By Mel Lambert
The 53rd CAS Awards — held at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel on February 18, and hosted once again by comedian Elayne Boosler — celebrated the lifetime contributions of production mixer John Pritchett with the CAS Career Achievement Award for his multiple film credits. The award was presented by re-recording mixer Scott Millan, CAS, and actor/producer Jack Black, with a special video tribute from actor/director/producer Tom Hanks. Quoting seasoned sound designer Walter Murch, Millan shared, “Dialog is the backbone of a film.”
“Sound mixing is like plastic surgery,” Black advised. “You only notice it when it’s done badly.”
Actor/director Jon Favreau received the CAS Filmmaker Award from actor/writer Seth McFarlane, film composer John Debney and CAS president Mark Ulano. Clips from the directors’ key offerings, including The Jungle Book, Chef, Cowboys & Aliens, Iron Man and Iron Man 2, were followed by pre-recorded congratulations from Stan Lee and Ed Asner. “Production and post production are invisible arts,” said Favreau. “Because if you do it right, it’s invisible. If you want to look good on the set you need to understand sound.”
The CAS Award for Outstanding Sound Mixing Motion Picture — Live Action went to the team behind La La Land: production mixer Steven Morrow, CAS; re-recording mixers Andy Nelson, CAS, and Ai-Ling Lee, scoring mixer Nicholai Baxter, ADR mixer David Betancourt and Foley mixer James Ashwill. “It was a blast to work with Andy Nelson and the Fox Sound Department,” said Lee. The film’s director, Damien Chazelle, also was on hand to support his award-winning crew. Other nominees included Doctor Strange, Hacksaw Ridge, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Sully.
The CAS Award for Outstanding Sound Mixing Motion Picture — Animated went to Finding Dory and original dialogue mixer Doc Kane, CAS, re-recording mixers Nathan Nance and Michael Semanick, CAS, scoring mixer Thomas Vicari, CAS, and Foley mixer Scott Curtis. “I’ve got the best job in the world,” Kane offered, “recording all these talented people.”
During a humorous exchange with his co-presenter Angela Sarafyan, an actress who starred in HBO’s Westworld series, re-recording mixer Kevin O’Connell, CAS, was asked why the 21-time Oscar-nominee had not — as yet — received an Academy Award. Pausing briefly to collect his thoughts, O’Connell replied that he thought the reasons were three-fold. “First, because I do not work at Skywalker Sound,” he said, referring to Disney Studios’ post facility in Northern California, which has hosted a number of nominated sound projects. “Secondly, I do not work on musicals,” he continued, referring to the high number of Oscar and similar nominations this year for La La Land. “And third, because I do not sit next to Andy Nelson,” an affectionate reference to the popular re-recording engineer’s multiple Oscar wins and current nomination for La La Land. (For O’Connell it seems the 21st time is the charm. He walked away from this year’s Oscar with a statuette for his work on Hacksaw Ridge.)
O’Connell and Sarafyan then presented the first-ever CAS Award for Outstanding Sound Mixing Motion Picture — Documentary to the team that worked on The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble: production mixers Dimitri Tisseyre and Dennis Hamlin, plus re-recording mixer Peter Horner.
The CAS Award for Outstanding Sound Mixing Television Movie or Miniseries went to The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and production mixer John Bauman, re-recording mixers Joe Earle, CAS, and Doug Andham, CAS, ADR mixer Judah Getz and Foley mixer John Guentner. The award for Television Series — 1-Hour went to Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards and production mixers Ronan Hill, CAS, and Richard Dyer, CAS, re-recording mixers Onnalee Blank, CAS, and Mathew Waters, CAS, and Foley mixer Brett Voss, CAS. “Game of Thrones was a great piece of art to work on,” said Blank.
