Audio luminaries may not have the panache of a Tom Cruise or the sex appeal of a Demi Moore, but, as for importance to a movie, try turning the sound off in a theater, and you’ll be listening to the audience howl. Such is a life of modulation: unknown to the public, but necessary to a film’s success — especially today. And that taste of stardom walking down the red carpet on Oscar night has emotional and career implications both for the individual and the craft.
Winning an Oscar was always a dream for Gloria Borders, general manager of Skywalker Sound and vice presi-dent of Lucas Digital. Borders won the award for her work on “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (with Gary Rydstrom).
“When the (‘Terminator’) project came up, I figured it was a lifelong dream to win an Academy Award, so I took the project hoping it would work for me,” explains Borders. “I think that everyone in this business secretly wants to win; it is a desire that affects us all. Ever since I was a little girl, I remember the family huddling around the TV set and watching the Oscars. For me to get nominated and for me as a woman to get nominated and win was an amazing thing.”
One of Borders’ “most wonderful guardian angles” is Oscar winner Cecelia Hall (nominated for “Top Gun” and a winner for “The Hunt for Red October” with George Watters II), vice president, sound department for Paramount Pictures. The advice from Hall about Oscar night was invaluable to Borders.
“Cece told me, ‘Honey, I just want to tell you two things: Go to the Academy lunch, and memorize your speech,’ ” Borders relates. Such homework is important, Borders says, because “you have a big huge monitor in front of your face doing a countdown when you are on stage. When it hits zero, you turn into guacamole. You have to be on top of what you have to say.”
Stephen Flick, supervising sound editor and owner (with Judee Flick) of the Creative Cafe, received his first Oscar for his work on “Robocop” (with John Pospisil), and his second for “Speed.” Flick knows first-hand the impact the award has on a career.
“I think that winning is a visibility and a credibility — a credit rating, if you will,” Flick says. “I have been around in this business long enough for people to know that there is a creative point of view here. The Oscar reinforces my creative credentials.”
Oscar also affects the craft in general, according to Flick. “Winning makes the craft more important,” he says. “I think the film community is recognizing the value of overall elegance of presentation and the importance of all the elements of a project, including sound, to make a picture have a life beyond that initial release in Los Angeles.”
Lon Bender, co-founder of Soundelux with Wylie Stateman, won an Oscar for his work on “Braveheart” (with Per Hallberg). As far as Bender is concerned Oscar’s light shines on friendships. “There was a real outpouring of old clients and creative relationships that were rekindled and restarted,” Bender relates. “People, in general, mark their lives by events, and this is certainly an event for this business. Life gets in the way and an Oscar gives those people who have drifted off to other projects and other lives a reason to get back in touch again.”
Bender believes Oscar winners are honored for more than just the project for which they are nominated. “You have joined a fraternity of people who have official recognition for years of work. The Oscar is not an honor for just one movie, it is a cumulative honor for a life’s work. Everyone does great work on films that never gets nominated for awards, and all that experience is ultimately brought to the project that wins.”
As for Oscar anecdotes, maybe there is some star-power brewing for Hollywood’s sonic elite. Oscar nominee Mark Mangini (“Aladdin” and “Star Trek IV”), co-owner of Weddington Prods., had a taste of audience recognition.
“The weirdest experience I ever had was my arrival at the Academy luncheon the year I was nominated for ‘Alad-din,’ ” muses Mangini. “There was also a throng of reporters and press waiting on every stars’ arrival. What was strange was having my name called out from the crowd by autograph seekers who knew what I looked like and what I did. I’m a sound guy, not a movie star, but these folks knew me and wanted my autograph, anyway. Do these people have lives?”
Obviously, audio artists won’t let the Oscar experience go to their heads.