Profiles of autodidacts

Post Production on Documentary: “A Sound Life” film ’20


Richard Beggs in his sound mixing studio in the Film Center Building in the Presidio, San Francisco, California. Photo by Kristin Sherman Olnes, 2015.

I’ve been working on documentary “A Sound Life” film ’20 for three years. It’s a profile of Richard Beggs, a self-taught Academy Award winning sound designer / mixer, mostly for Hollywood films.  It’s been a time consuming process to discover how Beggs arrived at and continues to thrive from work in his profession.

I ‘theoretically’ know a lot about how to mix dialogue, music, and effects for the final soundtrack of a film. (It’s ridiculous, but I barely learned anything at the University of Arizona’s film department about sound for Super8 film or video back in 1989.)

Anyway, it took me awhile, a year actually, before I understood enough to formulate questions to interview Beggs’ expert collegues: Walter Murch, Randy Thom, Gary Rydstrom, Lora Hirschberg, and Skip Lievsay. Time spent with some of the best re-recording sound mixers in the field was an honor, truly engaging. I’m not tryin’ to brag but I have great content! I could practically do a series about sound design / mixing. I can’t wait to share a little-known aspect of filmmaking. I don’t understand how and why it’s been a secret for so long.

Note to reader: apologies if you work in this field and you’re not in my film. Consider it a tribute to your field. I now know how hard you must work and how much time and effort you put it in, and how much you may have had to compromise of your personal life. There are many expert sound professionals working worldwide–many talented smart and witty people–too many to include in my documentary, unfortunately. Cheers!


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P.S. My trip to New York City in the spring of ’18 for an interview with Barry Levinson in his Soho studio was a hit. I can’t tell you how impressed I was with the American director’s charming demeanor, intellect and physique (he does Pilates!). Out of all my interviewees, Levinson described what the experience of creating a great film is like– when the sounds and the images seem to magically come together for many reasons and everything is believable in the world of a film.


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