Teen Tech Week kicked off Monday night at the Mount Airy Public library with a presentation by Wade Wilson, sound editor and designer for film and television. Wilson is also a professor with the editing and sound department and assistant dean at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.
Wilson has worked on sound for multiple movies and television shows, including “The Hunger Games,” “The Simpsons,” “The Perfect Storm,” “Shrek,” “Madagascar,” “The Ring Two,” “Elf,” “Dilbert,” “Mystic River,” and many more.
“Hunger Games,” which was filmed in North Carolina, was a “challenging and fun” experience for Wilson. He worked as a foley editor for the film, which meant he was responsible for adding the foley sounds after the scenes were filmed. Foley sounds are associated with movements such as footsteps, a pat of a hand, the sound of an object placed on a table, and even the sound of the cloth on the actor’s clothing.
Wilson said these sounds are often “taken for granted in everyday life” but he must stay in tune to those often unnoticed sounds, because without them, the audience could not fully immerse themselves in the story.
“My job was to make sure everything recorded on the foley stage matched the picture. It’s all about synch…if it is not exact it can take the audience out of the story,” said Wilson.
“I support the illusion on the screen — this holds an audience captive.”
As a foley editor for “Hunger Games,” Wilson recreated the audio during post-production, in a sound stage in Los Angeles.
Wilson demonstrated his use of a sound program called Pro Tools for the audience at the library; he showed a clip from “The Hunger Games” paired with the sounds that were added into the movie.
One of Wilson’s most enjoyable recent projects was working on the sound for a documentary that will premiere at Tribeca Film Festival and Full Frame Film Festival. The documentary was about the Lucy Daniels’ family, a newspaper family from Raleigh. He said he also has a project coming up involving a film starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.
“The Perfect Storm” was a very memorable project for Wilson. His work helped to catapult the film to an Academy Award nomination for sound.
Wilson said he considers “The Perfect Storm” to be one of his most challenging projects. It was his first feature film project, and he had to create the sound of the storm — the wind, rain, and all the “scary and intense sounds” associated with the storm. “It was a year’s worth of work. No one knew what this major storm was supposed to sound like so it involved a lot of trial and error to create the ominous war-like and monstrous sounds that stir up the primordial tone of the storm in the film.”
For the film, Wilson manipulated real-life sounds such as explosions, lion roars, elephants, whales, and even walrus. The sounds were “manipulated and layered so none were too discernible.” Like many who work in the creative arts, Wilson said the wind was difficult to capture. He captured the ideal sound of the wind after he attached microphones to a friend’s car’s sunroof and drove at different speeds.
Wilson said that the film he enjoyed working on the most was “Shrek.” According to Wilson, someone from DreamWorks Studios set him up in a very private location where he viewed the character tests, which were still on VHS at the time.
“I just loved the experience — it was really exciting and inspiring. I especially enjoyed creating the sounds for the dragon and I was known as ‘the dragon’ because I used my own voice, as well as the sound editor’s wife’s voice and Hans Zimmer’s dog. We put the dog in an isolation glass booth and thought it would whine if Hans stood outside of the booth, but it just stood there. Hans’ wife was called in and the dog finally whimpered.”
“I am really lucky to be awarded these great jobs. I kind of fell into this — I trained as a musician and worked professionally for several years. I was playing drums at a session in L.A. when one of the producer’s friends showed up. The friend was a sound editor; he had several new shows at Fox and he needed help with them…I trained with him all summer and started working on ‘The Simpsons’ in 1997, as well as a few other shows such as ‘Dilbert,’ ‘The PJs,’ and ‘Futurama.’”
Wilson also said that a lot of sound designers have musical backgrounds, like himself. “For me it began with The Beatles’ records. I would listen to them over and over and try to isolate the different sounds of the instruments.”
The job of a sound designer or sound editor, according to Wilson, involves excellent listening skills. “You have to go out and study environments and really immerse yourself in life.” He gave words of advice to teenagers who are interested in pursuing a career in film or television: “Read a lot of stories. Educate yourself in film…you also have to be a great communicator and immerse yourself in the world and art.” He also advised the students to look into getting a film degree, start making their own films, and creating their own stories.
Angela Llewellyn, with the Mount Airy Public Library, was excited to have Wilson at the library. Several of those in attendance were teenagers who said they are interested in pursuing a career in film or television, including Lauren Henderson, a senior at the Surry Early College, who aspires to be a filmmaker.
Teen Film Festival premieres tonight at the library
Teen Tech week is held March 10-16 at libraries all around the nation. The Mount Airy Public Library will continue the Teen Tech Week celebrations today with a free Teen Film Festival at 6 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at the library.
Teenagers were invited to create short films with reading/library themes, which will premiere during tonight’s festival. Three teenagers who attended the presentation by Wilson created short films for the festival, including Lauren Henderson, John Ferry and Jonathan Carpenter.
Reach Jessica Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1933.