The award for Television Series — 1/2-Hour went to Modern Family: The Storm and production mixer Stephen A. Tibbo, CAS, and re-recording mixers Dean Okrand, CAS, and Brian R. Harman, CAS. The award for Television Non-Fiction, Variety or Music Series or Specials went to Grease Live! and production mixer J. Mark King, music mixer Biff Dawes, playback and SFX mixer Eric Johnston and Pro Tools playback music mixer Pablo Munguía.
The CAS Student Recognition Award went to Wenrui “Sam” Fan from Chapman University. Outstanding Product Awards went to Cedar Audio for its DNS2 Dynamic Noise Suppression Unit and McDSP for its SA-2 dialog processor.
Other presenters included Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons), Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), Janina Gavankar (Sleepy Hollow), Clyde Kusatsu (SAG/AFTRA VP and Madame Secretary), Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul) and Nondumiso Tembe (Six).
Held on February 19 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, opening remarks for the 64th MPSE Golden Reel Awards came from MPSE president Tom McCarthy. “Digital technology is creating new workflows for our sound artists. We need to take the initiative and drive technology, and not let technology drive us,” he said, citing recent and upcoming MPSE Sound Advice confabs. “The horizons for sound are expanding, particularly virtual reality. Immersive formats from Dolby, Auro, DTS and IMAX are enriching the cinematic experience.”
The annual MPSE Filmmaker Award was presented to writer/director Guillermo del Toro by supervising sound editor/sound designer Scott Gershin, who has worked with him for the past 15 years on such films as Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) and Pacific Rim (2013). “Sound editing is an opportunity in storytelling,” the director offered. “There is always a balance we need to strike between sound effects and music. It’s a delicate tango. Sound design and editing is a curatorial position. I always take that partnership seriously in my films.”
Referring to recent presidential decisions to erect border walls and tighten immigration controls, del Torro was candid in his position. “I’m a Mexican,” he stated. “Giving me this award [means] that the barriers people are trying to erect between us are false,” he stressed, to substantial audience applause.
Supervising sound editor/sound designer Wiley Stateman and producer Shannon McIntosh presented the MPSE Career Achievement Award to supervising sound editor/sound designer Harry Cohen, who has worked on more than 150 films, including many directed by Quentin Tarantino, who made a surprise appearance to introduce the award recipient. “I aspired to be a performing musician,” Cohen acknowledged, “and was 31 when I became an editor. Sound design is a craft. You refine the director’s creativity through your own lens.” He also emphasized the mentoring process within the sound community, “which leads to a free flow of information.”
The remaining Golden Reel Awards comprised several dozen categories encompassing feature films, long- and short-form TV, animation, documentaries and other media.
The Best Sound Editing In Feature Film — Music Score award went to Warcraft: The Beginning and music editors Michael Bauer and Peter Myles. The Best Sound Editing In Feature Film — Music, Musical Feature award went to La La Land music editor Jason Ruder.
The Best Sound Editing In Feature Film — Dialog/ADR award went to director Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and supervising sound editor Andy Wright, supervising ADR editors Justine Angus and Kimberly Harris, dialog editor Jed Dodge and ADR editor Michele Perrone. The Best Sound Editing In Feature Film — FX/Foley Award also went to Hacksaw Ridge and supervising sound editors Robert Mackenzie, Foley editor Steve Burgess and Alex Francis, plus sound effects editors Liam Price, Tara Webb and Steve Burgess.
The MPSE Best Sound & Music Editing: Television Animation Award went to Albert supervising sound editor Jeff Shiffman, MPSE, dialogue editors Michael Petak and Anna Adams, Foley editor Tess Fournier, music editor Brad Breeck plus SFX editors Jessey Drake, MPSE, Tess Fournier and Jeff Shiffman, MPSE. The Best Sound & Music Editing: Television Documentary Short-Form award to Sonic Sea and supervising sound editor Trevor Gates, dialog editor Ryan Briley and SFX editors Ron Aston and Christopher Bonis. The Best Sound & Music Editing: Television Documentary Long-Form award went to My Beautiful Broken Brain supervising sound editor Nick Ryan, dialog editor Claire Ellis and SFX editor Tom Foster. The Best Sound & Music Editing: Animation — Feature Film award went to Moana supervising sound editor Tim Nielsen, supervising dialog editor Jacob Riehle, Foley editors Thom Brennan and Matthew Harrison, music editors Earl Ghaffari and Dan Pinder, plus SFX editors Jonathan Borland, Pascal Garneau and Lee Gilmore. The Best Sound & Music Editing: Documentaries — Feature Film award to The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble and supervising sound editor Pete Horner, sound designer Al Nelson and SFX editor Andre Zweers.
