MPSE Wavelength

Fall 2020

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all the dialogue units with the ORIG choice (the green track). PRINCIPLE 4: You work for the director. You are there to enhance their movie's understandability, to make it more involving, exciting, comedic, or scary. You are not there to show off how good your sound design is. There's a funny thing in sound. If you notice sound work, then it's usually not that good! It should be as seamless as the film edits. You're telling a story using sound. When you write a film or film a film, everything must be moving the story forward. That's the ideal. Easy to preach, hard to follow! If you're watching a film and you start noticing the change in ambient backgrounds when the picture edits change, that's not good. If you notice the Foley or out of sync ADR or a gunshot that wouldn't come from that type of gun, then you haven't done your job well. While you're there to support the director, you sometimes have to get creative in how you approach new sounds. Remember that the director is like a person who has heard a song over and over and knows where every dip is, where the bass comes in, how the singer strains at the top of an octave. Then you go to a concert and hear that same song live. The hair on the back of your neck gets whacked! "That's not how the song should sound!" you say to yourself. When you introduce a new sound, be it an effect or ADR, it will sound like that to the director and/or film editor. The film editor is your ally. They are the closest to the director and you can often win the ear of the film editor and they can soften some blows to the director. A film I was on years ago had a lot of CGI effects of animals. We provided the film editor all kinds of animal sounds so that the director could get used to hearing them early on. Those sounds never changed! Sometimes we call that "temp love" which is when you throw in a sound so an audience can hear it at a preview and then everyone falls in love with that sound from then on. PRINCIPLE 5: Your reputation is based on your last credit. My mom drilled that into me. "You're only as good as your last reel," she would say, based on her TV editing days (The Rifleman and The Big Valley). What does that mean? It means if you are editing for free or you're getting lots of $$$$, the quality of your work is the same. That's your choice. It's ethics. I don't understand how someone can edit badly because they're working for free or low budget. What producers notice is that you are passionate, you show up, your work is stellar and you're pleasant and available —no matter what they pay you. We have a relatively small industry. People know people. People know who is good to work with or not. And you want these relationships to offer you future work. You won't get that if you are hard to deal with, no matter how good your work is. No one knows all the sweat and tears and work that goes into becoming a great singer or athlete. We only see the results of that hard work. We see muscles, we hear a flawless song performance. WHEN YOU DO A GREAT JOB, NO ONE NOTICES. You have to make that your goal. PRINCIPLE 6: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. If you need to tune in to find sound problems, then do it! They're there, believe me! If you listen, they will come. Find them and fix them. Listen to the tracks over and over. Be a detective. Does the track sound roomy? Maybe there's a lav someone didn't use or put into the session. Investigate. Don't just accept the sound that is given to you. Be thorough. Find a mentor. A lot of retired editors would love to take you under their wing! PRINCIPLE 7: If you're a student, how can you get more practice? Contact the filmmakers on campus. Who needs post sound? Our business is one of relationships. Mark Rydell, the director, would call my mom before he knew who the actors were going to be! She was his sound editor on every one of his feature films started with The Fox in 1967. It was his directorial debut. Tom Stanford was the film editor who was friends with my mom. He referred her to Mark and she and Mark hit it off. She edited all his feature films, even the last one before she retired in 1996. Tom Stanford edited some episodes of the TV show Burke's Law and my mom also was one of the sound editors on that show. This is how relationships work. This is how referrals work. No one hires someone they don't know or who didn't come recommended. If you're not compatible with the director, don't worry. The work will be done in three months and you can move onto the next one. PRINCIPLE 8: If you can, try and join the union (MPEG). I can't tell you how grateful I am to the Editors Guild. I didn't think about it when I was young (who does) but I will have healthcare for the rest of my life. I have a pension. It's worth it to seek out union work. You will be protected by those who would take advantage of your work. Though, unfortunately, I do see union work dwindling. But if you are able, contact them and join. PRINCIPLE 9: If you don't love what you do, don't do it. Sound editing isn't for everyone. It's a mixture of technical wizardry and the ability to sit in an edit chair for many hours a day! Try it—if you don't like it or feel like it's just too hard and stressful—don't do it! If you're okay with being alone with your work for 10 hours a day for days on end, not being able to plan vacations, missing your kids' sports games, plays, etc., being able to handle egotistical directors and/ or actors, lots of stress and you passionately love movies, then you may be a great sound editor! PRINCIPLE 10: If you're a student, find a school that teaches sound in addition to filmmaking. I'm currently teaching at Cal State LA in the Film Incubator program which is a year-long program (yes, even during COVID!) where you are part of a team to write, direct, shoot,

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