Where are you currently employed?
ADR Stage 4 at Todd-AO Studios, Hollywood.
I work on television shows and feature films, which vary each week. Last year, my feature credits included The Hunger Games and End of Watch, and television credits ran the gamut from CSI to Bunheads.
Describe Your Job.
The purpose of ADR is to record dialogue in a controlled studio environment to either replace or augment production dialogue recorded on set. My job as the ADR mixer is to select and position the microphones; control the feeds to headphones; run the systems that contain the picture, guides and recorder; and operate the mixing console for rehearsals, recordings and playbacks.
For 20 years prior to my current position, I was an ADR recordist, the assistant to the mixer. The recordist sets up and monitors the recorders, keeps logs and cue information, and supports the mixer technically during sessions. When I started in 1990, it was necessary to know how to bias, align and load film and tape recorders. We also loaded the film projectors, aligned the Dolby encoder/decoder units and changed head stacks on the dubbers and recorders. By the time I transitioned to mixer in 2011, I found it very interesting how the skill set of the recordist had changed with the switch to Pro Tools recording.
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
I came to LA to further my education in audio engineering, with the goal of getting into the music business. While waiting for an opening at a music studio, I was hired to do night transfers at a small independent post house, JDH Sound. Within a year, I was offered the job of Recordist on their ADR/Foley stage. I became so intrigued by the process of post-production sound that my music aspirations fell by the wayside.
Who gave you your first break?
I’ve had two significant breaks. Randy Nicklaus, an instructor at the audio school I attended, facilitated that first job at JDH. Then Tommy Goodwin, a guest ADR/Foley mixer I was teamed with for a week of night shifts, took me with him to MGM/Pathé, where I got my union card.
What was your first union job?
ADR/Foley Recordist on Eye of the Storm, a feature for New Line Cinema in 1991.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
Happy Feet, in 2006, which introduced me to numerous technical challenges I had not encountered before, including recording sessions involving up to six actors.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
My biggest challenge was working out the technical requests on Happy Feet and then implementing them in what became for me a multi-tasking whirlwind. It seemed that as soon as I was comfortable and proficient with one duty, the production added another to it. When we began work on the movie, the director would often hear a line reading in a throwaway rehearsal, whip around, and ask “Did we get that?” So instead of breaking the takes into multiple sound files for the editors and holding the roll between takes — as I would have done normally — I began staying in record as long as actors were on stage, and used the markers in ProTools to designate and identify the beginning of each new take or something the director particularly liked. It wasn’t difficult to adjust to that method, although I often had to reposition the markers on the fly.
Shortly after, I was given music and playback materials to feed to the actors in their headphones. However, we were still recording “wild” and continuously, and the Pro Tools recorder was doubling as the source playback machine. So my solution was to keep grabbing and relocating the playback clips as we rolled, while also marking and labeling takes and scenes.
Finally, near the end of the movie during pickups, we were hooked up to the director on his office computer in Australia. Every time the actors spoke, their voices looped back from him with a delay, and it distracted them during their performances. Our solution was to route the feed from the director through our Pro Tools, which was still continuously recording, as well as providing source playback. During those sessions, in the background, I would manually mute the director’s feed any time the actors were speaking and un-mute him when he began to give them direction. This was on top of the other two tasks I was already performing within the Pro Tools, and it was quite a challenge.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
Again it would be Happy Feet. Leslie Nielsen, Robin Williams and Elijah Wood recorded an early draft of a scene featuring elephant seals, and the direction their ad-libbing had everyone crying from laughter.
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
Exactly what I’m doing now.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
I play golf to get out of the dark rooms. I love animation, particularly classic Warner Bros stuff.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
Anything from Pixar. I find their films visually stunning, hysterically funny and filled with heart.
Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
I watch a ton of television and always have. I love serialized dramas, sci-fi, comedy and animation. A few current favorites are Justified, The Walking Dead, Family Guy, The Daily Show and Modern Family.
Do you have an industry mentor?
I’ve been fortunate to have more than one. Tommy Goodwin helped me come into my own and really hone my skills as a recordist. Greg Steele was the first to train me to mix, and I still go to him for guidance. I learned so much from Bob Deschaine, my partner for 15 years. More recently, Doc Kane has been invaluable to me and generous with his time and knowledge.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Take any job that will get you in the door and allow you to prove yourself; then start networking and advance. Learn something from everyone you come into contact with.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
I’m grateful it’s there, and I’ve seen others helped, but fortunately I haven’t required the Guild’s assistance outside the course of its normal functions.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
I would say that anyone who has achieved their Guild membership is probably doing fine without any words from me.
Compiled by Edward Landler
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