The Verna Fields Award in Sound Editing in Student Films was a tie, with $1,500 checks being awarded to Fishwitch, directed by Adrienne Dowling from the National Film and Television School, and Icarus by supervising sound editor/sound designer Zoltan Juhasz from Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, Chapman University.
The MPSE Best Sound & Music Editing: Special Venue award went to supervising sound editor/sound designer Jamey Scott for his work on director Patrick Osborne’s Pearl, a panoramic virtual reality presentation — and which has also been nominated in the Oscars Best Animated Short Category. The Best Sound Editing In Television: Short Form — Music Score award went to music editor David Klotz for his work on Stranger Things, Chapter Three: Holly Jolly. “The show’s composers — Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein — were an inspiration to work with,” said Klotz, “as was the sound team at Technicolor.” The Best Sound Editing In Television: Short Form — Music, Musical award was another tie between music editor Jason Tregoe Newman and Bryant J. Fuhrmann for Mozart in the Jungle — Now I Will Sing and music editor Jamieson Shaw for The Get Down — Raise Your Words, Not Your Voice.
The Best Sound Editing In Television: Short Form — Dialog/ADR award went to the team from Penny Dreadful III, including supervising sound editor Jane Tattersall, supervising dialogue editor David McCallum, dialog editor Elma Bello, and ADR editors Dale Sheldrake and Paul Conway. The Best Sound Editing In Television: Short Form — FX/Foley award went to Westworld — Trompe L’Oeil supervising sound editors Thomas E. de Gorter, MPSE, and Matthew Sawelson, MPSE, Foley editors Geordy Sincavage and Michael Head, and sound designers Mark R. Allen, MPSE, and Marc Glassman, MPSE. The same post team won The Best Sound Editing In Television: Long Form — FX/Foley award for Westworld — The Bicameral Mind. The Best Sound Editing In Television: Long Form — Dialog/ADR award went to The Night Of — Part 1 The Beach and supervising sound editor Nicholas Renbeck, and dialog editors Sara Stern, Luciano Vignola and Odin Benitez.
Presenters included actor Erich Riegelmann, actress Julie Parker, Avid director strategic solutions Rich Nevens, SFX editor Liam Price, producer/journalist Geoff Keighley, Formosa Interactive VP of creative services Paul Lipson, CAS president Mark Ulano, actress Andrene Ward-Hammond, supervising sound editors Mark Lanza and Bernard Weiser, picture editor Sabrina Plisco, and Technicolor VP/head of theatrical Sound Jeff Eisner.
MPSE president McCarthy offered that the future for entertainment sound has no boundaries. “It is impossible to predict what new challenges will be presented to practitioners of our craft in the years to come,” he said. “It is up to all of us to meet those challenges with creativity, professionalism and skill. MPSE membership now extends around the world. We are building a global network of sound professionals in order to help artists collaborate and share ideas with their peers.”
A complete list of MPSE Golden Reel Awards can be found on its website.
Main Image (L-R): John Debney, CAS Filmmaker Award recipient Jon Favreau, Seth MacFarlane and Mark Ulano.
CAS images – Alex J. Berliner/ABImages
MPSE Images – Chris Schmitt Photography
Mel Lambert is principal of Content Creators, an LA-based copywriting and editorial service, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MelLambertLA.