I recently started work on the sound design for a short film being produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). This is a really cool thing for me, as I'm a very big fan of the work the NFB has done. If you're not Canadian, you might not have heard of the NFB, but the Film Board has been a major influence on world cinema over the last 40+ years. Maybe not so much on the movies that play at the local multiplex, but as far as documentaries and animation are concerned, the NFB blazed many trails that lead to where those genres are at today.
I have worked on NFB films before, but only as a dialog record engineer. In fact, of one the very first paid sessions I ever did was for the NFB. It was at my first studio job, where I had interned and was learning the ropes. I had sat-in on innumerable sessions with senior engineers, but now I was finally at the controls for a narration recording session for a short animated film. This was my big chance to run a session by myself without a more experienced engineer in the room - I was in charge. I still remember it clearly, thirteen years later, because I was so nervous going in. Luckily, it was also the easiest session possible: one mic, one actor and no editing - they wanted all takes dumped onto DAT (remember those?!). As a result of its simplicity the session went off without a hitch and I aced my first test in the studio.
I gained a lot of confidence from that session and I was proud that it was for the NFB and not some silly corporate motivational video (I had hundreds of those to look forward to in the years to come.) Having proved myself capable, I moved up the ladder at the studio and basically forgot about that short film - until about a year and a half later when the Oscar nominations came out. The NFB had snagged a nomination in the Animated Short Film category for My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts, the very film I had recorded the narration for in that first session. Well, there's nowhere to go but down when your first gig lands an Academy Award nomination! (Sadly, the film did not take home the big prize, but the director went on to win an Oscar in the same category a few years later.)
Since then, I have recorded dialog for a few more NFB films, including I Want a Dog (featuring music by one of my favourite artists Neko Case!!) and Penguins Behind Bars but I have never had the chance to cut SFX for an NFB film until now. I jumped at the opportunity.
The NFB is currently working on a documentary project looking at high-rise apartment life around the globe. This project has already won multiple awards including an International Emmy. The film I'm working on is part of this series and takes place at a specific high-rise building in the outskirts of Toronto.
Last week, I went out to visit the building and record some ambiences to use in my edit. When I arrived on site with my gear (Sound Devices 702 recorder and a Sanken CSS-5 mic) I immediately noticed a little problem: the lawn surrounding the building had just been mowed… and I am extremely allergic to grass clippings. To take my allergic reactions out of earshot would mean leaving my gear unattended... unwise. So, what I ended up capturing was some decent ambience, frequently interrupted by the sound of me having sneezing fits. Needless to say, I had to do a lot of editing in order to get anything close to useable from this session. Here, for comedy's sake, are a couple of samples from the day's recording, with me sneezing like crazy, ruining the takes.
The film is set to be released as part of the bigger website project and will have a large interactive aspect, so I'm about to get deep into asset deliveries that are quite different from what I usually produce for linear animation. I'm going to be kept on my toes making sure everything gets delivered properly - looking forward to it.
Check out the film that resulted from that first little session I did: