Memoirs Of A Geisha’s Academy Award nominated sound mixing team of Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell, Rick Kline and John Pritchett have an astounding combined 41 previous Academy Awards nominations between them—and, surprisingly, no wins. O’Connell, in fact, holds the record for number of Academy nominations without a single win: he has been nominated 18 times since his first for Terms of Endearment in 1984.In Memoirs of a Geisha, the sound narrative follows Sayuri’s (Zhang Ziyi) journey of discovery into the mysterious world of the Geisha. “We tell the audio story as perceived through her eyes from her first encounters with the city: the music from a bar, light bulbs and cars to her elegant dance performances in flowing silks,” says O’Connell, who focused on mixing the film’s dialogue.Director Rob Marshall was fully involved in the mixing process, he notes. “He was open-mindedly specific about his choices and open to collaboration from our team. He has great taste and an amazing sense of knowing what sounds he wants.”For O’Connell, one of the biggest challenges was correcting the actors’ accents. “They not only came from different backgrounds but had different accents which meant sometimes the accents were heavy and we had to use fractions of a syllable to create full sentences,” he explains. “Rob wanted us to use production sound whenever possible but we had to loop these actors in various parts of the world from New York to London and Hong Kong.”Sound effects mixer Greg Russell had different challenges. “Water was a theme throughout, and we had 800 feet of rain when Sayuri runs through the streets looking for her sister,” he remembers. “The texture of the water layers changed from cut to cut so we could hear the dialogue clearly. Throughout the film, we used sound effects that intelligibly transported you to this time and place.”The film was mixed on a Harrison GLW console at Sony’s Cary Grant Theater. In addition to the O’Connell/Russell duo (the pair almost always mix together), Rick Kline handled the mix of John Williams’ dynamic and subtle score, while John Pritchett was the production mixer.The big question is, will this year be a charm for the team or will they remain the Susan Lucci’s of the sound world?
Written by Kathy Anderson