How often do you get to think what was behind the scenes of your favourite film, play or well-crafted book? How often do you watch a film thinking how all the sounds and sound effects came into being there? We immediately search for the soundtracks that we’ve heard in the films we loved but do we ever actually pay attention to the sound in general? I guess, most of the times, it’s taken for granted. So today I wondered, how much do we know about the importance of the sound when making a film?
This year Norwich Film Festival was hosting a set of indulging industry talks on a variety of subjects from film publicity to development of feature films, as well as more specific topics like screenwriting or sound editing. We were delighted to welcome a double BAFTA Award winning Sound Editor Eddy Joseph to kick off our day of industry talks. Having worked with a range of great films such as: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Evita, The Commitments, Batman & Pink Floyd – The Wall, Eddy has shared with us some of his experiences from his career, gave us some tips on sound editing and well, introduced us a little bit more to the secret life of the film sound.
Not being involved with the filmmaking myself, I left the room that day with a feeling that I had a solid crash course into the film sound.
‘It is not traditional sound. It creates an environment that is not really there, you don’t see it, but the director wants you to feel it. You put sound effects for everything you don’t see.’
Eddy explained some of the key terms within the process of sound editing. Some things I haven’t really heard before: sound design, foley (you know, sound like footsteps, clothes rustling, crockery clinking, paper folding, doors opening and slamming, punches hitting, glass breaking, etc.), automated dialogue replacement (ADR) and digital sound libraries. ‘Sound making is not how it seems for many reasons,’ he explained. ‘Say, you want to do a spaceship, and you need to make a sound of a metal floor. You don’t have one but you know somewhere, where you could physically record it, like in a factory... Reason why the film sound is not right at the moment of shooting is because it’s not the metal floor. It looks like metal but it doesn’t sound like metal. You’ll add the sound later.’
To illustrate his points Eddy showed a few clips from the films that he has worked on, like No Country for Old Men, Casino Royale, United 93. I was amazed after realizing that one of the scenes in No Country for Old Men had no music in it, and how it almost made us all, sitting in the auditorium that day, hold our breath.
‘Music should enhance, it should add in emotion. Sometimes you don’t need music. Sometimes you are being manipulated by music, it is pressuring you. This clip just proves what you could do with the atmosphere. It is incredibly brave to carry on a film without music,’ Eddy shared some of his tricks with the audience.
He said that when he first started working with sound editing there were no digital libraries. All the sounds required for a film had to be created, had to be recorded, eventually, creating a sound library available for other people to use as well. ‘Original recording is always better but sometimes you can’t get it right,’ he admitted honestly.
Eddy finished the talk with an important piece of advice for anyone interested in a career in sound editing, and here’s what he said:
‘Every shot has an important bit of plot, otherwise it wouldn’t be there. And there would be only one sound, one sound effect that would assist one element of that storytelling. Try to find, what that is and use that, and only that. And then think what else I need to make it flow, to make it work. It’s about finding the appropriate sound. Say, that awkward squeak you here and know that something awful now is about to happen. It’s not the picture, because it’s not there yet. But the sound is assisting hugely. It informs you about the things that are happening not necessarily even being there.’
Review by Laura Labanauskaite.