November/December 2014

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20 CINEMONTAGE / NOV-DEC 14 by Debra Kaufman W hen sound designer/supervising sound editor Dane A. Davis, MPSE, attended the audience preview for The Matrix (1999), he — as well as directors Andy and Lana Wachowski (then known as the Wachowski Brothers) — had no idea what to expect. "It was groundbreaking in our minds, but you never know if something is going to work," he says. Their wariness was born from the experience of making Bound, the 1996 thriller that was the Wachowskis' directorial debut. "Everybody loved Bound, but it never found an audience," recalls the sound editor, who was also sound designer on that movie. "The experience was very dispiriting." Given the tremendous buzz surrounding The Matrix, I had high expectations when I attended an audience preview. I remember the energy and excitement that percolated in the packed Westwood movie palace. The Matrix did not disappoint me — or anyone else in the theatre. Bullet-time wowed me, but so did the robust, intriguing sound effects that brought the action to life. The popular embrace of the movie signaled to me that this movie would become iconic, so it was no surprise that the film swept the Academy Awards for post-production that year, netting Davis an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing. Intended as homage to sci-fi author William Gibson's 1984 novel The Necromancer, The Matrix was a genre-bending synthesis of Japanese anime, Hong Kong martial arts films, sci-fi and Hollywood Westerns, as well as an original statement about society's anxiety-producing transition from analog to digital. "The world was just starting to think about the Internet," says Davis. "Generally, the whole idea that your experience can be digitized was revolutionary. Everyone could relate to Neo confronting the fact that what he thinks is real isn't real." Davis' background in independent experimental films was ideal preparation for sound designing The Matrix. His passion for cinema ignited when high school teacher Jerry Lipetzky handed him an 8mm camera and told him to do something creative. Also a musician, Davis found himself increasingly drawn to creating soundtracks for his own and his classmates' projects, a practice that continued at California Institute of the Arts, where he studied film. He gravitated to creating soundtracks for experimental short films, in particular. "I had no idea you could do this for a living," he remembers. After school, however, he continued to do what he loved and soon found himself making money for it. His career was going gangbusters well before The Matrix. He lists Drugstore Cowboy (1989), Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991), Forever Young (1992), Romeo Is Bleeding (1993) and Boogie Nights (1997) as some of his favorites prior to The Matrix. Davis met the Wachowskis through picture editor Zach Staenberg, ACE. "He called me up and said, 'You've got to meet these filmmakers — two carpenters from Chicago — who've made this brilliant movie," he says. "I went to a screening of their very first cut of MY MOST MEMORABLE FILM Dane A. Davis on 'The Matrix' Dane Davis. Photo by Stephanie Flack The Matrix, Warner Bros. CONTINUED ON PAGE 22

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