Take Paris Hilton out of a film and you’ll be saved a headache, take the sound from a film and, well, you’ve got nothing but a mute screensaver. Clint Morris talks to one of the men responsible for the audio part of ‘audio/visual’, Sound Designer Francis Ward Lindsay…
For those not in the know, tell us a bit about your job?
I am a Sound Designer but also, a Foley Artist. I create sound effects for films. Most of the sound you hear in a film that is not dialogue is created by people like myself, AFTER the footage has been shot. Some objects don’t make interesting sounds in reality so I’m often called upon to create sounds that are exciting. For instance, swords are the most sonically boring things on earth. I have created sounds for films that feature sword fights to make the swords sound dangerous, heavy and exciting. Similarly, today’s modern cars don’t really make very interesting sounds. As they’re fairly quiet and boring to listen to, my job is to create a fantastic sequence of sounds that bring the vision on screen to life. I have to construct and design the whole “style” of a film’s soundtrack to help the director realise his/her vision. It’s often very hard work but always loads of fun!
And how did you get into it?
I was a musician initially. I studied music theory for some time and I used to write music for TV commercials and the like. This opened doors for me in radio. I produced radio jingles and Ads. Much of this work used sound effects. Radio is quite challenging in that it is necessary to tell a story using audio alone. There is no vision to rely on to help. Through my radio work I got into television sound and then film. Everything really took off for me when Roger Savage (“Return Of The Jedi,” “Mad Max”) invited me to work with him at his facility in Australia. I was there for 5 years. I was fortunate as I was trained by the very best people in the business.
Sound is an important part of a film – so I assume if the right person isn’t hired for the job, it can’t totally ruin it?
Sound is crucial. It MUST be brilliant. Bad sound can indeed ruin a film. Many people see sound as the poor cousin to the vision. However, when you have fantastic sound and fantastic pictures, the result is always much greater than the sum total of the individual elements. Sometimes, the right people are hired for the job but they are given a very small budget with which to work. The result can be that the soundtrack is less than good. There are many examples of films which spend loads on brilliant visual effects and leave almost nothing left for the sound. I feel in these circumstances, a disservice is being done. The full impact of extraordinary visual effects aren’t realised due to a mediocre soundtrack. Excellent sound is a pivotal factor to making an excellent film.
What’s your proudest achievement in film?
My proudest achievements to date are the films “Hero” and “2:37.” They were both unbelievably good films and fortunately, they both were great films to explore brilliant sound. I’m very proud of my work on both these films. The success of “2:37” was demonstrated at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival where it received a 15 minute standing ovation. It was a very proud moment for me knowing that I contributed to this film.
Now you were Supervising sound editor on “2:37” – what was the extent of your involvement?
As Supervising Sound Editor, my role was to co-ordinate and manage the whole sound post production process and the team creating the soundtrack. This in addition to creating the soundtrack with Leslie Shatz of course. It was a great film to work on because the Director was very enthusiastic about sound. Any new or clever idea that was presented to him, he really embraced. Everyone involved with this film had a zealous passion to do their part in creating a great film. It was a fantastic experience to work with such people. Everyone worked very hard, but always did so with a smile on their face. It’s a great feeling to work on a film that you know is going to be very special.
How did you get involved in “Goal”, and what did the job involve?
The “Goal” trilogy is all about soccer. There are loads of scenes of soccer matches and footballs. I became involved as they needed someone to specialise in sound for all the ball movements, ball kicks, body falls and generally all the action sequences. Ball kicks are another one of those things that are quite boring in reality. As are body impacts and falls. Every time I begin a new film, I prefer to create new sounds that are special and give the film a unique identity. All the ball kicks and body falls in the “Goal” trilogy are unique to those films. The ball kicks were quite complicated to create. They are made from actual football kicks recorded with many different kinds of microphones, including a special bass drum mic. Then, these sounds are combined with various “whoosh” elements and leather punch bag type sounds. The whole lot are then processed and manipulated digitally to make one ball kick sound. It’s a lot of work for something so simple but the end result is a excellent.
Tell us about “Goal 2,” and how that went?
The sound design of “Goal 2” is similar to “Goal.” This film features a very cool car chase sequence involving a Lamborghini though. We took a Lamborghini to Dunsfold Park airfield in England. Together with the help of a stunt driver, I recorded the Lambo doing all sorts of manoeuvres. It was great fun tearing around up and down the runway and making the car do all sorts of things that couldn’t have been good for it. All for the benefit of getting a great library of Lambo sound effects to work with. The car chase in “Goal 2” sounds excellent.
How did it feel to be nominated for Golden Reel Awards?
The MPSE is an American organization of Sound Editors. It is wonderful to have your work recognised by your peers. Especially by an organization composed of brilliant and respected sound professionals. It was a great feeling. The recognition of a job well done is something I value.
Why are you based in England at the moment? Not enough work down under? Sick of Eddie Maguire?
There are many professionals in Australia who have experience, skills and creative talent that are just not found in other parts of the world. Australians have a lot to offer American and European film. I’ve found that the fresh innovative approach of Australians is very much welcomed by the film industries of other countries. Certainly in my case, my vast experience gained in Australia is very much appreciated by the UK sound teams I’ve been fortunate to work with. It’s great to be able to impart that knowledge to others. Though, at the same time, see other approaches and methods to obtaining the same high quality results.
What’s next for you?
I want to become a Ski Instructor. They get to meet loads of girls.
“Goal 2” is due for release in the UK on Feb 9, with other countries to follow. “2:37” is now available on DVD from Roadshow Home Entertainment