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HomeAwardsContenders: Kevin O'Connell & Greg Russell-Sound-Apocalypto

Contenders: Kevin O’Connell & Greg Russell-Sound-Apocalypto

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It’s known in Hollywood that if the alarm wakes you on Oscar morning, you’re not on the list of those nominated. Word leaks out around 5:40 am, and phones begin to ring. Kevin O’Connell has been roused from sleep 19 times, and Greg Russell 11, totaling 30 nominations between them.Apocalypto is the latest nomination, and well earned. The sound work is extraordinary and complex. “It was really special to get the call this year. I felt like the cards were stacked against us,” said O’Connell, referring to the movie’s under performance at the box office.Kevin O’ConnellO’Connell’s credit on Apocalypto is supervising sound mixer for music and dialogue. Some of the film’s challenges, he notes, were removing planes and humming generators from the production track, since the film is set an era when all sounds were organic. Also, actors were not available to loop the lines; the dialogue was ancient Mayan, and when a word was spoken too softly, O’Connell couldn’t be sure if it was a valid enunciation or if it needed to be beefed up in volume.Additionally, composer James Horners’ score is unusual, comprising around 12 musicians playing woodwinds and drums; that had to be woven with sound effects by the editors before placement in the film. Mel Gibson had a strong hand in sound decisions, and it was O’Connell and Russell who provided him with the appropriate voice. “He’s not the guy who studied sound design, but he knows what he wants,” explains O’Connell. “What we are doing is helping him to achieve that.”Working seven days a week, 15- and 16-hour days, made valued judgments at 11:00 p.m. challenging, but that is where experience pays off. “This is my job. Getting nominated for an Oscar is a gift, but if that didn’t happen, I would still be doing this job, and loving it,” says O’Connell.Greg P. RussellPartnering with O’Connell, Greg Russell supervises the sound mixing for Apocalypto’s sound effects. He is a 30-year veteran in the industry who, together with O’Connell, has garnered 10 Academy nominations in 11 years.Russell mixed a rich bed of environmental sounds for the film. “It’s really about manipulating all the highs and lows until you can hear the bugs, and almost sense the humidity and heat,” he says. He compares his job to a chef determining the taste of the creation, or painting with the colors of sound, with the goal of making it dynamic and impactful.Much of the film is wrapped in jungle ambiance and he wanted to keep all of those moving and changing, with bamboo creaking, wood mallets, stone, and the natural elements of the earth. On separate stages, Apocalypto was prepared and pre-dubbed for three weeks simultaneously. It was then finaled for about another two weeks.Russell describes director Mel Gibson as very specific about what he wanted to hear, even creating sounds on stage in the moment. 2007: Nominated, Academy Award for best achievement in sound mixing, Apocalypto. 2006: Nominated, Academy Award for best achievement in sound, Memoirs of a Geisha; Nominated, CAS Award for outstanding achievement in sound mixing for motion pictures, Memoirs of a Geisha; Nominated, Golden Satellite Award for best sound, The Da Vinci Code. 2005: Nominated, Academy Award for best achievement in sound, Spider-Man 2; Nominated, BAFTA Film Award for best sound, Spider-Man 2; Nominated, CAS Award for outstanding sound mixing for motion pictures, Spider-Man 2. 2005: Nominated, Golden Satellite Award for best sound, Spider-Man 2. 2003: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, Spider-Man; Nominated, CAS Award for outstanding sound mixing for motion pictures, Spider-Man. 2002: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, Pearl Harbor; Nominated, CAS Award for outstanding sound mixing for motion pictures, Pearl Harbor. 2001: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, The Patriot; Nominated, CAS Award for outstanding sound mixing for motion pictures, The Patriot. 1999: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, Armageddon; Nominated, CAS Award for outstanding sound mixing for motion pictures, Armageddon; Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, The Mask of Zorro; Nominated, CAS Award for outstanding sound mixing for motion pictures, The Mask of Zorro. 1998: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, Con Air. 1997: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, The Rock; Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, Twister; Nominated, CAS Award for outstanding sound mixing for motion pictures, The Rock. 1990: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, Black Rain.Kevin O’Connell (on his own):1997: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, Twister; Nominated, CAS Award for outstanding sound mixing for motion pictures, Twister. 1996: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, Crimson Tide; Nominated, CAS Award for outstanding sound mixing for motion pictures, Crimson Tide. 1994: Nominated, CAS Award for outstanding sound mixing for motion pictures, In the Line of Fire. 1993: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, A Few Good Men. 1991: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, Days of Thunder. 1989: Won, Emmy for outstanding sound mixing for a miniseries or a special Lonesome Dove. 1987: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, Top Gun. 1986: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, Silverado. 1985: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, Dune. 1984: Nominated, Academy Award for best sound, Terms of Endearment.

Written by Renee Dunlop

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