Interview with Supervising Sound Editor Donald Sylvester (Logan, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma)

Donald Sylvester has worked on over 100 films in the last 25 years and is considered one of the top people working in the craft of Post-Production Sound today. I asked him a few simple questions via email and he countered with some really insightful and meaningful answers. Enjoy it:

Where were you born and raised? When was working in the film industry start to become a career pursuit for you?

I grew up in the Garden State of New Jersey, where all my core principles were established. My father moved us to Atlanta when I was 11, and it was a wonderful experience during that period – both for Atlanta and for me. It was an unprecedented period of great growth for the city and the awakening of a progressive South – and growth for me personally as well. I dabbled in a lot of stuff, but always gravitated toward music. Frankly the film business didn’t come calling for me until a long, long time later after I moved to California. I reached some level of success before I realized that the music business was a bad idea. My wife, who was a film editor, suggested that motion pictures and I would be a good fit. My skills and instincts fit right in. She was right.

What has been your most proudest work of your career? Or, what has been your favorite project?

For a lot of my years I worked on other people’s films as a sound editor. I learned a lot and loved the people and the work, but I never really thought of those projects as “mine.” I didn’t start supervising in earnest until 2001. I could write a book about each one of those shows (and maybe one day I will!). I did two “Garfields” which were not great movies but working with Bill Murray was really unforgettable. And I supervised and mixed “The Fault In Our Stars,” and that was a wonderful and meaningful experience.

But the film I like the best is “310 to Yuma,” and I like it for so many reasons. I like it primarily because it’s a Western and it’s got guns and horses and spurs and all that good stuff that Westerns must have, but also because it is the kind of movie where every single sound is totally plot- or character driven. As simple as that may sound, it resulted in a very satisfying experience. Plus, it’s a good movie.

In your words, what exactly does a Supervising Sound Editor do?

A director once told me that he really wanted to do everything on his film himself, but now, as a director, he was only allowed to tell everybody else what to do. I’m very sympathetic to that and I try to help the director achieve his goals. I try to get to know him and what he needs and understand the vision of his film. Simply put, I see myself as the sound extension of the director. I make sure he hears what he wants to hear, communicates the story he wants to tell, as well as faithfully executing the sonic challenges he wants to express.

I often like to imagine I’m the creative force behind the soundtrack of these films, but honestly I am only a trussed-up worker-bee, taking directions and challenging myself to deliver something I think is perhaps better than what was requested, as well as hitting the target set forth by the director precisely on the head. There’s also a lot of management duties and schedule-making, but I seldom write about that.

Give us a breakdown of a big budget film like LOGAN. How many people are
working in the sound department in post-production? How long do you and your team have to complete your end of the film? Do you generally work with the same

I am fortunate to work a lot at Fox, where we’ve established an enlightened work flow for me. Our method seems to get results and head off post sound problems as well. I start early on the show during principle photography and as the scenes are cut together by the picture editors, I fancy them up with sound effects and cleaned-up dialogue. Later, when the post editorial is in full swing, I’ll expand my crew to include dialogue editors and sound effects editors. A film like Logan had a healthy budget but didn’t have a long post schedule, so we were asked to work weekends and long hours. In the end, I had two sound designers, two sound effects editors, two foley editors, and four dialogue and ADR editors, not to mention two assistants. This is actually a small crew to bring this kind of film to the mix stage. Much of the work gets finessed at the mix, which is the battlefield trenches for getting all the ideas to gel and finished in time. There’s always a big chunk of the budget for looping, which can be extensive, as well as temp mixing and audience previews. Yes, I like to work with the same people whenever I can, but schedules often don’t permit that luxury.

Is there a type of project that you like to work on that you haven’t worked on yet?

As I’ve worked on more and more films over the years, my goals have changed. There was a time I thought I’d like to do a big science fiction thriller, but I’ve actually learned that genres alone don’t make the most satisfying films. What tickles my fancy are films rich on character development with some insight into the human condition. Now, no one goes out and says, “I’m gonna make the greatest human condition film this town’s ever seen!” But if they’re relying on car chases or space battles and they’ve neglected depth of character, then I’m not gonna get too excited about it no matter how “special” the special effects are.

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind doing a war movie (mostly WWII for my taste) or even a musical. But musicals don’t spend any time on sound effects, so let’s scratch that one off the list and just say WWII. With characters!

What is your passion in life besides sound?

Sound is my passion, but if you take sound away there’s my great interest in music – but that’s sound too. I’ve often imagined going back into radio (I ran the college radio station WUOG in Athens, Georgia during my college years) but I would only do that if I could DJ a radio show that would blend music and sounds into a cohesive story – but that’s what I do now. So, what I probably like after all that is to travel, because over the years I’ve really enjoyed travelling and recording sounds and sound effects in interesting and distant locations. But … that’s sound again.

What movie have you watched the most times in your life?

I assume you mean what movie have I voluntarily watched most often that I haven’t worked on? Because when you work on a film you actually watch it hundreds of times until you memorize every frame of it. And that concept prevents me from watching most movies more than once or twice. However, my favorite movie would have to be “Withnail and I,” which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but ticks all the boxes for me.

What advice do you have for people who would like to do what you do for a living one day?

I would suggest that if you want to get into theatrical movie sound then you should make sure you’re ready for the long hours and hard work, and then you should find people who are currently making films (or shorts or TV shows or documentaries) and offer to work for them for FREE. Just get your foot in the door and do anything and everything you can to get familiar with the process and begin to focus on the area where you want to work. And one day (if you still like it and it likes you back), somebody will say, “Hey, you should be getting paid for this stuff.” Then you’re on your way.

donald sylvester

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.


Interview with Supervising Sound Editor Wylie Stateman (The Hateful Eight, Home Alone, JFK)

wylie_stateman.jpgWylie Statement is a gem. It’s a simple as that. This is truly one of my favorite interviews. In my subjective opinion, it’s a must read for anyone working in the industry today, and for those attempting to get into the industry. His answers were entertaining, educational, and there is a theme that ties it all together. See if you can figure it out. Hope you enjoy.

See Wylie’s full list of credits – 7 Oscar nominations for Sound Editing: (Born on the 4th of July (1989), Cliffhanger (1993), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Wanted (2008), Inglourious Basterds (2009), Django Unchained (2012), Lone Survivor (2013).

Matthew Toffolo: How would you describe what a Supervising Sound Editor does in one sentence?

Wylie Stateman: A supervising sound editor serves the director, editor and production as the project’s audio architect; providing creative oversight over planning, sound design, sound editorial, and delivery of the finished sound track.

MT: How is the Quentin Tarantino experience? (The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained, Inglourious Basterds, Grindhouse, Kill Bill)?

