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From the Guild



Lynne Willingham.


HPA Awards Honor Post-Production Excellence


by Michael Kunkes

photos by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging



In what is becoming a tradition as the first salvo fired in the annual Awards Season, the Hollywood Post Alliance held its fourth annual awards gala at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles on November 12.  The sold-out and highly entertaining event was created by the HPA to foster awareness of post-production, promote creative and technical excellence, recognize the achievements of post, and build involvement within the organization itself. 


Picture editor Chris Dickens, A.C.E., reprised his Oscar win of earlier this year by winning the HPA’s Outstanding Editing – Feature Film award for Slumdog Millionaire.  Lynne Willingham, A.C.E., took the Outstanding Editing – Television honors for the “ABQ” episode of AMC’s Breaking Bad.  The award was presented by Maysie Hoy, A.C.E. and Christopher Rouse, A.C.E. 


Winning the Outstanding Audio Post – Feature Film award was the Watchmen post audio team at Universal Studios Sound: re-recoding mixers Chris Jenkins and Frank A. Montano, and sound editors Scott Hecker, MPSE, and Eric Norris, MPSE.  The Outstanding Audio Post – Television award went to sound editors Thomas Harris, MPSE, Michael Ferdie and Chris Reeves, MPSE, as well as re-recording mixers Mark Fleming and Tom Dahl at Walt Disney Studio Post-Production Services for the “Unleashed” episode of Fox Broadcasting’s Fringe.



Watchmen sound designer Eric Norris, MPSE (left) and re-recording mixer Chris Jenkins accepting the award for Outstanding Audio Post-Feature at the HPA Awards.



"We are very grateful to the HPA for recognizing our sound work on Watchmen,” Hecker said.  “With director Zack Snyder capturing the colorful spirit of the graphic novel, it provided us with the opportunity to create a very vibrant and dynamic soundscape.  As a team, we explored unique sonic opportunities with locations ranging from Antarctica to a glass palace on Mars.  It went dynamically from very delicately designed emotional sounds emanating from Dr. Manhattan, to the sounds of a raucous prison riot." 


Montano added,  Chris Jenkins and I are fortunate to have worked on all of Zack’s films, along with Bill Hoy, Tyler Bates, Eric Norris and Scott Hecker.  He gathers great people around him and then lets them do their creative work.  We are very proud of the marriage of dialogue, music and sound effects weaving together in the track.”


Willingham, who has edited nine episodes of Breaking Bad over two seasons and is currently working on ABC’s Happy Town, said, “What makes Breaking Bad such a cool show is that it’s honest filmmaking; it doesn’t rely on gimmicks.  It has brilliant acting, directing and writing, and everyone on the crew is first-rate.  Creatively, it’s a true group effort.  The show is just really good drama and that’s what makes it so entertaining for everybody––although there’s always something interesting in the show’s openings, and a visual treat in each episode, be it a meth-making montage or a drug industry-produced ‘narcos corridos’ music video.  I’m very much looking forward to the third season and seeing what the writers are going to do to Walt.”


Harris, who is now working on ABC’s Flash Forward, says that Fringe owes its uniqueness to its creator, J.J. Abrams, and executive producer Brian, Burke.  “Week in and week out, our goal was to create sounds that had never been heard before, for monsters that had never been tried before; Michael Ferdie and mixer Tom Dahl did a great job on the sound effects,” he explained.  “The show that won had a monster that was part lizard, part wasp, part bat and part lion.  Manipulating sounds from all these animals, as well as other sweeteners, was tricky without getting muddy or meshing together.  Mike and I would discuss concepts before each show; then he would usually nailed it. Aside from having over 100 lines of ADR in each episode, I think what made Fringe difficult was that it was so subjective.  There were a hundred ways you could mix this show.  I also want to credit the other editors who worked on the show and did a great job: Chris Reeves on dialogue, Kyle Billingsley and Joe Schultz on Foley and Bob Kellough, who helped on the sound effects.”


Director J.J. Abrams presented the Charles S. Swartz Award for Outstanding Contributions to Post-Production to sound editor/designer Ben Burtt, who collaborated with the director on this past summer’s Star Trek.  Burtt, whose love of all things space started as a child playing with toy spaceships in bed, and who later, as a physics student in college, wanted to lay down chicken wire on the football field and transmit signals to aliens, offered some professional and personal advice to the post community. 


“I think all of us in post would like to see the word ‘pre’ a little more—a little bit of discussion before a film goes into production,” Burtt said.  “It just doesn’t go on very often, and I think it will help us all do our jobs and show our artistry better if ‘pre’ and ‘post’ talk to each other.”  He concluded his remarks by noting, “We’re in a very tough business that takes a lot of sacrifice.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you have to make time for your family and loved ones.  I’ve never fully solved that problem myself, but those loved ones waiting for you at home ultimately matter a lot more than anything else, so we should all try and find that balance.”



Paul Haggar, left, and Ben Burtt.



The HPA Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Paul Haggar, who went to work at the Paramount Studios mail room in 1949, became an apprentice editor, and eventually rose to become executive vice-president of Post-Production for Feature Films, a position he held for over 20 years until his retirement in 2005.  At Paramount, he oversaw post on hundreds of films, including Chinatown, The Godfather, Reds and Heaven Can Wait.  In 1987, when a building at the studio was renovated for post; it was re-christened the Haggar Building. 


Still sharp at 81, Haggar recalled a story from his early days at the studio, when he was present at a meeting on The Ten Commandments presided over by Cecil B. de Mille.  “de Mille asked the group, ‘What do you think of the movie?’  Nobody said anything, bit I raised my hand and said, ‘It’s kind of awkward that John Derek, playing Joshua, would tell Moses to go up on the hill and give the people encouragement, as if parting the Red Sea didn’t give them enough enthusiasm.’  There was dead silence, then all of a sudden Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston both stood up and said, ‘I agree with the boy.’  ‘Well,’ said de Mille, ‘I don’t care if you agree with the boy or not; the scene stays!’”  Haggar advised young people entering the business to “work hard, learn your job, and you’ll get respect.”


Three Engineering Excellence Awards were presented.  Signiant was honored for its Content Distribution Management (CDM) software, developed for Mac and PC to centrally manage, secure, accelerate and implement business process automation for digital media content.  DVS Digital Video Systems was recognized for the development of Clipster, an all-in-one DI workstation that provides online film data editing, format conversion and resolution levels up to 4K, all processed in real time.  S.two Corp. was honored for OB-1, the company’s digital recorder that provides 30 minutes of flash-based recording time to uncompressed DPX data files, with metadata, time code, audio and naming.  


Michael Kunkes is a freelance editor and writer specializing in animation, production and post-production.  He can be reached at








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