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Past Featured Members

Richard Partlow - FOLEY ARTIST

July 2009

Where are you currently employed?

Warner Bros. Studios

What are your current projects?

Pilots for Limelight and Vampire Diaries, and a lot of other Warner Bros. shows, including The Mentalist, Big Bang Theory, 2 1/2 Men, Smallville, Supernatural, The Unit, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, etc.

Describe Your Job.

As a Foley artist, my job is to convincingly "become" the actor for whom my partner, Shelley Roden, and I are synching effects to picture, and creating the sounds that production recording misses.  It’s more than just creating the footstep––I create the attitude of the step as well.  If the character is depressed, you have to make it sound depressing.  A beer mug slamming down on a table has a different attitude than a waitress setting it down on the table.  You have to adjust to what you are seeing.

How did you become interested in this line of work? 

I was a pretty successful actor until the Writers Guild Strike in 1988.  Eighty percent of my work went to Canada following that strike, as did 80 percent of my income.  After a year, my wife told me to find something to make money or else.  I checked into everything, including buying a pool cleaning service, when all of a sudden I met an old friend at a party who was a music mixer who had lost her job and became a Foley mixer.  She asked me if I had done Foley before––and of course I said sure, although I had only helped someone out doing horse and camel hooves for one day.   She said she was looking for a Foley artist on weekends for $40 an hour to do animation.  I just said, "I'm in!”  Well, thank God I had the ability and the knack to do it.

Who gave you your first break? 

Lenise Bent, former Foley mixer

First union job? 

Universal Studios.

Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?  

The HBO movie 61* in 2001, directed by Billy Crystal, for which I won an Emmy, as well as Battlestar Galactica, for which I was nominated twice for an MPSE Golden Reel Award and finally won this year.  In theatrical, I’m also very proud of my work on Chain Reaction in 1996, because we had the time and the budget to create multiple layers of sound––such as multiple tracks for the vibrating and shaking of an underground elevator cage or for falling scaffolding.  We made those sound really cool.

What was your biggest challenge in your job and how did you overcome it?  

Working on horror films like Jeepers Creepers and Bugs was always a challenge.  For example, on Jeepers Creepers, I had to come up with the sounds of a human arm being bitten off.  I used 1"x4" pieces of wood for the sound of bones cracking when a skull was bitten into, and built layered sounds from watermelon rinds, celery stalks, a shammy and other things to create the layers we needed for sounds of muscle and flesh ripping and tearing.  On Bugs, which featured three foot-long roaches, I would have the manager at Red Lobster save lobster shells for me every night.  I bleached them, dried them out, then 
stacked and glued them together in different ways and wiggled them back and forth to create the roach sounds, and there were hundreds of them to create.  On both of these, we had the luxury of creating as many tracks as we thought we needed.

What was the most fun you’ve had at work? 

Doing Air Bud with Marnie Moore at the Foley stage at Saul Zaentz Film Center in Berkeley.  They gave us the time to do it right and I had a blast creating those Golden Retriever feet on every surface you can imagine. 

Job wise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now? 

As I am 61, I hope to be retired in Tampa, Florida in five years!

Favorite movies?

I love old movies from the 1930s and ‘40s.  I did sound restoration for some of the old MGM library in the early 1990s and had a great experience because they gave us the time to do it with respect for the sound of the era.  I was allowed to create quality sound that gently blended with the production sound of that time.

Favorite TV Programs?

NCIS, The Mentalist and Numbers.  I like the mystery genre.

Do you have an industry mentor? 

Two: David Fein at Warner Bros. and Ellen Heuer at Skywalker Sound.

What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work? 

Be ready to put in a couple of years learning––if you can even find someone to teach you––for no pay.  Also know that it can take five years to become good at it, even with natural ability.

Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance? 

When I came off honorable withdrawal and had to pay my back dues, the Guild was great about working with me.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members? 

Who would have known I would re-create my life in 1988 from actor to Foley artist?  Not me.  Thanks to the Guild for hearing us Foley artists, and please continue to do so.  You need us.

– Compiled by Michael Kunkes

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