MPSE Wavelength

Summer 2023

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M OT I O N P I CTU R E S O U N D E D I TO R S 71 be useful to other sound editors. Pro Sound Effects, the company marketing the library, have done a wonderful job mastering the recordings. I understand you have just finished working on Christopher Nolan's film about J. Robert Oppenheimer. I realise you possibly can't say much about the new film, but you have worked with Nolan many times. What was this experience like in comparison? The film is based on American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer and I'd already read the book, so I was familiar with the story. As is his custom, Chris invited me to read the script during pre-production, and afterward, we had a chat about the film, where he gave me a heads up about things I should start thinking about. After reading the script, I had the same feeling I usually have after reading one of his scripts for the first time which is scared. I read everything I could find on Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project. It's what works emotionally in the film that matters most of course, but I don't think it's a bad thing to have some knowledge of the facts. Many of the people present at the Trinity Test were asked immediately after to describe the experience for history. Their descriptions of the sound create a kaleidoscope of vivid quirks and odd details which give you a tangible sense of the scale, not generic explosion descriptions, but instead: "…and the thunder from the blast, it bounced on the rocks, and then it went… I don't know where else it bounced, but it never seemed to stop, not like an ordinary echo with thunder, it just kept echoing back- and-forth in that canyon (sic). It was a very scary time, when it went off." "The rumble of noise from the blast rolled through the area for a full five minutes, it sounded to the participants that a train were rushing by within easy reach." (Extracts from: The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes) I love working with Chris. I was always fascinated by the concept of time, both subjectively and empirically and all the quantum physics stuff regarding time I've learned since just shows that the reality of it is as fluid and subjective as the perception of it. Chris likes to play with the order or the speed or the direction of time, and always in a fresh way. Also, he operates on a vast scale. I love to make sounds for big things and events. Your next project started as soon as you finished on Oppenheimer. Ideally, what is week one of a new project like? What is the ideal way to start a project? Any sound editor will tell you that every film's different. Different process, different dynamic, and different challenges. My favourite way to start is to hear from the director what they're expecting or hoping to get from the soundtrack, then dive in. My experience is that most directors don't want to have to tell everybody what to do; they'd rather hire people who can follow orders but also bring their own ideas to the film and earn their pay. What is your next project? What are you looking forward to about it? I've just started working on a film about Leonard Bernstein, co-written, starring, and directed by Bradley Cooper. It's a beautiful and moving film about a very complicated man. That's probably all I should say about it at the moment, but be sure to look out for it later this year. How do you renew your creative energy between films? How do you refresh your ears? I hike a lot in nature. I like to take a little me-time between movies and just chill out usually. Especially after working on loud movies which can be exhausting. Happily, my neighbourhood is very quiet! Photo by Dene Feldman

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