Here is the first interview with this month’s special guest Elliot Koretz, talking about general aspects of his career.
How did you get started in sound design?
My first industry job was as an apprentice editor in the shipping room at Disney Studios. I was exposed to all types of editing (picture, music, and sound) but I was attracted to sound for not only what I saw as the ability to be very creative but for the autonomy of working independently of the director and producers who seemed to be always in the picture editors room. At Disney I met a sound editor who was also moonlighting at Neiman-Tillar, a leading independent sound house back in the day. He saw my interest in wanting to advance to editor a little quicker than what was the norm at Disney and offered to put in a good word for me there. I was offered assistant editors position and took it. While there I was first introduced to electronic editing. This was approximately 1980 and they had, as far as I know, the first system that was used for this, ACCESS. That’s really pretty amazing for so long ago. I think the first show I ever cut on electronically was a tv show, “Aloha Paradise” It was a kind of “Love Boat” on land and the sound needed was pretty straight forward fx. But I do remember one particular episode where the story line had a man who was interested in a divorced woman with a young child. The kid was opposed to this relationship and at one point bites the guy on the leg in kind of a comical manner. This lead to what I believe may have been the first “design” moment of my career. I layered a celery snap with some sort of other big crunch and………I was off and running as a designer.
After that I moved around landing at a number of post facilities for a while. I was an editor at Stephen Cannell, which turned out to be a great place to learn to cut action sequences. On shows like “The A-Team” you had a week to cut an entire reel (approx 12 min) of Dia, FX, BG’s and Foley. And inevitably you had a scene like this: Our heroes were in some sort of large vehicle, traveling pretty fast on a rough surface, being chased by a helicopter that was shooting at them. They meanwhile had constructed some sort of rapid firing gun that was shooting nails or some other projectiles……..and little to none of this could be created just straight out of the sound library.
These kinds of sequences needed multi-layered design and remember this was on film. Many units and also much of the final result of my work couldn’t be heard played together until the dub stage. On an old fashion film sync block you could only hear three or four “channels” at once. Anything wider than that and you had only your experience and imagination to visualize the combined sound.
I think doing this kind of design work way back then really helped me understand how to efficiently combine elements to get the sound I wanted.
I spent some time at Soundelux when the company was still pretty young and while there moved into cutting sound on features. (Still editing on film). I did return to tv editing and ended up working first as an editor then as supervisor on the show, “MacGyver”. It was another busy design show with the lead character always inventing something to beat the bad guys that required creative design work. After a successful first season the producers wanted to change to an all-electronic post. Soundelux at that time was not prepared for the huge investment in equipment and ultimately the show was moved to a newly created facility, Modern Sound. Over that summer they built a new mix stage, foley stage, and editing rooms using both Synclavier and 24 track editing systems. I was offered to continue as the supervisor of the show and accepted. After a very brief training period at the offices of New England Digital (the creators of the Synclavier) I jumped into the world of electronic post again.
The problems we faced were immense. This was 1986 and the technology was still in it’s infancy. There were not yet sound libraries that were “digital” and the decision was made to purchase a copy of the library of a leading sound supervisor at the time, Fred Brown. Then the issue was storage. The best we could do at the time was to digitize onto floppy discs. They could only hold a few seconds of sound each so you can imagine the challenges that caused. This was truly the bleeding edge of technology.
It was at times very exhilarating but often very frustrating to be at the forefront of this transition. There were times we struggled to achieve what was extremely easy to accomplish on film and other times we saw how cool it was to work in a non destructive environment with new tools to manipulate the sound.
After that season I moved around again to a couple of different facilities but then found what turned out to be a long-term home at Weddington Productions. The three owners at that time (Steve Flick, Richard Anderson, and Mark Mangini) were doing some of the most creative sound design anywhere. There is no question that was the turning point in my becoming a much more accomplished designer. Working with the talented people at Weddington constantly challenged me to step up my game and really think hard about what I could do to impact the movie sonically in every detail.
While there I made the full time transition to ProTools and it’s world of opportunities that cutting digitally has brought to all of us.
All these pieces of the puzzle have helped form what I do today. At Universal where myself and my crew have 5.1 editing suites and all sorts of plug in devices I reference all that experience from both the film and digital worlds when conceptualizing the design work I do.