WS: Quentin Tarantino is truly a force of cinematic nature. Quentin sees film the way a philosopher sees life: it’s fundamentally interesting; it’s personal; it has intervals of both width and depth; and, of course, at key moments in time, it all ties together. For sure in QT’s case, it all ties to a unique writing and cinematic sense and style. Quentin celebrates character intensity.

Driven by his sensibilities in using musical score along with songs and overlapping sound design, Quentin knows how to harness key sonic moments and make them serve his characters and his story. Working along side of Quentin is inspirational. He challenges you to look for ideas in service to your (and his) intentions; in service to creative ways to tell story; and in collaboration with big picture ideas.

Quentin also taught me the value in studying historical film references. He often provided specific examples of films that he felt advanced filmmaking or some aspect of sound specifically. For “Kill Bill”, we reviewed Quentin’s fascination with early Hong Kong films. On “Grindhouse”, he once referenced a trailer that he had seen some thirty years prior as having left a lasting impression on him (sound-wise). Sure enough, the next day a small roll of 35mm film arrived and we had the chance to review an original William Friedkin “Exorcist” trailer, circa 1973. It served as an informative reference for the movement of sound through the surround speaker field.

Every Quentin film has an origin story that is personal to his life long pursuit of cinema. Quentin personally hand picks his filmmaking family on every project. His producers and department heads are always part of his most trusted assets. The production team and, after production, the cutting room is always populated with smart, devoted, traditional, and not-so-traditional, highly talented people. Quentin is the driving force out in front of the team, thoroughly inspiring everyone.

PHOTO: Ennio Morricone & Quentin Tarantino finish the score for THE HATEFUL EIGHT:


MT: You’ve also worked on more than a few Oliver Stone films? What is this experience like? How is it different than working on other studio films?

WS: Oliver Stone’s body of work is at the heart and soul of my resume. I met Oliver at the right time during his second filmmaking endeavor, “Salvador”. I began serving as his sound designer and supervising sound editor immediately after the first “Wall Street”. I’ve worked with Oliver consistently for over three decades and on more than twenty of his original creative projects.

Oliver asks great questions, sets a high bar intellectually, and makes films with complex layered story lines. With Oliver, we blazed new rules in terms of layered story and layered dialogue; we are always attempting to weave story exposition into what feels like dramatic action. I recommend that you take a look and listen to Oliver’s film “Any Given Sunday”. In one scene Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx are seated having a lunchtime conversation. The dialogue unfolds with intensity and the drama builds to a climax with visually intercut scenes with the chariot race from the original “Ben Hur”. Oliver’s films are propelled through experimental ideas and a damn-the-torpedoes cutting style. Oliver loves to construct stories with an unfolding of ideas through visuals, abstract sonic elements, real life events, and words. With great courage, Oliver created a style of filmmaking that has influenced every generation that has followed.

It has been one of my life’s great professional pleasures to have helped him shape his truly recognizable voice. Oliver writes, produces and directs his projects. I have learned to trust Oliver, and am grateful, Oliver has trusted in me.

PHOTO: Wylie on “The Hateful Eight” set:


MT: Were there some films you worked on that you thought would not do well financially and were big hits? Or, films you assumed were going to be a big success, but ended up not doing well?

WS: My mentor, the very accomplished editor, Paul Hirsch, described it well enough: “There are only three potential outcomes for film: good box office/good reviews, good box office/bad reviews, bad box office/bad reviews; the first two considered acceptable in most cases”.

Making a movie requires an ability (hell, necessity), to go all in; to totally love the thing; to commit yourself completely to it; and to demonstrate an unwavering devotion to the filmmaking cause. Success, surprise or not, does always feel like a wave of great euphoria. Yet, on the other hand, it is a soul-sucking, often personal feeling of failure or even defeat, when you swing with all your heart and miss.

I have learned that the success of a film is highly dependent on the ever changing cultural mood of the day. In the throes of constructing a film, it is hard to have any objectivity around box office potential. A film’s sound track is merely a piece of that puzzle and my part is to press my creative team to develop and deliver the most interesting, informative sound possible. That is my goal on every project.

After all is said, felt and done, great successes have many fathers; failures in Hollywood are often treated as orphans.

MT: Every year I watch the “Home Alone” films. Are you surprised that both films still stand the test of time and perhaps my kid’s kids will be watching the film each year? How was this working experience? There is such a great musical score/sound design that sets that film’s tone and feel in the beginning. It gets me every single time.

WS: It is a great film. Directed by Chris Columbus with music composed by John William, the first “Home Alone” film was such a wonderful surprise. Chris Columbus and Raja Gosnell, the film’s editors, nailed the piece. From start to finish, it promises, delivers, and above all, entertains.

I’m glad that it has a place in the hearts of future generations. I think that “Home Alone” possessed the right mix of relatable family circumstance; an unstoppable boy as your relatable young hero; timeless pratfall comedy; great bad guy casting; and fun-to-visualize story lines. All of these pulled tightly together with emotional thematic music. Like lightning in a bottle, the “Home Alone” film franchise was written and produced by John Hughes, a man I adored. I learned comedy sound design with John’s unrelenting support. He understood middle American life and used that understanding to create coming-of-age comedies that tickled insecurities, made people laugh and even, on occasion, enjoy an unexpected good cry.

John once described his desired place in the industry as the ‘Woody Allen for all those peoples west of New Jersey’. I loved that about John. He was an important story originator, filmmaker, director, and writer of meaningful contemporary comedy. He was a true gem.

MT: You’ve been nominated for an Oscar 7 times but have always come home empty. What is that experience like? Is it just an honor to be nominated, or do you really want that statue?

WS: It is always a thrill and an honor to be nominated. Each project is such a different journey and you never really know how these things will turn out. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science is a great institution that was created to seek, showcase and celebrate excellence. The Oscars are seen by some in the press as a path to creative or professional immortality (one for the obituaries) and so, to be nominated, well, that might be likened to being a runner-up to, or at the least very close to immortality.

Going to the Oscar show and not winning a statue is a uniquely Hollywood roller coaster ride: five people with their hearts in their hands, all on camera, where four will feel crestfallen while one is anointed. My mentor, friend and Oscar winner for the original “Star Wars”, Paul Hirsch, once referred the experience as something akin to an old fashioned bull fight: “seems fun for everybody, but the bull”.

Thinking as an artist and filmmaker, it a tremendous accomplishment just to be invited to join the Academy and to be a member in good standing of such a prestigious organization. It’s easy to get lost in the award season noise, but I still truly find it inspiring at the end of each year to sit down, watch (and hear) the great works that my industry peers have created. Being singled out as one of the five artists of merit in that year’s field of artists is each time, nothing short of mind-blowing.

MT: How has sound design changed from a technology and creative point of view from the year you started to today?

