CAS Quarterly

Spring 2018

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52 S P R I N G 2 0 1 8 C A S Q U A R T E R L Y I didn't really become interested in working in sound until I got a job in a sound studio. At NYU, I was looking forward to a career in directing, acting, or film editing, but academia wasn't for me and my time at NYU was short. I knew I wanted to work in the industry and I had the family connection so, after two semesters, I dropped out and began looking for work. This was in 1970. There were no editing jobs for me at the time but one of my mother's assistants told me about a small new sound effects house that had opened in the Brill Building and recommended me for a job. I was hired by Elisha Birnbaum at Image Sound Studios, which later merged with and became Sound One. After working for two years at Image building a sound effects library, selling sound effects, and recording effects, narration, and Foley, I was hooked on sound and I've never looked back. Legendary re-recording mixer Dick Vorisek was one of your earliest sound mixing mentors. You mentioned meeting him during one of your mother's projects, but how did you develop a relationship once you were working in the field? I had met Dick as a child when I visited my mother's mixes, so he knew me. After working at Image Sound for two years, I was offered a job at Trans Audio. Dick had left Reeves and he and his brother Jack went into business with another partner and opened Trans/Audio in 1972. I was hired in 1973 to work in the transfer room. I was able to join the union, which was a big thing for me and worked doing all kinds of transfers for six years before I started mixing. The best thing about working at Trans/ Audio was that in my free time, Dick allowed me to sit in on his mixes and observe. I learned a hell of a lot just doing that. You must have learned and proven yourself pretty well because, at the age of 30 and with only a couple years' credits, you were nominated for an Oscar ® for Reds. What do you remember about that time? I began to do some mixing in 1978. I did sound effects pre- dubs on The Wiz, and mixed two feature documentaries, one for a very young Errol Morris. Then in 1979, I got to do my first commercial feature film, Melvin and Howard for Jonathan Demme. That was followed by two more features and then we began work on Reds. In New York at that time, mixers generally worked alone. We didn't have two- and three-man mixing crews like they did in Hollywood. But Dick had survived a heart attack and was under doctor's orders to work no overtime. So I became his second chair on several films, Reds being the first (and again a couple of years later when I first worked with Martin Scorsese on The King of Comedy). Working for Warren Beatty (and Scorsese) meant working overtime. Warren wasn't a morning person so Dick would clock out at 6 p.m. and I would stay and work into the night. Reds took four months to mix and the sound crew was the biggest in New York history. Then we got nominated for an Oscar. I was so thrilled I couldn't really believe it had happened. It was the first time a New York crew had ever been nominated for Best Sound. Going to the Oscars was a wonderful experience. We lost to Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was crushed, but at the Governor's Ball that night, Jack Nicholson said to me, "Don't be upset that you didn't win. If you win, everyone thinks your price went up and no one calls you." That made me feel better. Since that first nomination, you've received the highest of accolades from your peers, including Oscar, Emmy ® , CAS, and BAFTA Awards. Reflected in those is a diverse catalog of material spanning multiple formats: documentaries, music programs, scripted TV, film. Diversity like that—at that level—is very rare for re-recording mixers. Do you feel being New York based allowed for you to attract all these different genres? Yes, I think it did. During the eighties and nineties, there was very little television being done in New York, but there was a lot of documentary and independent feature work and there were a number of mainstream New York-based directors making features who kept the small number of New York re-recording mixers busy during those years. I had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects, and this is a big reason why I stayed in New York and never moved west despite a number of attractive offers. New York was my home and I loved it here. The film community was small and close- knit and everyone working here was incredibly dedicated. For your last CAS Award win (for History of the Eagles), you were mixing on the Euphonix System 5. Is that still your console of choice? I am still doing most of my work on the System 5, but in the past couple of years, I have done more and more in the box— both on the System 5 and also on D-Command and Icon. I have yet to work on System 6, but I look forward to moving to one of those one day soon when the System 5 tech support ends. How does your setup change when working on a cinema project compared to something like Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge? Are you still using multiple Pro Tools systems for playback and print? Yes, we still use multiple Pro Tools and the setup is basically the same. I think the biggest difference is that I rarely do any pre-dubbing on documentary projects. Just put up the tracks and mix them. Obviously, feature films provide a lot more time and there is a lot more attention to detail on a feature film compared to documentaries or series television. Are you doing playback of the stereo with client in addition to 5.1? I don't generally use stereo monitors unless it is requested. I've been working in the room at Soundtrack long enough to trust how it's going to translate to small speakers, so I work almost exclusively in 5.1 on documentary and television projects. As you stated earlier, you began mixing in 1978, which is reflected in your IMDb credits, if you could travel back to that time 40 years ago, what advice would you give to the young Tom Fleischman? Protect your hearing, floss daily, and don't take yourself too seriously. Thanks for taking the time to chat, guys—and congratulations!

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