I’ve previously talked about the importance of increasing communication between the sound community and our collaborators. This month’s topic provided the perfect opportunity to bring an outside voice to the Designing Sound community. Patrick Shen is director of the documentary “In Pursuit of Silence,” and I’m happy to be able to bring you his thoughts on the subject!
Would you mind giving yourself a brief introduction?
I’m a filmmaker based out of Los Angeles. My first film Flight from Death was released in 2005. My fourth feature-length film In Pursuit of Silence will be finished mid-2015 and released shortly after. The mission statement of my film company Transcendental Media is “to agitate the sleep of mankind”. I tend to make films that are more thoughtful in nature, films that deal with themes that I hope have the potential to challenge and expand our worldviews. Kierkegaard spoke of the “immediate man,” someone who doesn’t belong to him or herself and recognizes “that he has a self only by externals.” He tranquilizes himself in the trivial. I like to think that my films are an attempt to snap people out of this cultural haze and the process of making these films an attempt at avoiding this inauthentic life for myself.
One of the main reasons to start this site back in 2008 and also one of the things that keeps me motivated to do this is the impact that some people had in my life; curiously, people who I haven’t met in person, but I’ve deeply met with my ears.
I’m talking about those sound designers who created initial routes for all of us and started to develop a truly amazing way of working with sound, by establishing the essence of this art, not just from a technical perspective but an emotional, narrative and even spiritual one. I’m so glad to make this post about about one of those sound genius, a person that I know many of us deeply admire, Alan Splet.
He had the main faculties any sound designer needs to have, as described by Splet’s widow Ann Kroeber: “attention to detail, nuance, perseverance, ability to vastly influence the mood of a scene by the choice and placement of sounds”.
Broken wax cylinder containing the ‘first’ film soundtrack circa 1894-1895
In ‘broken’ month I wanted to find out a little more about what’s being done to fix (and preserve) some of the broken pieces of film history. The story of the Dickson Experimental Sound Film (link to view at the end of the article) seemed to be a good way into the subject and I am indebted to Ken Weissman, supervisor of the film preservation lab at the Library of Congress, Jerry Fabris, museum curator at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park and Paul Spehr, author and film historian, for their help putting this article together.
Andy Wooding has a new interview with one of our former Featured Sound Designers, Coll Anderson, up over on FilmDoctor.co.uk.
I don’t know if there’s a difference. They both involve a certain level of verisimilitude and so you can’t really say there’s a difference. People will say ‘documentaries are real and fictitious films are about telling stories’ but documentaries are really about telling stories and fictional films often want to feel super real. So there’s a huge cross over between them. When you insert a camera into a situation, that situation is no longer real. It changes. It changes the dynamic. There’s a square box capturing it. We go to great lengths to show ‘oh the truth of the square box’ but it’s not true.
Head here to read the full interview.
Mark Roberts has been a BBC natural history sound recordist for over 20 years. During that time he has explored some of the remotest parts of the planet. His career has taken him high into the Papua New Guinean rainforest canopy, deep underground inside Venezuelan mountains and even right into the heart of Indonesia’s volcanoes. He has been privileged to work with the world’s leading natural history film-makers and is the only member of the BBC’s team to have worked on every one of the nine Expeditions series, starting with Amazon Abyss in 2004.