WS: My career as a sound designer now spans four decades. Working first with analogue technology was literally hands-on; you actually touched the film stock. There were tools based around the Moviola, mechanical synchronizers, and tape splicers. It was the golden audio age where iconic analogue films such as “Star Wars” and “Apocalypse Now” were made. I was a sound designer on the original film ”Tron”, the bio-pic musical “Coal Miners Daughter”, and “The Long Riders”. As an example of where we came from, “The Long Riders” was mixed and finished in a MONO track format because, at that time, Warner Brothers (the pioneers of cinema sound in 1927) was still not yet entirely committed to releasing films in STEREO for theatrical distribution.

Things began to change quickly late in the 1980’s, when the industry began departing from analogue film tape-based sound and turning towards digital data and reliable multichannel theatrical playback systems. New digital field recorders changed the ways in which we could capture and archive our sound design elements. Computer-based sound libraries and advancements in editing workstations changed how we cut, layered, and mixed. Eventually, all things downloadable would come along and change the tools again. The market for talent and the possibilities offered to and from the sound design community opened; creative innovations again flowed to meet the challenges offered as a result of digital media.

Sound design, as a creative art form, continues to be technically-driven. It is considered by many still to be on the verge of yet another new technical revolution; likely, the immersive frontier. Finally, films someday might sonically bark as efficiently as they might visually bite.

MT: Where do you see the future of Sound Designing in film?

WS: Stories will be told in ways filmmakers of the past could never have facilitated. Thanks to the ‘internet of everything’ and by that I mean downloadable niche content, Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR); the potential contribution that future sound designers can make has only just begun. Packets of sound (or ‘sound objects’) are the new building blocks of innovative sound design. Ultra high fidelity “samples” that are utilized in digital playback instruments available literally at the artists’ fingertips, all serve the future where experimentation becomes faster and further unhinged from technical limitations. Today and forever forward, immersive playback systems with greater sonic powers, and even greater numbers of sound placement options, will convincingly deliver “surround” sound anywhere or everywhere in any venue.

Sound design is an unlimited experimental art form because it is unique in the fact that it’s invisible; can’t be held; can’t be stopped. When you stop sound or “pause it”, it goes away.

MT: You’ve been working in the industry for 35+ years on over 100+ productions. Is there is a film or two that you’re most proud of?

WS: Working on your first film is surely a thrill.

Establishing long term credibility as a sound designer usually requires broadening one’s knowledge of music, film, and art in various other forms. I have found that each project served as a building block towards a wide catalog of filmmaking lessons. Fiction, non-fiction, comedy, musical, thriller, horror, action, adventure, romance – all have their challenges and all feed into a lifetime of content creation in its various genre forms.

Knocking filmmaker expectations out of the park or maybe just advancing sound design as an appreciable art form, be it on a single project or an entire genre of filmmaking – this is what makes me proud as a sound designer.

MT: Is there a type of film that you haven’t worked on yet that you would love to work on?

WS: Filmmakers are often comfortable with the voice that they have come to know. There are a few filmmakers with whom I would love to someday have an opportunity to work: Chris Nolan, Wes Anderson, Jeff Nichols, Spike Jones, and Denis Villeneuve come to mind. It would be a great honor and challenge to walk in stride with them, building on their previous sonic footprints. Whatever the film, there is an opportunity to help exercise, in a meaningful way, the filmmaker’s voice – be it clarifying it, extending it, or even creating something entirely off the scripted page. Helping to find, interpret and explore sound in its various forms on any given project is what excites me most.

MT: What makes a great sound designer? What skills does he/she need?

WS: A successful sound designer mines the gap between hearing and listening. It might seem a bit esoteric to visual thinkers, but there is a difference between listening and hearing. People who listen absorb and process the sound coming at them, while people who hear know the sound artistically they want to hear. When you are mixing sounds, it is even more important to be able to hear. Good sound designers exercise their ability to hear and then, only after that, focus on those bits worth listening to.

Having technology on your side is helpful. Partnering with diverse and interesting talent is essential to growth, as a designer, team member and/or team leader. Success comes by resolving difficult filmmaking challenges and by putting first client needs and their artistic desires.

To be a great sound designer, what’s also really helpful (and necessary!) is compelling content on which to practice. Practice expands hearing as well as refines one’s ability to listen.

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve working on, have you watched the most times in your life?

WS: Repeat audience viewing is the ultimate form of flattery for filmmakers. There are film advancements that beg the question: how do they do that? In every genre, there are examples of these black swans; outliers that beg to be seen again and again. Seeing for the first time “Alien” or “Across the Universe”, as well as “Avatar” or “Gravity” in 3D, these and others reinforce why, as filmmakers, we need to watch, listen to, and support one another; support our colleagues.

Not for nothing, it feels unimportant to play favorites because films are “time of life” dependent. I would have to admit though, seeing certain films over and over can be comforting, even joyful.

MT: Where did you grow up? How did you get into working in the film industry?

WS: Sound has been my life-long passion. I have been making and archiving recordings since I was five. I began my career as a sound editor and, in 1982, joined Lon Bender in founding Soundelux. Soundelux, The Hollywood Edge, Modern Music and the many offshoots became some of the most prolific independent sound companies ever to grace post production in Hollywood.

I spent my early years of life in NY on Long Island in a small working class community on the edge of Levittown. I lived amongst friends till the day after high school graduation when I left by bus for an adventure in California. The bus service was called the Grey Rabbit. It left from Greenwich Village, stopping in the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco and finishing up at the Greyhound station in L.A. at Hollywood Blvd. and Vine Street. The bus was a 1940s scorpion trail highway cruiser with the words “Church of World Community Consensus” painted on its side. That was the how, in how I came to Hollywood. The why took many more years to discover.

As luck would have it, my lifelong friends Steve and Evan Green moved to Beverly Hills with their father Barry Green a year earlier. Barry was extraordinarily generous and took me in. He was manufacturing the Guillotine Tape Splicer and Moviola editing products. I was given a chance to work in the rental department of J&R Film Company. We rented the last generation of film editing equipment, most of which had not been seriously upgraded technically for more than fifty years. This was my entry and my coup. I was introduced to filmmaking, filmmakers, the major studios and traditional post production work on a broad scale across “Hollywood”.

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Sound Editor Piero Mura (The Accountant, 500 Days of Summer)

piero_mura.jpgPiero Mura has worked in the sound department on over 100 films in the last 25+ years. His list of credits include Ben Hur, Fast & Furious 6, Skyfall, Warrior, War of the Worlds, and Training Day to name a few. It was an honor talking to him about his career and sound in general.

Matthew Toffolo: How would you describe what a Sound Effect Editor does in one sentence?

Piero Mura: A Sound Effects Editor directs the attention of the audience to what he/she believes is important in terms of story and entertainment.

MT: You were the Sound Designer on the the remake of Ben-Hur. A film that did not do well box office-wise. You work on months on a film that I’m sure you’re proud of and then it quickly goes away after it opens. How does that feel?

