Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound is the upcoming, Midge Costin directed feature. In the documentary, she interviews directors such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, David Lynch, and Ang Lee, as well as Oscar winning sound designers Walter Murch, Ben Burtt and Gary Rydstrom. Pop Matters spoke with her about the release
The documentary not only looks at the direct collaboration between filmmakers and sound designers, but also the indirect collaboration that has unfolded over a long period of time through the work of Al Jolson, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. Front and centre of your documentary is the role of collaboration as an impetus for developing the alchemy of sound and picture.
One of the ways that I got the directors to interview was through the sound people, because they so appreciated the collaboration with them, and what they bring to their movies. You can see where the big changes happened, or the innovations that came when George Lucas was working with Walter Murch back at film school. But then Murch was given a lot of time on the Francis Ford Coppola films because there was a lot of collaboration back and forth.
Remember too, there’s the part about George and Walter working together on THX 1138(Lucas, 1971). Both talked about how on THX, George would work in the day and Walter would come in every night to do the sound, and then it would change the picture based on the sound. So they worked day and night together, and it was the artists working together that pushed the film forward.
…The other thing is even just looking at all the different types of sound people. We all have to work together. I tell my students this. I remember I used to come in at 10am in the morning, but most people would come in at 8 or 8:30am. I realised I needed to be there so that the foley editor and I could talk to each other about how we were covering a scene, or in what frame something happened. Where did the punch really happen?
You are collaborating closely, so you just need to be there at the same time. You can see George Lucas asking Ben Burtt to come on a year before he even started shooting [Star Wars, 1977] – that’s when the best stuff happens. So too with Skip Lievsay. When he works with the Coen Brothers, he reads the script along with Carter Burwell, their composer, and then they talk about who’s going to cover what before they [the Coen Brothers] even start to shoot.
All of that is so important, and that’s where you get the best sound. I think the best films are when people are collaborating early on together…
For the full interview, head over to Pop Matters.