Filed in: Contender Portfolios, Featured, Sound
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Contender – Sound Designer/Mixer, Paul Ottosson, The Hurt Locker

February 10, 2010 | By

Paul Ottoson

Paul Ottoson

In Oscar contender The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the action starts with a bomb squad in Iraq trying to diffuse an IED. The tension never lets up from there. To keep that level of tension must have been difficult for everyone involved, but especially for Oscar-nominated, Emmy-wining sound designer Paul Ottosson. After a call from producer Greg Shapiro and post supervisor Jack Schuster, Ottosson met with director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal. Mark had lived with an EOD team in Iraq and was very excited about Ottosson’s military background.

“I had been in the military for 18 months and had experience with how war sounds and feels. Every sound becomes important, as you need to identify what it is, where it comes from, and if it can kill you,” said Ottosson. “That’s the reason there is no sound for the rifle being fired when the contractor gets shot in the sniper scene. When you get shot, from that distance, you’re dead far before the sound reaches you.”

The director did not want it to sound like a Hollywood film with sounds that were not natural to the situation. “The sound design had to be impressive and immersive, but not in your face.” Ottosson reveled. “She wanted it to be designed with nothing but organic and real sounds.” Then she told him that there will be practically no music in the movie.

“That meant she wanted me to design the soundscape, and all the action in a way that would fit the action on the screen, as well as express emotionally what the characters felt and experienced. It had to be intense, suspenseful and more. It had to do what music usually does in a movie.”

Furthermore, because it was perhaps the smallest crew he’d ever had, he told them it would not be easy. “But my entire crew went above the call of duty. Our foley team did an exceptional job as well. We had a fantastic walla group. They were all Iraqi born.”

Ottosson has mixed some of his projects in the past as well as The Hurt Locker, and he explained, “I do come from a background of recording and mixing music, and Kathryn was very happy with the sound design that we had, so she asked me if I would mix the movie.”

He agreed, since he had the advantage of having lived with the sound design for so long, and had many in depth discussions with Bigelow about the movie and the sound design. But he added, “There is something to be said though for having a fresh set of ears to mix the movie with perhaps some new ideas.”

Previous Noms and Wins

2009: Nominated, Satellite Awards Best Sound (Mixing and Editing), 2012. 2008: Nominated MPSE Golden Reel Award, Best Sound Editing – Sound Effects and Foley for Feature Film, Spider-Man 3. 2005: Nominated, Academy Awards, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, Spider-Man 2; Nominated, BAFTA Film Award, Best Sound, Spider-Man 2; Nominated, MPSE Golden Reel Award, Best Sound Editing in Domestic Features – Sound Effects & Foley, Spider-Man 2; Nominated, Golden Satellite Award, Best Sound (Editing & Mixing), Spider-Man 2. 2002: Nominated, MPSE Golden Reel Award Best Sound Editing – Animated Feature Film, Domestic and Foreign, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. 2001: Nominated, MPSE Golden Reel Award, Best Sound Editing – Television Movies and Specials – Effects & Foley, Operation Sandman. 1998: Won, Emmy Award, Outstanding Achievement in Non-Fiction Programming – Sound Editing, National Geographic Explorer.

<em>The Hurt Locker</em>

The Hurt Locker

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