PM: Ben Hur 2016 did not go away after it opened. As I write it is still being released in the foreign markets and it’s doing reasonably well. There is always a bit of disappointment when a movie you work on doesn’t find it’s audience but it’s the nature of what we do. We put our work out there and we move on. If I think a movie is a good movie the fact that made money or not is irrelevant. I leave the commercial aspect of our industry to others.

MT: Were there some films you worked on that you thought would not do well financially and were big hits? Or, films you assumed were going to be a big success, but ended up not doing well?

PM: As I said I leave it to others to make this kind of considerations. But I was happy when “500 Days of Summer” was well received by a large audience. Probably larger than i thought at the time.

Zooey Deschanel & Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “500 Days of Summer”


MT: How has sound mixing changed from a technology and creative point of view from the year you started to today?

PM: Everything in post-production changed in the last twenty years.
I believe that they were positive changes. Today the line between mixing and editing is not as well defined as it used to be.

Quite a few sound editors now seat behind the faders and a number of mixers do not hesitate to do sound design or supervise.

Personally I like the opportunity to bring to the stage coherent tracks
where backgrounds, sound effects and foley are already balanced and pre-panned. Establishing spacial relations helps me to understand the sequence better and go a little deeper with my work.

MT: Where do you see the future of Sound Designing in film?

PM: Probably it will be a good future. It’s a fun thing to do and a lot of people would want to be part of it
MT: You’ve been working in the industry for 30+ years on over 100+ productions. Is there is a film or two that you’re most proud of?

PM: If I have to pick one I would pick Training Day. I believe is one of the best movies of the last twenty years. The late George Simpson was the sound supervisor. I cut the sound effects together with a few other sound editors. There’s an important creative line that connects Training Day with Harsh Times,Street Kings and Sabotage.

Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke in “Training Day”:


MT: What makes a great sound designer? What skills does he/she need?

PM: Patience and endurance. Also humility helps.
Never go for the esthetic qualities of a sound.
If it is not helping the story it’s beauty is useless.
As far as skills needed I believe that the best skill to have is to be open to learn from others.
Actually this is the same advise I was given when i started.

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve working on, have you watched the most times in your life?

PM: The Godfather. Characters and story are incredible in this movie.

MT: Where did you grow up? How did you get into working in the film industry?

PM: I was born and grew up in Rome. I started as an apprentice in the Sound Department of the Cinecitta’ Studios. After a couple of years I I got the chance to edit something. It felt good and I liked it.
And I still do.


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Sound Effects Editor Matt Snedecor (Revolutionary Road, The Jinx)

Starting off as an Engineer in the music industry, Matt Snedecor worked with Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, Faith Hill, and Luther Vandross, to name a few. Since 2005, he’s one of the top  movie sound effects designers working today. It was an honor to chat with Matt about his job and career.

Matthew Toffolo: What is the main job being a sound effects editor?

Matt Snedecor: Effects editors are responsible for building the entire sonic environment for a film, everything from backgrounds to the sync effects we see on screen. The majority (90% and up) of the sounds heard in film are added by editors. But it’s more than just see car, hear car. We also need to come up with sounds that identify with characters or moods or that tell stories without the audience having to see something on screen to know what’s happening. There’s also sound design moments we need to build, tonal ideas that aren’t so much real world effects, but act more like music for setting up emotions that need to be conveyed.

MT: In a typical production, how many post-production sound crew members are there? Do you usually work with the same team?

MS: I usually work with the same crew of 2-3 other people. We work on smaller features and documentaries, so it can usually be handled by only a few people. 1 Dialogue editor, 1-2 effects editors, sometimes a music and/or foley editor. In my case, Coll Anderson, the re-recording mixer is also the supervisor and does some of the effects editing as well. So it’s a small crew. When I work with other supervisors, it varies a bit depending on the size of the film, but unless it’s a large Hollywood film that can have 10, 15 editors or more, our crews are generally around 5 or less.

MT: Are some directors more hands on than others when it comes to sound design?

MS: Oh definitely. There’s some directors that go by the theory that less is more, which is nice sometimes because it’s not only a little easier on us, but depending on the film, usually works really well to make the film better. It’s not getting overblown with sound design in every spot that there’s silence. And then there’s other directors that are totally into designing cool tones and sounds and come in with a theme of how they want things to sound. That’s generally the side we love to work with since it allows us to get creative and have fun with the film once they give us their ideas. Then we just get to dive in for a few weeks to try things and come back to them to see what works.

MT: You’ve been working in the industry for the last 10 years in over 60 productions. Is there is a film or two that you’re most proud of?

MS: There’s a few I can think of. A film called “Bleed For This” that will be out later this year. It’s a boxing movie that was alot of fun to build the fight scenes and everyone was really happy with how it came out. Also HBO’s series “The Jinx” comes to mind since it was nominated for an Emmy for sound editing so I’m very proud of that. Another is a film called “Blue Ruin” which had some great gore and violent scenes I had to design and the whole film came out great and did very well critically.

MT: Is there a type of film that you haven’t worked on yet that you would love to work on?

MS: Not that I can think of. I’ve been on everything from documentaries, vampire & horror, dark violent thrillers, dramas, now a boxing film, and even a rom com or 2. I can end up finding enjoyment out of just about anything that comes my way, so I just take things as they come and I don’t really think about it until I get something I’ve never done before.

MT: How has sound design changed from a technology and creative point of view from the year you started to today?

MS: The technology has definitely changed things at a ridiculous rate since I’ve started. The amount of tools available to us in the digital domain on our computers is amazing. There’s almost too many applications available, you can go a little crazy and get sucked into black holes of playing with sounds for hours upon hours. Trying out different plugins that all do something slightly different. When I started back in the music industry in the early 2000’s, everything was still hardware effects boxes and midi and analog tape was just coming to an end. Sound design was done using alot of samplers and keyboards and pitch and time changing. Now everything is available as a plugin with a plethora of parameters that can do all of that in one program.

MT: What makes a great sound effects editor? What skills does he/she need?

MS: A good ear obviously. Anything you can do while editing that can help the re-recording mixer do their job easier is going to help you get on their good side. Choosing the right sounds that helps them mix LESS. They have an incredibly hard job to do in making everyone happy on the mix stage, there’s so much going on, so the less they have to think about making my stuff work, the more they like me. You also have to be technically savvy, know how to use your tools, and use them quickly. It’s like that in any job. Also, the more artistic you can make things, the better the final product will be. There’s actually a bit of an art in editing effects to fit in the right holes and make their own subconscious rhythm, much like they’re an instrument.

MT: How did you get started? Was this something you knew about growing up and dreamed of doing? Or did the job choose you?

