MPSE Wavelength

Summer 2022

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A Man of Many Talents BY SOLANGE S. SCHWALBE MPSE He is a renaissance man in the film industry, there is nothing he can't do. I had the privilege of working on three of Ron Howard's features, The Da Vinci Code [2006], Frost/Nixon [2008], and Angels & Demons [2009]–It was during that time I realized how important sound was for Ron. I recently had the honor to sit with Ron Howard to discuss the role sound plays in his movies! As 2022 Filmmaker of the Year with the MPSE Golden Reel Awards, Ron shares his take on how sound contributes to his storytelling. SOLANGE S. SCHWALBE MPSE: I am here with the acclaimed Ron Howard to speak with him about his contributions to sound in his feature films for our magazine, Wavelength. Mr. Howard, can I call you Mr. Howard? RH: Please call me Ron, I prefer that. SS: Ron, you won the MPSE Golden Reel Filmmaker of the Year Award for 2022. Congratulations! We are very proud of your achievements! Sound has a pivotal role in your movies. Can you please tell us how you learned the value of sound in film? RH: Well, a lot of it has to do with beginning in the Super 8 era where there was no sound. So I was making silent movies, and the minute I could begin to include sound, that was a huge step forward. Still, I had no control over it, very little, even as I began making my own little student films and whatnot. I'll tell you, the very first real mix that I ever attended was for the first movie that I directed, Grand Theft Auto [1977], was for Roger Corman. And it was a three-day mix. That was it. There was no premix, it was a three-day mix, all in. And I was directed by Roger to never stop the mix. They were going to start playing all the tracks with no rehearsals, they were going to start laying it down, and he was the only one who could stop it. And if during a moment of a natural stop, if I had a note, I was invited to offer it up. Now, Joe Dante was the editor, and Joe was so excited because they had found a sound effect for this ice cream truck that stops, then there's a bit of comedy action business around this ice cream truck, and then it goes off and it gets hit by a car. They'd found a great little jingle that they could get the rights to, and they actually did it. I was a little bit thrown by how dazzled they were to have this one sound effect. I heard it, and it was hilarious. It set up the joke much better when the ice cream truck got clobbered and the jingle then kind of winds down, and then I finally realized, wow, there's a difference between just a standard sound of a truck and a really funny, artfully thought through one that would be witty and ironic. And to this day, if I see that sequence, it's funnier because of that sound effect. So that was just a very, very eye-opening moment, the beginning of my understanding of the difference between workable sound, functional sound, predictable sound, and something that elevated things. SS: Wow, that's great. In your acceptance speech for the Filmmaker of the Year Award, you said, "Sound design

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