“Working with Oliver Stone is always a great exercise in storytelling,” says World Trade Center supervising sound editor Wylie Stateman. Stateman has been creating audio worlds for writer/director Stone for almost 20 years, first collaborating with him on Talk Radio (1988) then on Born on the Fourth of July (1989), The Doors (1991), JFK (1991), Natural Born Killers (1994), Nixon (1995), Any Given Sunday (1999) and Alexander (2004). “Oliver is an auteur-style director. He is tremendously passionate and intellectually and emotionally driven,” says Stateman. “He is very conscious of the filmmaking process. Very aware of the use of sound to tell a story.” Sound design played a key role in the concept of the film. World Trade Center uses the known events of that momentous day as “a soundtrack” underscoring the personalized stories of two men trapped at Ground Zero, caught in their own individual struggles to survive, completely unaware of the scope and magnitude of the historical event encompassing them.”The goal was to place the audience within the experience,” recalls Stateman. “We had the responsibility to tell the story with absolute conviction.” Because iconic images of 9/11 are indelibly etched in the American consciousness, Stone made the deliberate choice not to use stock footage. Instead, the sound was used to tell the story occurring outside the camera frame. The aural design was a depiction of things not seen, but rather experienced by the characters. To create an auditory atmosphere with intensity and authenticity without coloring events, clues of what occurred sonically on that day were gleaned from a French documentary—the only footage shot within the World Trade Center during the devastation.In a film with such an immense physical catastrophe, the audio design might be expected to test the upper limits of the dynamic range, but Stateman didn’t limit his design to extreme volume. Following the principle that less is more, he used the entire dynamic range at his disposal, contrasting the terrorizing noise with absolute abject silence. Stateman notes, “When the theater goes quiet, it’s breathtaking and terrifying. That use of silence creates the greatest emotional impact.”Statement admits that the experience of working on a film with the disturbing magnitude of World Trade Center is very powerful and emotional. “We spent an enormous amount of time experiencing the pain and horror of the moment. I cried the first time I read the script and continued throughout the process.” Perhaps that emotional empathy is why Stateman succeeds so convincingly in transporting the viewer back to 9/11 and into the dark recesses of our collective memory.In between Oliver Stone films he has found time to supervise sound for other directors, including Quentin Tarantino, Wolfgang Petersen and Cameron Crowe.2006: Nominated, Oscar, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, Memoirs of a Geisha. 2004: Nominated, BAFTA Film Award Best Sound, Kill Bill: Vol. 1. 2002: Nominated, BAFTA Film Award Best Sound, Shrek. 2001: Nominated, BAFTA Film Award Best Sound, The Perfect Storm. 1994: Nominated, Oscar Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing, Cliffhanger. 1993: Won BAFTA Film Award Best Sound, JFK. 1990: Nominated, Oscar Best Sound, Born on the Fourth of July. 1985: Nominated, Emmy Outstanding Film Sound Editing for a Limited Series or a Special, Space.
Written by Mary Ann Skweres