MS: I actually started out in the music recording industry which is where I wanted to be. I worked at The Hit Factory in New York straight out of college, being a general assistant for minimum wage, doing food runs, coffee runs, studio roadie for the most part. As I came up through the ranks there, I started engineering just as the industry was on it’s downfall. Budgets disappeared, talent disappeared, and soon enough the big studios followed. It seemed like every studio I worked at closed down. So I decided to try out something new and get into Post. Better pay, better hours. Definitely a different type of work from music, but still creative and fun and I didn’t feel like I was completely starting over or changing careers. I met Coll Anderson and he liked my work ethic and attitude and brought me on as his assistant. I learned the Post world and have been working for him ever since.

MT: Is there a different game-plan in developing the sound when working on different genres?

MS: It goes back somewhat to your question about directors. It depends on them a bit and what they’re looking for on their particular film. No matter the genre. The film can be of a particular genre but if the director is trying to make something new, we can step outside the box of what’s supposed be “the norm” of that genre and try to make it sound different. Every film has the basic nuts and bolts we start with for sound, the foley, backgrounds, hard effects, but it’s the extra sound design and music and the way everything is mixed that really defines the direction the film goes.

MT: Besides the films you’ve worked on, what movie have you seen the most in your life?

MS: Probably “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. Mostly because I’m a huge Hunter S. Thompson fan and that film is just a lot of ridiculous fun. Always watchable….to me at least.


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Emmy Winning Sound Designer Andy Kennedy (Band of Brothers, Generation Kill)

Andy Kennedy is easily one of the most skilled Sound Designers working today. He has worked on many landmark productions besides his two Emmy winning shows for Best Sound in “Band of Brothers” and “Generation Kill”. He has worked on “Game of Thrones”, “Batman Begins”, the recent “War & Peace” series, 5 of the “Harry Potter” films, and “The Imitation Game” to name a few.

Go to his website:

It was a pleasure to chat with Andy about the art of Sound Design in film and his career.

Matthew Toffolo: You’ve worked on over 90 productions in the sound department in the last 35 years. Is there a job you’ve done that you’re most proud of?

Andy Kennedy: Some of the early projects – It was a time of mixed technology and a challenge creatively. ‘The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb’ was made in Bristol by animators who worked with just a Bolex camera, hence their name the Bolex Brothers. I worked with a Synclavier – an Audiofile – 16mm and 35mmm Mag and a 24 track multitrack tape. It was made with love and was a wonderful collaboration of like minded individuals with music crafted by The Startled Insects. We finished the mix in Bristol and everyone came to the dubbing theatre at the end.

Watch on YouTube

Creatively, ‘Blueberry’ or ‘Renegade’ (US title). A bizarre and unusual film about a caygeon cowboy who Hallucinates a lot on Ayahasca – I worked in Paris with the director and found the whole thing immersive and stunning visually and a real challenge. But a bit hard for the audience to grasp.

Watch on YouTube

MT: In the initial stages do you generally have a lengthy discussion with the director about themes, tone etc..? Are some directors more hands on than others when it comes to sound design?

AK: There is a spotting session – normally with the editor and director somewhere near the final cut which involves understanding the intentions of the material. Any narrative information that the sound can bring to the final process and the setting. There is generally a lot of discussion about dialogue – quality and intelligibility and whether to ADR or not. Some directors prefer original performance. So, capturing the dialogue places a lot of pressure on the production sound mixer. For me, what we do in sound is generally a collaborative process and as technicians we all try to get the best from the material.

Ultimately it is the director that guides our efforts so if he or she wants to play the scene with full on music, then so be it. We are hired on the basis of our skills and experience and can offer only that – the final vision and sound is the director’s call.

MT: In a typical studio film, how many post-production sound crew members are there? Do you usually work with the same team?

AK: Obviously, crews tend to stick together – The larger the budget the larger the crew. Today ‘packages’ or ‘All in Post production deals’ have changed the nature of true freelancing here in the UK. Sometimes the post sound budget is tied into other aspects, such as picture and visual effects and this can dictate how or where the soundtrack is done. Studio films differ because they can afford too. Dependant on the content of the film and the schedule this plays a big part in dictating the size of the sound crew. If you have an actionmovie with tons of visual effects sequences then of course you need a large effects editing crew. The dialogueand foley department expand and contract dependant on the quality of the production recordings too.

We also ‘Temp’ Films a lot before the final process for marketing reasons, so the crew can expand at these moments.

Modern soundtrack are far more complex then ever before – There are multiple formats at delivery and the final soundtrack has to play in Dolby Atmos – 7.1 – 5.1 – stereo and on your mobile device. The attention to detail is very important and QC of all areas of the process is a critical part. This leads to other roles that are not always related to sound editing and design but also tech support and management.

MT: Is their a core difference between working on a TV episode in comparison to a feature film?

AK: Time.

Films are more generous and TV is much quicker to the final post. TV today has high ambitions and can look and feel like a full scale movie although the budget and the time are much shorter.

Some TV series can seem like a 10 hour film narrative wise, that makes it possible to explore themes and settings in a much more leisurely way then with a film. Also if it’s full on action, you just have to work faster and make broader brush strokes to get a result then you would with a film and also with a much smaller crew.

MT: You’ve won 2 Emmys for your work (Band of Brothers, Generation Kill). Where are your Emmys right now? Are you proud of your wins, or is it really all just about the work?

AK: They are on a window ledge with my other awards. It is an honour to get recognition for the work we do. Both B.O.B and Generation Kill were for HBO. They tend to have a high quality finish, with schedules that give soundtracks time for the attention to detail required. Generally things that go ‘bang’ tend to get noticed for sound and both projects where based on written accounts of real conflict and I researched and recorded as much as possible while working with military advisors to check that the audio elements sounded ‘real’ or as close to the real thing as physically possible. Authentic sound is really important when trying to re-create the reality of war. Arms, transport and mechanics to the sound of distant battle and the visceral intensity of being under fire through to the military radio sounds and commands with soldiers ‘off stage’ background banter as the final cream on the cake.

PHOTO: Creating the sounds of Easy Company in “Band of Brothers”:


MT: What is the key job description for a sound effects editor?

AK: A good sound effects collection is a must on lower budget shows. If it’s a movie then the Sound designer/Supervisor will furnish you with the material you need to cut. Accuracy and choice is fundamental and to a certain extent taste!

For example If your cutting a fight scene it’s worth knowing what is expected – ‘Tarantino blood fest’ or a ‘Bourne’ reality piece. That, then dictates to the palette of sounds you can use.

Personally I record as much as possible even if there is little or no budget. An original sound beats most commercial library sounds, especially if they have been recorded with the project in mind. Today you have to know your DAW inside out – you need to have a good grasp of plug ins and ultimately you should have an ear for the ‘balance’ of sounds prior to the mix.

