May 26, 2021

War Stories Vol. 6: Tales from the Set featuring Jim Frohna, Bruce Van Dusen, Randy Thom, Adam Somner, Paul Cameron, Xavier Grobet, Eric Branco, Tommy Maddox-Upshaw, Maryse Alberti, John Benam, Roberto Schaefer and Ben Rock

Special: The Cinematography Podcast- War Stories Vol. 6

In our sixth War Stories Special, we feature twelve guest’s harrowing, hilarious, heartbreaking or heartwarming stories they had while on set, or a formative career experience that led them to the film industry.

Find full interviews with each of our featured guests in our archives!

Cinematographer Jim Frohna was thrown into the DP position at the last minute on a commercial; director Bruce Van Dusen on getting his first big Crazy Eddie commercial; sound designer Randy Thom on gathering sound in the field for The Right Stuff; 1st AD Adam Somner’s story about his footrace with Russell Crowe while horsing around on the Gladiator set; cinematographer Paul Cameron on shooting the ending of Tony Scott’s Man on Fire; Xavier Grobet talks about one of his first film experiences working on Total Recall; DP Eric Branco’s crazy job working on a music video in Tanzania; cinematographer Tommy Maddox-Upshaw and the American crew get deported from Canada; Maryse Alberti on shooting the documentary Me & Isaac Newton with director Michael Apted and their emotional experience at an AIDS clinic in Africa; John Benam on his harrowing adventures in Sudan as a National Geographic wildlife cinematographer; one of Roberto Schaefer’s shoot days on Quantum of Solace got spectacularly interrupted; and finally, Ben Rock talks about an early experience as an art department production assistant.

Do you have a War Story you’d like to share? Send us an email or reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/warstories6/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com
Website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

May 5, 2021

Randy Thom, Oscar-winning Director of Sound Design at Skywalker Sound, on The Midnight Sky, Apocalypse Now, The Right Stuff, The Empire Strikes Back, and more

Randy Thom feels it’s important for the sound elements of a film to be present right from the start, at the script writing stage. Sound is an important tool for a filmmaker because it “sneaks into the side door to your brain” and enhances the emotional impact of the film. As George Lucas once told Randy, sound is 50% of the movie experience. After working in the sound department on over 150 projects and winning two Oscars, Randy has helped elevate motion picture sound into an art form, and is often involved in the creative process right from the beginning. He thinks it’s important for the sound production mixer to be as involved in preproduction with the director as the DP and production designer are, in order to think about the sound possibilities within the movie.

Randy stumbled into sound design later in life, starting out in college radio, then moving to the Bay Area in the 1970’s to work professionally in public radio. Once he saw the movie Star Wars, it changed his life, and Randy decided he really wanted to transition from radio into film. Through a friend, he managed to get in touch with Walter Murch, who worked as a sound designer at Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Studios. He sat in on a remixing session of American Graffiti, and Walter Murch next hired him to work on Apocalypse Now as a field sound recordist, where he spent his time recording sound for a year and a half. Randy began working in sound at a time when Northern California filmmakers George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Phil Kaufman had a shared philosophy that fresh sounds should be collected for each project.

Each movie should have its own sound style, which can be difficult to articulate to a director, much as a cinematographer talks to the director about the visual style. Sound styles are audio look books for your ears. For example, when Randy created the auditory experience for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he had to think about what elements would create the sounds of magic, which had to be based in the natural world. Things disappear and reappear through the transporter in a Star Trek movie as well, but the sound style is distinctly electronic and digital. The sounds used for a transporter would be jarring in a Harry Potter movie.

After Apocalypse Now, Randy was asked to record sound effects for Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back with supervising sound editor Ben Burtt. They needed to find the right sound elements for the Imperial Walkers. Randy found metal factories through the phone book, and was able to go record metal sheer noise from the factory in person. The metal noises Randy recorded comprise about 90% of the Imperial Walker sound effect.

For the Robert Zemeckis movie Contact, sound plays an important role. Jodie Foster’s character, a scientist listening for alien life in the universe, finally hears an alien signal. Randy and Zemeckis had to decide what that extraterrestrial signal would sound like. As the sound designer, Randy had input in preproduction early on and gave Zemeckis his take on how much sound to use in the visual sequences traveling through space.

There was little dialog in the film The Midnight Sky, so Randy could collaborate closely with composer Alexandre Desplat. Randy integrated radio signal sounds with the score, so that it would sound interesting but not conflict harmonically with the music. For the dramatic ice breaking sequence in the film, they knew they needed an organic, natural sound, so he accessed the sound library at Skywalker Sound, using several types of ice breaking, even reaching out through contacts to find sound recordists who could get the raw recordings of breaking ice that were then layered and pitch manipulated to help them stand out and not just become background noise.

You can see The Midnight Sky streaming on Netflix.

Read Randy Thom’s tips for sound design on his blog: https://randythomblog.wpcomstaging.com/

Find Randy on Twitter: @randythom

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep123/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz