Sound mixer boasts nine Oscar nominations

Women are a common sight in some parts of post-production, but not in sound bays. That makes Anna Behlmer’s success even more notable.

Twenty years and nearly 100 films after her first feature sound credit, Behlmer boasts nine Oscar nominations for such films as “Blood Diamond,” “War of the Worlds” and “The Thin Red Line.” She and longtime collaborator Andy Nelson work several films a year as sound re-recording mixers. She mixes sound effects while Nelson handles music and dialogue.

Supervising sound editor Richard Anderson, who has worked with them on several DreamWorks Animation titles, says, “She seems to see the essence of the scene, what’s really important and what isn’t.”

Behlmer says that’s because she was trained to think of story first. “In film, the screen gives you all the information that you need,” she explains. “So if it’s dramatic and it’s emotional, the music needs to lead; if it’s an action sequence, then effects need to lead. The big picture is what’s most important.”

Her most recent film, “Live Free or Die Hard,” was a particular showcase for her sound effects.

Says Nelson, “It’s great to have somebody who’s as dedicated as her because it gives me the freedom to take care of things other than working on the soundtrack.”

Between jobs, Behlmer and her husband, Technicolor Digital Cinema chief operating officer Curt Behlmer, like to travel. She also golfs, skis and runs marathons.

Through it all, she remains a reluctant role model.

“I got lucky and I worked hard, and it all seemed to work out,” she says. “(But) I will always want to help. I believe we need to give back, because I had people be so generous to me.”

Vocation: “I like to think what I do helps to entertain people, gives them food for thought and a place to escape when they need it.”

Recent breakthrough: With nine Oscar sound noms to her credit, Behlmer enters a realm in the Academy archives that previously was exclusively inhabited by men.

Role model: “My mom, Maria Gabellieri. She grew up in Italy during WWII. … She endured great hardships, air raids, bombing and the loss of family and friends. … She never complained, she just did what she needed to do.”

Career mantra: “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

What’s next: “Bee Movie” for DreamWorks

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