Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Foley Artists, Memories, Dreams and Non-Verbal Languages

Zookeeper's Workbook. Photographed by Guy Maddin, edited by John Gurdebeke.

"The Foley artist on a film crew is the person who creates many of the natural, everyday sound effects in a film, which are recorded during a session with a recording engineer. Before the session, a project will be cued, with notes kept about what sounds need to be created during the foley session. Often, the project will have a sound supervisor who will dictate what sounds need to be covered in a foley session and what needs to be created by special (audio) effects, which is generally left to the sound designer.

Sound effects and foley are added during post-production to dialog and real effects that were picked up by microphones on-set. Sometimes (especially in the case of cartoons, many Italian films, and almost all Bollywood films) there is no sound recorded on-location, and all the sounds need to be added by the foley artist and sound designer, and dubber. The Foley artist may also accent existing sounds to make them more effective—enhancing the sounds of a fistfight may require thumping watermelons or cracking bamboo. Many Foley artists take pride in devising their own sound effects apparatuses, often using simple, commonly found materials. Some making-of featurettes show Foley artists at work.
The term Foley artist is named after Jack Foley, one of the earliest and best-known Hollywood practitioners of the art. Foley began his career in the film industry as a stand-in and screenwriter during the silent era, and later helped Universal make the transition from silent movies to talkies."

Here is a great web page about The Art of Foley.

I was very surprised that Stagg not only liked this movie but kind of related to it. I think My Winnipeg might be Guy Maddin's best film, I think maybe it's my favourite at any rate. Last year Stagg's good friend Darrick had a dvd copy of The Saddest Music In The World. Darrick was "You have to see this strange weird psycho movie". I said, "Hey, I took a workshop with Maddin for a week once, I love the guy!". There is a thread of something common among some of my favourite independent film makers, Guy Maddin, David Lynch, Lisa Steel/Kim Tomczak, Ken Russell, and Werner Herzog. They seem to make movies that work on some level below the intellect, on a physiological level or as Maddin says "neurological waves". But more than that, having met them (except for Russell...who I would love to meet in person) they all also seem to have another quality in common. These film makers have a very down to earth organic attitude towards life and making images. My family has a lot of roots in Winnipeg. When my sister and I were small, my dad went to college there. He went because of a service with the military where you go to university then become an officer. My parents met, fell in love and married in Winnipeg. My mum grew up there, and my grandfather worked for the railroad as a dispatcher. We always were on trains (or planes or the road) when I was growing up and Maddin's film has a wonderful depiction of the value of trains to people in Winnipeg. We used to take the train every weekend in the summers to go to my grandmothers camp. Back then, it didn't have any road access! Isn't that a bizarre concept!? Stagg found it horrifying ha ha that we would go somewhere we couldn't get away from in a car. It is very funny. My sister and I have both been attracted to the scenario ever since as we both have travelled to "wild areas" throughout our adult lives. Maddins' film has a wonderful set of scenes about the paranormal. This really reminded me of some of my childhood memories. My mother and grandmother had unconventional interests in "Spirituality". In contrast my father was a diehard atheist, but my mother was heavily into anything supernatural or mystical. She followed tarot, card readers, psychic healers, we went to churches that healed people. We went to Hindu temples. We read about UFOs at the dinner table. I remember going with our parents to see an Egyptian death mask exhibit and my mum just so into it, asking us if we could feel the spirits of the mummies. So in My Winnipeg when there are seances...I immediately recalled y mothers seance parties, where we were sent to bed but of course we tried to spy on the activities. Apparently, Winnipeg has a massive interest in paranormal activities more than any other center in North America. Who knew?

I think the above interview is a "must see". Maddin is so cool about manipulating and messing with images. I agree with Werner Herzog that one of the primary jobs of an artist is making more and more images for a visual language. A broader stronger non-verbal language. Maddin explains in this interview how he filmed My Winnipeg on HD digital...but landed up re-filming it by projecting it on his refrigerator!!!! I love that!!! Check out how one of his goals is to make film how a child makes a drawing "right from feeling to the page". I believe this is the most important feature of a good novel or film or painting etc. Didn't Picasso say he spent the rest of his life trying to unlearn his art training and to paint like a child?

I love that Maddin has Foley artists performing during this film. I used to love going to see Metropolis and having a live pianist play or a small band play the soundtrack to the movie. Crispin Glover makes an interesting point in this interview about how with such good home theatres maybe having such live performances with a film will attract people back to cinema in theatres? I recommend watching this last video because you can see the Foley artists for a bit at work. Really cool stuff!

1 comment:

Greg S. said...

Great stuff Candy. There is a book by Eric Taub titled "Gaffers, Grips, and Best Boys" that describes the different roles in film production. Taub did not give any background on Foley though, at least not in the second edition of the book.