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Past Featured Members

PETER R. KELSEY - RE-RECORDING MIXER

January 2011

 

Where are you currently employed?

I work primarily at RH Factor, an audio post-production company located in Burbank.  We do everything for audio post, including sound supervising, dialogue and effects editing, and Foley and ADR.

I have been a re-recording mixer for 14 years.  For the last seven, I’ve been mixing dialogue and music.  Before that I was an effects mixer. I also do work as a recording engineer for music and as a scoring mixer on TV and movies.  I started as a recording engineer at the famous Trident Studios in London over 30 years ago

Current Project?

I’m working on the shows The Middle, Harry’s Law and Breakout Kings.  I worked on a terrific show over the summer called Terriers for FX channel that unfortunately got canceled.

Describe Your Job.

As the dialogue mixer, my job is to make sure that every line of dialogue the writer has written is heard above all the other sounds and that everything sounds as if it was said by the character in the scene in real time––even if ADR was used or it was recorded at a different time.  I clean up production noises, get rid of hums and buzzes, make ADR sound like it was on set, even out levels, and “lace the dialogue in the space that you see onscreen.  If I do my job well, you will not notice that I have done anything, as all you will hear are the words. 

I then add in the music and mix it against the dialogue at an appropriate level to enhance the feeling of the piece.  My partner puts in effects and Foley, and we work through the show scene by scene.  These days, with DAWs, we can be working on different scenes, and we make adjustments when we play back together.  After we’re done with the show, there’s a playback for the producers who give notes that we then incorporate into the show.

How did you become interested in this line of work?

I was at Imperial College in London studying mathematics and also writing songs and playing guitar.  I graduated college and didn’t know what to do.  I happened to be walking past a recording studio in central London one day, and I decided then and there that I could work in one of those.  I immediately went in and asked for a job.  I was told to write a letter. 

Later that week, I was visiting the band Queen at Trident Studios, where they were finishing their first album.  They had been friends at college.  I talked to the engineer, Roy Thomas Baker.  I wrote a letter and, with Roy’s recommendation, I got an interview––and then a job as a teaboy [gofer] at Trident.  On my second day, David Bowie came in to record Mott the Hoople’s album All the Young Dudes.

Who gave you your first break?

After six years at Trident, I moved to Los Angeles, where I continued to be a recording engineer and scoring mixer.  I landed a job at West Productions, mixing music and Foley on the first year of Ally McBeal, and was lucky enough to win my first Emmy Award for sound mixing.  After my kids were born, I decided that being a re-recording mixer was a lot more stable.

David Rawlinson, the president of West Productions, gave me my first job there as a re-recording mixer.  I still work with Dave, as he and his partner Craig Hunter own and run RH Factor.  They four-walled Todd-AO in Hollywood and then Sony in Culver City until deciding to have their own stage.  They set up in the Post Logic building in Hollywood and again took a chance on me by putting me in the dialogue chair.

What was your first union job?

Scoring mixer on thirtysomething and Picket Fences with composer Stewart Levin.

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

Working on Ally McBeal was a great way to start out in this business.  Winning three Emmys in a row for sound mixing on that show was also a wonderful “yes” from the universe.  Perhaps my proudest moment, though, was winning the Emmy for sound mixing on Boston Legal, as that was after I’d started mixing dialogue.  We were also mixing My Name Is Earl at that time.  I’m also very proud of my work on that show.

Standouts from my music career include working on the final mix of Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road and many, many albums with Jean-Luc Ponty, as well as producing two albums for Bill Ward, the drummer from Black Sabbath.

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

It was making the transition from mixing music for an album to mixing music and Foley for TV.  When mixing albums, I usually get to work alone until I am happy with my mix, I then play it for the producer and we work on notes together having plenty of time to play around with sounds.  When mixing for TV and film, there’s always someone there giving notes––sometimes even before I’ve had a chance to figure out what I’m going to do.  I learned to just let any notes come in and be incorporated in what I am doing and just focus on the important issues.

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

Just working with the same wonderful people over so many years.  It is always fun working with Dave, Craig and the clients that we have had over the years who keep coming back to us with their new shows.  It’s like one big family.

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

I see myself still mixing TV and movies, and recording and mixing music––but with a side business so that I am able to choose what projects I want to work on.

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

I love martial arts.  I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.  Thes,e days I am taking classes in Capoeira, which is a Brazilian martial art that is always done to music.  I love tennis, both to play and watch.  I love to do puzzles and play games.  You’ll find me every Sunday doing the New York Times Crosswords and Sudoku.  I love to play percussion and sing and play guitar.  I am also into qi gong, energy healing, alternative medicine and anti-aging supplements––doing anything to keep me healthy well past 100 years old.

Favorite movie(s)?  Why?

Avatar for the scope of the sound and the incredibly beautiful visuals.  It’s A Wonderful Life I saw as a kid and it has just struck a chord in me.  Any Marx Brothers movie.  They just make me laugh.  The Monty Python movies.  I grew up with them in England.  I loved Inception because of the intricate story, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy because I loved the book and thought Peter Jackson did a wonderful job of bringing it to the screen.  And the Harry Potter movies for a similar reason.

Favorite TV Program(s)?  Why?

Doctor Who.  I watched it in England as a kid and find the recent reboot of it to be just as engaging, but now with real visual effects instead of the cheesy stuff they did originally.  Also, Monty Python and Fawlty Towers.  Both are so silly and just make me laugh.  Star Trek; I just love science fiction.  Skins, a British series about teens that seems very real.  And The Wire is so gritty. 

I also want to include some shows I worked on: Boston Legal because of William Shatner and James Spader and their relationship in the show, Ally McBeal because it was the first show I worked on and was just a joy to watch and Terriers because the writing was so great.

Do you have an industry mentor?

Not exactly.  But I learned a lot from Nello Torri, who was the dialogue mixer when I started, and Dave Rawlinson, who was the sound supervisor at the time.

Chris Jenkins, Andy Nelson, Chris David and John Ross have all given me great advice.  I have also taken seminars with Jessica Sitomer, the Greenlight Coach, who teaches you how to get mentors and succeed in the entertainment business.

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

Be prepared to put in your hours on the low end of the totem pole.  Always do your best and more than you are asked for.  Make sure you love to do this.  Ever since I started at Trident Studios so many years ago, it’s never felt like a job to me.  People pay me to have this much fun every day.  And, you have to be prepared to deal with criticism of what you do, and lots of rejection––but still come out smiling.

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

Luckily, I have not required any help other than the occasional question answered.  I really appreciate the events the Guild does.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

Go out and create and make beautiful moving pictures with sound that make us all laugh and cry and be glad to be human and alive.

- Compiled by Robin Rowe. 

Editor’s Note: To recommend a member (including yourself) to be featured on the home page of the Editors Guild website, contact Robin@MovieEditor.com.

 

 

 


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