photo courtesy of Chad DeRosa Photography
Guest Contribution by James Bretz
The documentary Out of Nothing is my first feature, and the first feature for our entire P-51 Pictures team. It’s more than just a story about motorcycles. It’s a human story. It follows four men who follow their passions and dreams, and it tells one of many stories that are a part of a larger community of individuals and teams involved in motorcycle land speed racing.
When looking over the footage that Director Chad DeRosa had shot over the course of two years, one word came to mind. Scope. It was Chad’s and Producer Andrew Lahmann’s goal that the film should look and feel large. We wanted Out of Nothing to be experienced as more of an action/drama narrative than an informative style of documentary
The folks over at Pro Sound Effects have put together a video interview with Ryan Billia of Rumble Audio. This is the first in what will be a series of “Sound Design Spotlight” videos on the Pro Sound Effects blog. Keep an eye on their feed for future videos.
Designing Sound: Would you mind giving our readers a little bit about your background and how long you’ve been working in audio post?
James LeBrecht: I’m the owner of Berkeley Sound Artists, and we’re located in the Saul Zaentz Media Center in Berkeley. We’re kind of a small company. I think the term “boutique shop” would sound little bit pretentious, but we’re kind of the right size to feel personally involved in projects. We primarily focus in sound design and mixing, and our prime emphasis is in documentaries. I started the company in 1996, thinking that maybe we’d be doing a lot of multimedia work, CD-ROMS, etc.…and we did do some of that. We did some work for a now defunct educational software company called Theatrix. But very early on Patti Tauscher, who worked with me for many years, she came to me and said, “I met this guy. He’s got a documentary, and I think we should do the sound on it.” So we wound up doing this film for Steven Olsen, and it immediately became apparent to me that…here’s a niche that people weren’t really focusing on. A lot of houses do documentary work as “fill-in” work. Some people are really kind of dedicated to it, but that’s our prime focus. Plus, being in what is known as the Fantasy building…
Photo courtesy of Seth Emmons
Guest Contribution by Lawrence Everson
The relationship that documentary cinema has with truth, realism and subjectivity has long been a lively debate. Likely since its origins as a medium (do a quick Google search about Nanook of the North‘s impact and also its staged shots, for example). Documentary sound design is an often overlooked aspect of the craft that inhabits a particularly interesting and sometimes invisible corner of the debate. In narrative films, sound design largely fabricates fictional environments, but in documentary cinema we as sound editors, designers, and mixers are often tasked with designing a reality for, well, reality, as it were. But whose reality? And what even IS documentary reality in the end? Where is that line drawn between immersive world-building that makes a film come alive, versus blatant misdirection and manipulation of the audience? Is it possible that the realities we build can ultimately be more real than the reality of the moment a scene was shot? (And is recording documentary sound on a commonly mono shotgun mic plus lav even a particularly accurate way of capturing reality?) Is the emotion of a scene more true than the literal fact of a scene?
This is not specifically sound focused, but I thought this would be a relevant post considering so many within our community are freelancers. The Freelancers Union just recently came onto my radar. It is an advocacy group here within the U.S. to support all of those people who don’t have a staff job. In my mind, the most interesting thing about this organization is that they are organizing group health and retirement plans. If you’re a freelancer, this really is something you should check out. Membership is free; the only fees you can incur come with signing up for any of the benefits packages. They even have this handy tool to help you identify what benefit packages are available in your area. If fit one of these descriptions (and I’m quoting here), “freelancers, consultants, independent contractors, temps, part-timers, contingent employees and the self-employed,” I encourage you to check this out to see if it fills any of your needs.