Where are you currently employed?
I am currently freelance and have been since 1995.
I recently finished two documentaries and will soon complete the latest David Wain movie, They Came Together, starring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd.
Describe Your Job.
I love what I do. I have the privilege of helping filmmakers tell their stories by providing and shaping sonic details and moods. To quote one of my most respected mixer friends, “I have the job of racking focus with sound.”
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
Right after college, I moved to Los Angeles to score films. I didn’t have the connections to break into that world, so I answered an ad for receptionist at Digital Sound and Picture, an audio post house. I wasn’t sure what “audio post” was, but I saw the word ‘audio’ and thought, “Maybe I can be in the right place at the right time and get my music in a film.” The company hired me as a transfer engineer. While I was learning the workflow, I witnessed sound effects editors using the same software I knew how to use — because of my electronic music background — to trigger gunshots, glass breaks and explosions. Very intrigued, I asked if I could have a chance at cutting sound effects for a reel. Three months after getting hired as the transfer engineer, I was cutting effects and mixing them on a re-recording stage. I was in heaven!
Who gave you your first break?
Digital Sound and Picture owners John and Nancy Ross. They gave me amazing opportunities to quickly gain valuable experience.
What was your first union job?
Cutting and conforming backgrounds for Down Periscope during the night shift. I am very grateful for John Larsen, at 20th Century Fox Sound Editorial, who welcomed me as part of his crew and took very good care of me for many years.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
One project that will always be very special to me is the animated feature film Ice Age. I was hired as the supervising sound editor and sound designer, but I wanted to pre-dub the effects as well. Doug Hemphill and Paul Massey, who mixed the final, not only graciously allowed me to pre-dub the effects, but also gave me a mixing credit. I am very proud of that credit and grateful to those two masters for sharing it. Ice Age also holds a special place in my heart because my daughter’s laugh is the baby’s laugh in the movie.
Another movie that stands out is the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece, O Brother Where Art Thou? Thanks to Skip Lievsay, I was hired as the music re-recording mixer. One of the coolest things about that film mix is the use of natural reverb. We hired field recordist Eric Potter to play the music in actual spaces, like forests and gymnasiums, and record the natural reverberations created by those spaces. Industry professionals often call this process “worldizing.”
When I got the tracks back from Eric, the music was bouncing off trees in the forest scene and the band was slapping off the back of the gymnasium during interior scenes. Even the band playing on the back of a pickup truck had a natural Doppler effect as it passed by. Instead of faking these locations and motions with digital reverbs and EQ, we used these “worldized” tracks to create a very natural-sounding film. This was an amazing experience that forever changed my approach to mixing and sound design.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
I learned the importance of choices working on 20th Century Fox’s animated movie, Robots. Director Chris Wedge asked me to create a world that would sound like nothing we had ever heard before — yet familiar. As supervising sound editor and designer, I had to decide what we needed to hear at any given moment, but I approached this movie more as a mixer than I ever had in the past.
The screen was filled with things that could have made sounds. But if I built everything I saw, we wouldn’t have heard anything clearly. I learned quickly how important it was to concentrate on the story — and the humor — and build only what was necessary. I constantly second-guessed my choices, questioning my decisions about what to cover. Paul Massey and Doug Hemphill mixed this final as well, letting me pre-dub everything but the dialogue. Once they heard the pre-dubs, their positive feedback reassured me that I made the right choices.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
Just being there! It is impossible for me to pick any single moment because I love my job so much. I love recording sounds needed for a film. I love shaping them to the picture so that they sound like they were made especially for that film. And I love working with the filmmakers on the mixing stage — EQing, panning, laughing, listening — sharing the experience of making their stories come to life.
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
I hope to be doing exactly what I’m doing right now. I’m so grateful for the opportunities I have had in my life and I hope they continue.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
Music and my family bring me true happiness. I’m the keyboardist in an ‘80s-influenced original band that plays out in New Jersey whenever we can. We have a blast together and are recording another CD soon. My wife and I have a nine-year old boy and a 12-year old girl. We love being together. My kids and I love to play street hockey, watch the New Jersey Devils and make up silly songs. In this business, I am lucky to have a wife of 17 years and grateful for her understanding of this industry’s insane schedules.
Do you have an industry mentor?
There have been so many generous people in my life. I have mentioned some of them already. I have learned so much from so many and appreciate their willingness to share their experience and talents with me.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
I'll pass on the same advice someone gave to me: Never let anyone limit your progress. You decide what your corporate ladder is. Don’t let others dictate how much time you need to spend doing something before you can do something else. Don't be afraid to forge your own path.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
I appreciate many of the things our guild fights for including wages and health care, but I can’t think of a specific circumstance when I needed its assistance.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
This industry is constantly changing. No matter what happens, we need to remember how important our contributions are to the filmmaking process. Let’s continue to be proud of what we do — so proud that we aren’t scared to demand fair
compensation for our talents.
- Compiled by Edward Landler
Editor’s Note: To recommend a member (including yourself) to be featured on the home page of the Editor’s Guild website, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.