Intensive Feature Film Supervising Sound Editor/Sound Designer Training

Monday, November 28th, 2016

LA Landmark 20th century fox

Steve Fanagan received a bursary to attend a mentorship in Intensive Feature Film Supervising Sound Editor/Sound Designer with Douglas Murray at 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles.  Read more about Steve’s experience.

“With the support of Screen Training Ireland’s Bursary Award Scheme, I recently completed a 2 week full-time course in ‘Intensive Feature Film Supervising Sound Editor/Sound Designer Training’ under the mentorship and guidance of Supervising Sound Editor/Sound Designer, Douglas Murray (Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire). The course took place on the lot at 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles, where Doug is currently working on a $200 million film.

I approached Doug about the possibility of training with him, as he has a special relationship with sound post production in Ireland. He was one of the professionals that came over from Skywalker Sound to tutor the first Screen Training Ireland Assistant Sound Editor’s Programme (and a number of similar programmes in the years since). He also has a long history of working in Ireland, with Irish and International crews, on projects of varying budgets and scales. Through his past work with Screen Training Ireland and at Ardmore Sound, he has had an incredible impact on other sound professionals like me, who, while not having necessarily worked with him directly, have directly benefited from his legacy working in Ireland and his advocacy for, and input into, the development of sound post production here. It’s fair to say that he has been a huge influence on the quality of work being produced in Ireland by Irish practitioners today.

When I recently reached out to him to see if training with him might be a possibility, he offered me this unique opportunity to do so while he was working at Fox. He put together a programme of training to help me to further develop my skills as a supervising sound editor, sound designer and sound re-recording mixer, in ways I could not have hoped to achieve otherwise or through other avenues. He structured the course to give me the opportunity to train with him while he and his sound crew worked on this film. It offered me a unique experience to train alongside them as they worked on a film of this scale. My hope, on a basic level, in undertaking this course with Doug, was to gain insight, training and experience from professionals working at the highest level of my craft in a practical setting, and, to use this training and experience to further develop my own skill set for the work that I do here in Ireland.

Because I was training with professionals as they actively worked on a feature film, my experience on the course was very practical. It was a real privilege to spend time training with passionate, like-minded sound editors, designers and re-recording mixers; to be given the opportunity to learn from their skills, experience and excellence in this field, as they did their everyday work on the sound design and sound editorial for a film of this scale.

Everyone that I met and interacted with was incredibly welcoming and unguarded about their working practice, and I was given unlimited access to their approach, workflow and best practices. It was great to see them ‘read’ a scene and to learn how they use that ‘read’ to help them figure out their sound approach for that scene, and consider how it relates to the film as a whole. There was good discussion of what’s important in a scene and how to design sound to work with story, mood, feeling, scale and detail. I learned a huge amount about each of the crew’s individual approaches to these specifics and got to experience first-hand how their work was adding to and helping support the film as a whole. There was also a really welcome informality to the training, which allowed for conversations about the film, and about all aspects of sound post work generally, which were a great lesson in craft maintenance and development. There was ample opportunity to ask questions, get advice and learn from the work I was experiencing each day.

This trip offered me invaluable practical training and experience of the sound post workflow on a film of this scale, as well as a number of other films at different budget levels; one at $20 million and another that was under $10 million. It was inspiring to experience the communication between these sound crews (co-sound supervisors, sound designers, sound editors, assistant sound editors, sound re-recording mixers) with each other, and their day-to-day practices, whilst getting to train alongside them.

Similarly, it was rewarding to experience the day-to-day communication of the sound crew with other departments (picture edit/post production supervisor/facility/VFX etc) on a film of this scale, and to gain an understanding how this is managed, navigated and negotiated.

The experience afforded me an opportunity to better my day-to-day working practices as a supervising sound editor, sound designer and sound re-recording mixer. It was really rewarding to experience the communication, workflow, idea development and interaction between the sound department and the film’s director, its editors and other key crew members; to gain insight into how the overall soundtrack of the film develops on a feature of this scale, and to see the many benefits of sound post being involved in the film-making process at the earliest possible stage. It has given me lots of ideas that I hope to implement in the work that I do here in Ireland.

The course location and facilities on the lot at 20th Century Fox could not have been more ideal for my training experience and afforded me access to some of the most well-equipped and expertly maintained edit suites, mix theatres and other amenities on the planet!

The training also offered me insight into, and helped me affirm, some of the best practices we are currently employing in our day-to-day sound post work here in Ireland.

I finished my time in LA having spent 11 intensive days surrounded by some of the most talented sound post professionals working today and left inspired, feeling educated and very much looking forward to applying my new training and learning to the work that I do at Ardmore Sound and Screen Scene.

I cannot thank Screen Training Ireland enough for supporting me to access this training. To be given the support to travel and learn from some of the best practitioners of my craft in the world is an incredible privilege. Their investment in, and support for, professionals working in the Irish Film Industry is invaluable and I feel very lucky to be part of an industry that allows for such support. For anyone considering a Screen Training Bursary application to train, improve existing skills, and develop their craft, I can’t recommend it enough!”

Steve Fanagan, November 2016

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