The latest tech allows fundamentally complete control over the audio. Sound is a collaboration and others will be bringing different material to the table. I believe in everyone ‘listening’ and bounce a mix at the end of each day so my colleagues can hear what is going on with Fx,dialogue or backgrounds and hopefully the music.

You have to be able to accurately manually conform your effects tracks when there are picture changes. The conform packages can do it quicker but tend to turn sound design into bar code and require a lot of maintenance to stop you losing any nuisance in the effects, a computer program just cannot figure this out. Be willing to change things – your idea may be cool but if it is too complex or in the wrong frequency it may not play with other elements – especially music!

MT: What are the key traits you’re looking for in when working with/hiring your sound team?

AK: Talent, pleasant personality and a sense of humour! It helps if the said person has technical skills – you just can’t escape it – everything is computerised and some people are really creative but can’t figure out bus routing and expect others to help. With the shrinking time frames and budgets, you can’t do a sound job without some knowledge of work flows, procedure and technique. I teach the next generation this at film school and regardless of gender you have to have a bit of ‘geek’ in you to succeed in sound. The ‘mechanical’ industry I joined has been superseded with computer systems, so the dexterity of the physical medium has been replaced by a digital equivalent. Even physically recording a final mix has been replaced by complex workflows and automation management and then stored digitally. Change is a daily thing and fine cuts are now a thing of the past. To remain flexible and creative you have to know how to handle the last minute changes and not go into melt down. So half of you needs be artistic and the other half technically practical!

MT: You were the sound designer on the first season of the landmark show “Game of Thrones”. How was your experience working on that show and setting the template of sound design for the entire series run?

AK: Yes, setting the style of a show at the opening can be a challenge. Again, I requested time to record before we started. Game of Thrones is a massive task and at the beginning no one was sure what it should sound like.

Season one had no large scale battles or big visual effects set pieces that it has grown into now, but there was a ton of ambience and location narrative to be filled in. Again I researched as much as I could – read everything, absorbed the series bible, scripts and had as much art department material as possible because visual effects where running in parallel with our schedule so not a lot was finished till the end. I recorded a lot of weaponry sounds and prepped lots of sword blades extracted from a variety of scabbards as everyone is under threat in the show! Animal recordings of Horses in as many settings as possible from as many perspectives as possible. Trained ravens flying across mic arrays and calls and background ‘loading and unloading’ action for busy castle scenes. The term ‘Wind and Foley’ was batted around at the beginning of discussions but it was much, much more then that ambience wise. Winter fell has a population of a couple of hundred and is a bit like Scotland. Kings landing is much more Mediterranean and has a population of thousands. Castle black is a military camp in an arctic environment with a couple of hundred men. Daenery’s is traveling across a continent that resembles the Arizona desert. The sonic story has to be believable so the audience understands when we change locations on interior scenes exactly where we are.

Once we got started I felt that I was in catch up mode constantly. We had a team of Irish sound editors and Stefan, the supervisor over in Dublin and I worked from my studio in the UK. I was mastering the recordings – laying up sound design scenes on two or three shows at the same time and reviewing lay ups plus feeding the effects editors with sounds and ambiences constantly.

It was tough but we all worked hard to meet the deadlines and did our best in very challenging circumstances. I am proud of what we all managed to do and was sad it did not continue for us. Again the visual effects and sound post deal was based in Dublin – Series Two it was all done in the US – for the series producers I understand why. They where away from home for a good part of half the year shooting and the post being done in Ireland meant a 16 hour flight from LA via Newark and never seeing their kids. The LA option was a better fit for them and they could oversee the finished work in more harmonious family situation. They still shoot in Belfast as a production base and cut there but visual effects and sound post is finished in the states.

MT: You seem to have consistently worked on 3-5 projects a year. How long do you typically work on a movie?

AK: It varies, everything is dependant on budget and of course, the type of project. Some period shows are short dependant on original production sound and content. Action movies can take longer to craft and if the visual effects content is high it is, strangely difficult to weave ‘believable’ sound to a half finished image. As I mentioned earlier – it is rare to get a ‘locked’ edit these days so everything is changing on a constant basis. This can have implications as to when you start or finish a film and overlaps do occur.

MT: What film, besides the ones your worked on, have you seen the most times in your life?

AK: It has got to be ‘2001’ – I saw it when I was a kid and have seen it many times since. Stanley Kubrick’s films have always felt totally different to any other movies of the same era. ‘Barry Lyndon’ fascinated me when I was young as it was all photographed in natural light aside from industrial candles that lit the interior scenes.

So ‘The Revenant’ was not the first film to be shot by natural light – only difference was Stanley, had to use untested high speed film stock – work with wide apertures and critical focus and practically reinvent the camera lens to get the result. So for me it is not the technology that counts but what you do with it.


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Music Editor/Composer John M. Davis (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies)

The music editor is a type of sound editor in film responsible for compiling, editing, and syncing music during the production of a soundtrack. Among the music editor’s roles is creating a “temp track”, which is a “mock-up” of the film’s soundtrack using pre-existing elements to use for editing, audience previews, and other purposes while the film’s commissioned score is being composed.

John M. Davis is one of the most talented people I have had the pleasure to interview. Just go to this website and explore his world of music.

Matthew Toffolo: I love the photo of you on your website. It describes who you are in one picture. Composing attire. The dog you obviously love. Cup of coffee. Piano. A rocking chair for thinking. Art Work. And a relaxed but determined look on your face. As they say, a picture says a 1000 words, or in your case a 1,000,000 words! 

John M. Davis: I’m glad you like it.  I don’t photograph particularly well, so I find all the accoutrements more interesting than me.  I do like that piano; it’s a 1954 Steinway we inherited from my wife’s grandfather.  The dog is a whole Russian novel in himself.

Matthew: From an outside perspective, it seems like you’ve mastered the balance of working on your pet projects while being a successful Music Editor for Hollywood productions. How does one do it? 

John: I wish I knew.  I like the camaraderie and diversity of different projects.  I would like more jobs as a composer, but composers don’t have a union while music editors do, with pension and health insurance.  If I only composed for the small films and documentaries that I do then I couldn’t support a family.  I love playing live music for silent films, but only a handful of humans on the planet can make a living doing that.  When I retire from music editing I’m planning on composing large scale works for orchestra.  Whether anybody wants me to do that is an open question.

Matthew: Do you have a musical mentor? 

John: Not really.  Music is something I’ve always done.  I was arranging for bands and choirs from junior high on.  I went to NYU film school with the intention of becoming a director or screenwriter, but over time I discovered that my musical abilities were more unique and more marketable.

Matthew: Out of all your personal projects, what are you most proud of? And what would you love to share to our audience? 

