Where are you currently employed?
Danetracks and Warner Bros.
Sinister, a thriller/horror film supervised by Dane Davis at Danetracks, and the Japanese version of Dark Knight Rising at Warner.
Describe Your Job.
Think of me as an Iron Chef — Mario Batali perhaps — who is given carefully selected and prepared theme ingredients to process and mix into a high-quality creation. Some of these themes I've worked with before, others not so much. I do this before an audience and under time pressure. I need to manage my collaborators and my equipment. Once completed, my work will be consumed and judged. Ideally, I have a new show every week!
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
I saw A Clockwork Orange when I was 15. It was like a magic act that used picture and sound to create a fantastic illusion of a future reality. I felt a real affinity with the sound part of that story. I was amazed years later when I realized that it is a mono mix.
Who gave you your first break?
Mike Minkler gave me my first mainstream break when he hired me as his effects mixer on The Milagro Beanfield War and then on Driving Miss Daisy. Working with him on those two shows was a master class taught by Mike, Kay Rose, Gloria Borders, Dede Allen, Mark Warner, Robert Redford and so many others.
What was your first union job?
The Milagro Beanfield War was also my first union job.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
I am very proud of (500) Days of Summer, directed by Marc Webb. Marc had designed a beautiful, bittersweet film that is irresistible. I had the tools and experience necessary to mix the intimate dialogue and eclectic music that are at the core of this film. Samsara is a transcendental film, a feature-length document of the spiritual and material state of our planet. It was shot in 24 countries on 70mm film. It is very music-driven — there isn't any dialogue! Michael Stearns and Lisa Gerard recorded their music at 96k sample rate and we stayed in that high resolution audio for the final 7.1 mix. It's coming out this August.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
Sometimes the clients on the mixing stage don't really understand the mixing process and don't have the vocabulary to discuss the process. They are outside their comfort zone, which makes collaboration and creation challenging. I've seen improvements in this situation when I am more verbal with the client regarding what I am doing, why and how long I expect it to take. I also check in with clients to make sure I've understood the direction they've given me. This leads to the development of a vocabulary that improves our collaboration.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
I always have a lot of fun during temp mixes. They are ridiculously short on time so it's impossible to over-think anything. My emotional response to what's on the screen is behind my decision making. I also feel more camaraderie on temps as everyone works together to meet the deadline. The Mirror Has Two Faces, which I mixed for Barbra Streisand with Gary Gegan, is one memorable temp. We were still mixing the last reel when the preview started! We finished just in time to get that last reel to the theatre.
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
I hope to be mixing. I love this job.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
I hike with a group of friends from the downtown YMCA. My nickname is OT, which stands for off-trail. I love to go off the trail and hike cross-country. This kind of mirrors choices I've made in life. About seven years ago, I went off-trail and started mixing predominately with the Digidesign Icon console and Pro Tools. These tools were unpopular back then. Now Icon and Pro Tools are commonly used mixing tools.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
I become totally immersed in my favorite films. There isn’t a screen between me and what I see and hear. Some of the films that have this effect on me are Stagecoach, The Grand Illusion, Casablanca, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, La Strada, Breathless, A Hard Day’s Night, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Godfather (1 and 2), Saving Private Ryan, Master and Commander and so many more. Last year, I loved Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
Southland — the soundtrack creates such a real environment. The show is totally engaging and very dramatic and yet there isn't any music. Matt Vowles is the supervising sound editor and mixer. Community — it’s like watching a new Robert Altman ensemble comedy every week. There are often creative sound montages that drive the jokes. Mark Binder is the supervising sound editor and mixer.
Do you have an industry mentor?
My collaborators — the co-mixers, picture editors, sound supervisors and editors, directors and studio managers have been my mentors.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell describes the research, which has determined that it takes about 10,000 hours to become expert in any endeavor. Accept and embrace the fact that this craft takes a long time to learn. Also consider that being a beginner is a precious quality. Beginners will say, "I've got this crazy idea, let's try it!" Experts sometimes respond with, "That will never work," and kill a potentially innovative idea because of its divergence from the norm.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
I worked for a company that was not reporting my hours and paying into my benefits. I had no idea until I received the letter saying I didn't qualify for health insurance. The Guild stepped in and eventually I received credit for those hours. They showed up with a safety net and I am grateful.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
Walk through open doors — meaning follow through on opportunities even if they aren't on the path you are following. Those open doors are valuable opportunities for growth.
- Compiled by Edward Landler
Editor’s Note: To recommend a member (including yourself) to be featured on the home page of the Editors Guild website, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.