It’s still Elliott Koretz’ month here at Designing Sound and here’s a story on one of his most prolific collaborations, with director Michael Mann. In this interview, Elliott shares stories about working methods, the use of music and silence and Mann’s tireless search for perfection. Enjoy!
How did you and Michael Mann meet the first time?
My association with Michael actually goes way back to “Miami Vice” the tv show. I was an editor on it for the pilot and for two seasons. But my relationship as a supervisor started with his later tv show, “Robbery Homicide Division”. I interviewed with him and ended up getting the show. I then went on to “Collateral” and “Miami Vice”. We had a number of discussions about “Public Enemies” but ultimately I had another commitment on a different film that prevented me from doing it.
How would you describe him as a collaborator and filmmaker?
I think his track record in both tv and film speaks for itself. He has been an innovator for many years. I think one of the marks of greatness is when you are channel surfing and come across a film and even though you may have seen it countless times you stop and watch it. I find I do that with many of Michael’s films. It’s very exciting working with him. I think those of us that work with him are drawn in knowing every project has that potential for greatness. Michael is the definition of a tireless worker and the challenge is to keep up with him. He works himself harder than any director I know. His demands are many and it’s important to be mentally prepared to present him your best at all times. He has many ideas about sound and expects them to be addressed as quickly as possible. It’s very important for me to be clearly communicating this information to my crew. No question it is truly challenging working for and with him but I do understand that his intensity is in the quest for his ideal soundtrack.
You’ve collaborated on two feature films. Quite often, sound can be very tricky to talk about – how did you communicate about sound and how did your dialogue evolve throughout the process of making the two movies?
That’s a good question. Before I started designing on “Collateral” Michael called me into his office one day. He was still shooting the movie and wanted me to hear the production sound on a certain scene. It was the scene in the alleyway where Jaimie Foxx is tied to the steering wheel of his taxi and Tom Cruise comes out of a building and finds that some petty criminal has stolen his briefcase from the back seat. Tom ends up shooting the guy. The alleyway was between a tall apartment building and a large above ground parking structure. The resonant sounds of the gunshots were amazing even with blanks. Michael said, “This is the sound I want here”. I did some sweeetning to the impact of the shots but the final mix contained that same production echo. It’s really cool. I think this is a good example of Michael’s clarity in certain aspects of the sound track. He will be very clear and specific about what he is looking for. To that end he has been very generous with giving me access to do extensive field recordings for his films to facilitate that and I will speak on that subject more later on. But to address the question directly, the process I found worked best with Michael was to introduce sound elements via the Avid as early as possible. I would cut sequences, crash them down to make them Avid friendly and get that material over to the picture department to integrate into their cut. I think watching the film and hearing my material in that environment got him comfortable with the sound early in the post-production process. If he embraced it in the cutting room it really helped on the dub stage later. We would also have more traditional “spotting” sessions. My crew and I would screen reels with Michael and he would give notes along the way.Read More