John: Next Saturday I’m performing a live score with a quartet to the 1929 Dziga Vertov documentary “The Man With a Movie Camera” at the American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. I’m very proud of my performances at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Italy.  Early filmmakers saw cinema as the synthesis and apotheosis of all the arts, and live silent film music is the purest manifestation of music to picture.  Everything else we do — recording, editing, mixing under dialogue — is all a diminution of that ideal.

Matthew: Out of all your Music Editor work, what film was your best working experience? 

John: Working on a musical is the best.  “Black Nativity” was a film that almost no one saw, but I was on the set every day during the shoot, and I was involved in the entire post-production.  Nothing is better than having Jennifer Hudson in a church singing her heart out, capturing her live performance and using that in the final mix.  There were a lot of technical challenges involving playback, using earwigs (tiny radio controlled ear pieces), microphones hidden in her hair.  Then there was the tap dancing, the modern dance, choirs, the works! “The Producers” was also fun, especially when we could use the singing recorded on set and not the pre-records.

Matthew: What is the difference, if any, between working on a narrative film compared to working on a documentary? 

John: Some documentaries are very narrative, so you might score a montage the same way in either format.  A very dry talking heads type of documentary usually doesn’t support much music.  Some of the greatest scores of all time were written for documentaries.

Matthew: How do you choose your jobs? From working on short films to doing (more) paid work? It is all about the story? 

John: The more important consideration is the people you’re working with.  That said, in my experience the jobs choose you.  My phone rings just enough to keep me working throughout the year.  If I hit a dry spell it doesn’t last too long.  A few years ago when “Flight of the Conchords” was shooting in New York I thought “this is the perfect project for me!”  Unfortunately I had no idea how to get hired on it.<

Matthew: Ideally, where would you like your career to go in the next 5 years? More passion projects? More sound designing? Working on bigger productions? 

John: I would like to have composing be a more regular part of my work.  Right now it seems like it’s about 15% to 20% instead of 50%.  However, part of that is preconceptions.  If people see you as a music editor then they don’t think of you as a composer.

Matthew: What are the key qualities to be a great music editor? 

John: Surprisingly it’s not musicianship.  Being a musician is a help, but some of the more mad-scientist musicians I know would be terrible music editors.  The main requirement is being organized.  You have to keep track of the music, know which version is where, know how to fill out a cue sheet.  If you’re a musician who keeps their hard drive very tidy and doesn’t have a lot of files on your desktop, then you could be a music editor.  It goes without saying that you have to be able to cut on the beat, and you have to know something about musical structure.  You also have to get along with the director and the composer.

Matthew: What film, besides the ones you’ve work on, have you seen the most in your life? 

John: I’ll say “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”  That’s the only film poster I have in my studio.  John Williams has said that it is his favorite score, and I can see why.  The music is the means of communication between worlds.  It goes from drama to action to the most modernist and atonal to romantic, and the story is more ambitious and multi-continent expansive than almost any film before or since.

Matthew: What is your favorite era in music history? 

John: Despite my love of silent film, the best music was written later, in the 40’s to the 70’s — the Golden and Silver ages:  Steiner, Korngold, Herrmann, Mancini, Williams, Goldsmith, Morricone.  The fact that two of them are nominated this year for an Oscar is amazing.

Matthew: Do you see your job as a Music Editor changing because of technology in the future? 

John: Well, Pro Tools 12.5 will make my life easier, if it works as advertised, because I’ll be able to update a co-worker with the push of a button.  The new Melodyne 4 has a tempo detection function that I plan to put through its paces.  I’m always extremely up-to-date, and I’ll upgrade the very day something is released.

On the other hand, technology can make music too rigid, which works for a very few films.  I look forward to the day when technology makes it easy to capture the inspiration that happens in a spontaneous silent film performance.  It should be as fast to write notes in a notation program as it is on a piece of manuscript paper.  We’re getting there.  Technology should become more intuitive and bend the learning curve back to the humanistic.  It should capture lightening in a bottle, not turn out glass bricks.  Music is emotion.

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Foley Artist Marko Costanzo (Silence of the Lambs, The Departed, Life of Pi)

Foley is the reproduction of everyday sound effects that are added to film. These reproduced sounds can be anything from the swishing of clothing and footsteps to squeaky doors and breaking glass.

I was very fortunate to sit down with the brilliant and under appreciated Foley Artist Mark Costanzo. Marko has worked on over 500 productions and is a 2 time Emmy winner. (If the Academy had a category for Foley, Marko would have won more than a few Oscars.)

His list of credits consist of many of the greatest films of the last 30 years. See his IMDB list:

marko_costanzoMatthew Toffolo: Out of all the amazing films you’ve worked on, is there one or two that stand out that you’re most proud of?

Marko Costanzo: Wow!!! That’s a really hard choice. I have favorite movies that were really challenging to work on and others that I love just for themselves. “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” and “Life of Pi” and “Good Fellas” and “The Birdcage” and “Boardwalk Empire” and ….

Matthew: I just watched “Spotlight”, a film you were the Foley Artist on. There is a theme of “silence” in the sound design: What is not heard/What is not said. Was working on that film the definition of “less is more” when creating the sound effects?

Marko: Spotlight was indeed a wonderful film. There were many times where subtlety was more necessary than the normal amount of noise we add to the sound tracks. A tense moment can be emphasized with the nervous creak of leather or a sweaty brow wipe. Of course music is a key component to creating the mood for a scene, and the mixer was able to capture those moments with music and effects. A sprinkling of foley can enhance those times. We pretty much do what is required and “less is more” was indeed the intention for some moments.

Matthew: What makes a great foley artist? What skills does he/she need?

Marko: There are many great foley artist out there. I have worked with truly talented individuals that have amazed me with their abilities. To be a great foley artist I believe one must have relatively good reflexes. Eye-hand coordination is key to making a sound believable. Many times a sound can be perceived as correct if the sync is perfect.

You need to have some common sense and an imagination that can take you to the limits of an effect. Choosing what prop to use for the sound you want to make is essential. Like a chef, you look to see what sound you need to make, then chose the ingredients (props) and mix them together.

You need to be a good listener. We work for editors. Editors have different criterion for each show we work on. Some like it big and over the top. some like it subtle and more realistic. Each time a different foley editor would come into the room to supervise the recording, I would walk away with a better understanding about how things should sound. It’s important to gain the trust of your editors and listen to what they have to say. When they want something heavier you need to understand what they mean. Does heavier mean louder? Bigger? It’s a subjective art with lots of possible variations. It’s important to do things the way the client intends for it to be heard.

It helps to be a dancer or a mime or an athlete. This is a physical job that requires strength and coordination. I’m a 6 foot tall male weighing about 180 pounds trained in the marshal arts, acting and also a student of prestidigitation. I’ve trained myself to sound like a construction worker or an executive or a mobster or a messenger. Those are just some of the roles for men. I can also sound like a little child running on a playground or a sexy model clomping across a runway in stiletto heels. ( I have many pairs of 13-Wide woman’s shoes). You need to be able to portray, (through the body language of the actor) what emotion they are presenting. If an actor is acting drunk, those footsteps had better sound like they are coming from a drunken person, and not the straight forward footsteps of a business man on the way to work.

