Everyone, at some point, has been inspired by sound and music in films. Not everyone, however, has chosen to follow that inspiration to a prolific career in sound design. These four post-production pros help shape viewers’ experiences through all things auditory, and were kind enough to share with us some of their personal key moments of inspiration.
From the sonic poetry of Apocalypse Now, to the battle sounds of Forrest Gump, to the creative musicality of sound effects in Delicatessen, here are some essential audio moments of film history, as chosen by some landmark sound engineers of film today.
Scott Martin Gershin (Nightcrawler, Pacific Rim, American Beauty)
“The two movies that set me on my path as wanting to be a sound designer were Apocalypse Now and The first Star Wars movie. What I loved and was inspired by on Apocalypse Now was "how" the sounds were used. The use and choices of sound that told a story and wasn't always literal to what you saw. How sounds were used symbolically, emotionally.
“The second was Star Wars. It introduced a new palette of memorable iconic sounds that defined a genre. It was ingenious on how they were made and how it supported the picture. Since those films, there have been dozens of other films that have and keep inspiring me. I love to keep trying new things both technologically and using different types of techniques. I think it is important to start with a blank canvas and let the project tell you what it needs. How the story wants to be told.” —Scott Martin Gershin
Charles Maynes (Twister, Constantine, U-571)
“The defining film which really made me want to do film sound was, without question seeing the film Terminator 2—everything about it was just entirely magically to me. Since then, I have developed a sort of expertise in recording gun sound effects, and have done so for dozens of films and video games, but it was quite specifically inspired by the sound which Gary Rydstrom achieved with the firearms he designed and mixed into that film which made that a total obsession to me—Gary’s laser-beam focus on sonic storytelling was truly instrumental in my pursuit of making both believable, and accurate dramatic moments in action cinema.
“A second grand inspiration was Randy Thom’s magnificent sound design for the film Forrest Gump, which I believe, set the bar for the modern cinematic sound expression of battle sequences, as his Vietnam firefight in Gump truly made me wince and duck when experiencing that incredible moment of cinematic literature.
“I owe Gary, Randy, and my mentor Steve Flick (who allowed me to work on, (both recording, designing, and editing the weapons for the similarly epic Starship Troopers) to get my real creative start in the sound of cinema.” —Charles Maynes
Frank Morrone (Lost, Criminal Minds, When We Were Kings)
“Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Godfather both had a huge impact on how sound was used to become 50 percent of the film-watching experience. Raiders had a lot of interesting ambiences that were created as well as big Hollywood effects with the gunshots and other specifics all mixed in perfect tandem with a fantastic score by John Williams. The Godfather was a good lesson in the importance of a great dialogue mix and the subtle mixing of foley, ambience, FX and music to never pull you out of the story.” —Frank Morrone
Bob Bronow (Deadliest Catch, 1000 Ways to Die, Genius)
“While working on the campaign for a film called Delicatessen, I was struck by the way that the sound of squeaking bed springs moving through a building's pipes became the foundation for the rhythm of every other sound in the scene.
“Not only did the sound effects generate the rhythm of the scene but they also connected the lives of all the characters living in the building. It was a great piece of storytelling.
“We get very involved in the minutiae of our work and it can be hard to feel the rhythm of a scene from that close. I learned to stand back and watch (without hands on faders or mouse) to understand how the soundtrack works with the picture as a whole.” —Bob Bronow