By Eric Green
Those who wonder why some films are gripping even at moments when little is happening visually need to get familiar with the work of the sound designer. One name that stands out in this all-too-unheralded field is Brian Emrich. He first came onto the scene with Pi and later distinguished himself with Requiem for a Dream, One Hour Photo, Wonderland and numerous commercials, including an upcoming Nike Olympics ad. Despite his lengthy resumé, Emrich sees himself as constantly learning his trade. He shares his experiences with Below the Line.
Below the LinePP: How did you get started doing sound design?
Brian Emrich: It was a fluke, I was working in PR in New York when producer Eric Watson walked in looking for a composer for the film Pi. That job went to Clint Mansell. Watson was also looking for a sound designer, which was the job I took, even though I didn’t know much about it.
BTLPP: Whose work influenced your technique?
Emrich: I am primarily a musician; names that come to mind are the late ’60s Beatles, early ’70s Bowie and Alice Cooper. I love 2001: A Space Odyssey and the way sound design was used to enhance the story. Also Planet of the Apes and Midnight Express.
BTLPP: How do you find or create sounds?
Emrich: I have an organic approach; I’m not into using existing sounds on my equipment. I have a library of found sounds and I sometimes use parts of sounds. For the end scene in Wonderland I used crunching sounds and the sound of a smashing metal pipes to enhance the violence of people getting their heads bashed in.
BTLPP: What’s your approach to finding work?
Emrich: It has changed over the years. I’m constantly learning the business side of the industry. The toughest part used to be selling myself. Confidence is key; it is counterproductive to be insecure. Waiting for work is also a mistake. I try to put myself out there as much as I can. I send out DVD reels to potential jobs or just to people I’ve worked with to remind them that I’m still around. I got a job recently with the documentary Moog after reading about the project. I called the production office and told them to look me up on IMDb and that I was interested in contributing; they called me back two hours later.
BTLPP: What’s coming up for you?
Emrich: I just finished a few commercials, I have a track on Moog and I’m going to be working on the new Darren Aronofsky film, The Fountain.