Matthew: How did you get started as a foley artist? Was it something you knew about growing up and dreamed of doing? Or did the job choose you?

Marko: At age 15 i was a practicing magician performing tricks for aunts and uncles and friends and local children. I wanted to be a Magician when I grew up. I was also involved with the drama department throughout high school and college. My major was business management, but I took as many film and television courses as possible. I wanted to be in front of the camera for all those years.

When I graduated I immediately started working on low budget feature films being shot in NYC. The was fun and I thought I would be working on sets as a grip or anything. I started to think I wanted to direct as well. It wasn’t until a friend introduced me to a post production studio in Manhattan did I even realize that Foley existed. I got involved in editing and one day they said I should go to the foley stage and watch what was going on. Elisha Birmbaum was the Foley Artist working on Sophie’s Choice. I watched as he moved in sync with the characters on screen. At one point they needed a pull chain light bulb sound and Elisha was not able to find a prop suitable prop for this effect. I immediately said I had one in my father’s workshop and would bring it to them the following day. I was permitted to make the foley sound for this. Afterwards I was told Elisha (NYC’s premier Foley Artist for 30 or so years) was looking for a replacement. I applied for the position and I have never looked back.

Matthew: Many of the movies you work on (including working with Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, and Woody Allen) are based in New York City. I’m assuming that’s where you were born and raised and are an expert at understanding the “pulse” of the city?

Marko: My entire working career has always been in NYC. From stand-up Comedy Clubs to working on the streets on low-budget films to landing the Foley Artist position at Sound One. It was always very exciting to be around the directors and actors that would come into sound stages and replace their voices or work on the editing of the film. I actually lived in Fort Lee, New Jersey for most of my career, which gave me easy access into Manhattan. Being a commuter into the city was a time consuming process and when given the opportunity to work on a Foley stage in New Jersey, I chose to give up the NYC life. C5 the Post Production Sound Facility I have been working with for the past 27 years build the largest facility for foley recording in the USA. It was 20 minutes from my house in a very quiet neighborhood. We have the capability to record huge sounds with our “LIVE” sound reflecting walls and more storage space for props than anyone could have imagined.

Matthew: How long does is generally take to do the foley for a feature film?

Marko: Foley recording for feature films vary tremendously from film to film. It usually boils down to the budget of the film. Nowadays, there is a surge of feature films and television shows that all require some Foley recording. Here is a general breakdown for Film and Television.

Low-budget films will allow 2-5 days of recording with some editing to tighten up the loose sync.

Most 1/2 hour or 1 hour televisions series will use 1-2 days
Medium budget films will get almost 2 weeks, depending on whether it is an action film or other type of sound intensive show.

Big Budgets will usually take 3-5 weeks. These films expect every nuance of sound imaginable.

Matthew: Is there a different game-plan in developing the sound when working on different genres (drama, comedy, action, comic book)? Or working on period pieces (like Boardwalk Empire) in comparison to a modern film?

Marko: I find that everyone we work with follow their own set of rules as to how a film is prepared for the final mix. Sometimes the sound supervisor will create lots of library sounds for as many scenes as they are capable of preparing. When they have exhausted their library of effects or their time for preparation, then the foley team will be given a list of what is still needed to be recorded.

Sometimes we go through the entire film and put Foley Sounds in for every possible moment. It really depends on how fast a project needs to get completed and how much money is available for post production. Foley is the fastest method for getting great sounds in sync with the actions on screen, but certainly not the cheapest. The Sound Supervisor needs to balance his budget and make sure the project get completed properly, in a timely manner and to the liking of the director.

Matthew: Besides the films you’ve worked on, what film have you seen the most in your life?

Marko: Brazil, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, Caddy Shack, Pulp Fiction. I love comedies, science fiction and quirky films. And for as many years that I have been in the film industry, I seldom just listen to the sound tracks of a film. I tend to get involved in the actors and what they have to say. Everything else in the film is usually just background. I want to hear what the writer is trying to say. I just recently viewed “The Reverant”. This film was beautifully shot, with music guiding the emotion of each scene. The effects tracks and foley was pristine and captivating. It is truly one of the best films I have seen.

Matthew: Who is/was your sound/foley artist mentor?

Marko: In the beginning Elisha Birmbaum of Sound One gave me my first opportunity in being a Foley Artist. Working at Sound One for the first five years of my career enabled me to meet and understand the many different people and ideas from all the different editors milling about in the Brill Building (the center of the NYC film industry for many years). All the editors and directors that came into the studio helped mold my tastes and judgements. When I joined C5, there was a different mind-set used in the creation of Foley Sound’s. The intention was to create foley sounds that blended with the production tracks by using reflective walls and various surfaces. I was fortunate to be invited to work with some of the best sound people in the business.

Matthew: You’ve worked on some of the greatest films made in the last 30 years, with basically all of the greatest filmmakers of our time. Is there someone you would like to work with that you haven’t worked with yet? Or, is there a film subject/genre that you like to work on?

Marko: I have been blessed with being in a position that offers so many unique projects to work on. I never know where the next interesting show is coming from. For years I wanted to work with Ray Romano, whom I had performed with during his comedy years. I was pleased to see him in HBO’s upcoming series “Vinyl”.

I recently was asked to make Foley sounds for a Neuro-science project with David Byrne.

The Coen Brothers and Charlie Kaufman asked me to perform Foley live on stage for “Theater of the New Ear”. This was a sound play performed here in NYC, England and Los Angeles.

Last year I flew out to L.A. to put Foley Sounds to Charlie Kaufman’s “Anomalisa”, (one of the sound plays I did live for “Theater of the New Ear”). I never know what direction this craft will take me.

Matthew: People are reading your interview and are now fascinated about your job. I’m sure the next film/TV show they watch, they are going to pay more attention to the foley. What film(s) of yours should they watch, learn and take in the artistry of what you do?

Marko: I always kid with people about waiting to see the credits. Everyone I know now waits to see if i worked on the film they just saw. It’s flattering, but I work on about 20 movies a year. there are close to 300 major feature films released each year. There is a big chance that the movie they are watching in not bearing my name… but they still wait and look and comment of the way the foley sounded to them. The greatest compliments I receive are when the listener can’t detect there is any foley at all. It means the foley blended with the production perfectly and we did our job properly.

In any event, if you’d like to see my credit roll up the screen, be sure to watch Spotlight, Queen of Katwee, The Free State of Jones, Vinyl, Chiraq, The Knick… AW SHUCKS!!! here’s my IMDB link:

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information.