration in Sound Editing].
It really is a problem the indiscriminate loudness of todays sound tracks are hardest on mixers ears. Theyre being exposed to it on a daily basis. In the past they could count on the Academy roll-off curve you could only raise the dub so far. When the level passed the curve it distorted on optical. It was eardrum protection for the mixers as well. [The Academy Curve was an equalization format used in conjunction with traditional, non-Dolby analog optical tracks to maximize speech clarity and minimize noise.]
Every director, as you must know, wants to raise the sound and as the day goes on, the dub gets louder and louder. I had only one director who would say "Lets play back in the morning when my ears are fresh." He was Mark Rydell, who directed 'The Rose', 'On Golden Pond', 'The River' and 'For the Boys', among other films.
Did you find it difficult to advance in this field as a woman?
What about when you would go into a mixing theater and it was all men at the console and all men in the back room?
I was taught by men. Like on my first effects job where I cut the ten trucks. One of the mixers, Bob Glass, Sr. had me come back every day at lunchtime for a couple of weeks and he and the dialogue mixer, Mac Dalgleish taught me how to lay out dubbing sheets for mixers in essence, how to cut dialogue and sound effects.
How did you get started?
I started as a film apprentice at the Signal Corps Photographic Center Editorial Department during WWII in Astoria, Long Island. The pay was very low, the hours very long, but most of the picture editors were from Hollywood. I was eager and I learned a lot. Then I came to California with letters
Were kind of spoiled today because a person can work as an apprentice on one job and they then feel ready to cut.
I have worked on some of the worst movies youve ever imagined but they were low budget independent films and I learned to do all kinds of things besides assisting. One director even let me write added dialogue for his movie. Now the business has changed its completely different. After the introduction of the computer, it became difficult for assistants to learn editing because theyre not standing behind the editor while he or she cuts.
Everybody is in their own room with the door closed and theres not as much interaction among a team. People are spread out all over the place.
People are working at home, which some think is good but I like it when theres a cohesion within the team.
The transition to computers did you make that transition? When you saw what was happening did you say this is not for me?
No, I didnt. I remember a demonstration of equipment held on a stage at Warner Hollywood. None of the people operating the computers knew anything about sound editing. They showed us the intricacies of the machines what made them tick instead of how they could be used to advance the art of motion picture sound.
You think that digital equipment is a change for the better?
I cant tell you that from personal experience but Im sure it wasnt for assistants. In 1986 I was doing a film in cutting rooms at CBS in Studio City. We were the only company working on film on the lot everyone else was TV and computers. The editors and their assistants alternated weeks the editor would work days one week and the assistant would work nights. The next week they would trade places editor nights and assistant days. The assistants didnt know what the editors were doing or why they were doing it.
Go to Interview Part 2
Leslie Shatz is a sound designer and mixer.
His credits include 'Dracula', 'Ghost', 'Good Will Hunting'
and 'The Mummy'. He can be reached via email
The Motion Picture Editors Guild Magazine
Vol. 22, No. 1 - March/April 2001
Guild Home | Magazine Home | Top of Page
Copyright © 2001, All Rights Reserved by The Motion Picture Editors Guild, IATSE Local 700