“Good sound begins with the script”

August 10, 2021
August 10, 2021 Max Lachmann

“Good sound begins with the script”

Even though he has been in the industry less than ten years Enos has already won several prestigious awards and been involved in over 100 films in some capacity. But it all started out with iconic film Jurassic Park. We had a chat with Enos Desjardins – sound designer & supervising sound editor.

 

So Enos, where are you based?

I currently work in London, UK, usually as a sound effects editor/designer but also occasionally as a re-recording mixer. I also often collaborate directly with directors and producers as a supervising sound editor.

 

Profile Pic

The man himself – Enos Desjardins!

And what lead you to your current role?

Despite being Finnish/Canadian myself I grew up in the south of Spain and started playing around with sound recording at a young age. Initially as young as age 8 I was recording sounds on small cassette players and at the age of 12 I started playing around  on a four-track cassette recorder my dad had. I got into music around that time and started playing drums and bass in bands as well as learning to play some basic guitar and piano. I began writing my own songs and recording them and eventually recording little band demos initially on the four-track recorder and later on a small DAW based system. I remember one of my favourite things to do was arrangements and choosing what instruments to use and writing riffs for them. In a way that side of music production is kind of like sound designing or sound editing!

By the time I was 16 I did a small “sound technician” course in Seville and that really sparked my interest on a more serious level. I eventually moved to Manchester, UK, to study Audio Engineering with the idea of becoming a recording and mixing engineer in the music industry. Little did I know that I would discover film sound as part of these studies and completely shift my career interest in that direction. By the time I was completing my studies a supervising sound editor/sound designer in New Zealand called Tim Prebble took me on as his “virtual” intern and taught me most of what I now know about film sound, sound editing and understanding the role of sound in storytelling. By now I was doing lots of small shorts and independent projects in Manchester and knew I wanted to pursue a career in film sound so shortly after I moved to London and began my career as a freelancer in the big city and have been on that journey ever since! My first projects in London were a film called The Sweeney which involved lots of car chases and action and around the same time I worked on a couple of titles of the Need For Speed video game series. These days however, I work entirely in narrative film or TV projects from independent arthouse cinema to bigger commercial releases.

 

Are you connected to a specific studio or are you working as a freelance?

I have only ever been a freelancer so far in my 8 years of career working for a wide range of studios, supervisors, directors and producers.

 

During a project, what are you involved in?

This depends entirely on the role I am working as on a project. As a sound effects editor I work under the supervising sound editor editing and designing all the sound effects that make up the world of the film. This could be cutting all the car elements in a car chase, guns in a shootout, simpler elements like doors or so, background ambiences or even designing more conceptual things like robots, spaceships, creatures, etc. I will edit thousands of sounds to construct all these elements which then get passed on to the re-recording mixer who will mix all my work alongside the dialogue, foley and score/music to create the final soundtrack.

Whenever I work as a re-recording mixer I am then the one responsible to take all the tracks from the sound effects editors, dialogue editors, foley team and score and mix all these elements into a final cohesive soundtrack following the direction of the director and supervising sound editor.

Finally, on those projects where I act also as supervising sound editor I am responsible for collaborating closely with the director and deciding on how we will be using sound to support the story and their vision. We decide on a sound aesthetic, conceptual ideas and I am then also responsible for putting together a sound team that will suit the project.

 

Any projects you’d like to mention and your contribution in them?

I am particularly proud of having had the chance to contribute to some episodes of the series Black Mirror which was fun as I was a fan of the show for a long time. 

I was also nominated for Best Sound at the Finnish Jussi Awards (which are their national academy awards) for our work on a film called The Thick Lashes of Lauri Mäntyvaara. This film was super fun to work on and had a great scope or some creative sound work.

Another project that still remains one of my highlights in terms of what we were abler to do with sound was on a short film called Food for Thought which I worked on a few years ago with director Davide Gentile. The film can be seen on my website.

In my yet fairly short career of around 9 years I have been involved in over 100 films in some capacity. Lots of great experiences and collaborations all of which have been shaping my path and honing my skills. But this is just the beginning of course! 🙂

 

What role would you say sound plays in storytelling?

I believe sound is an integral part of the storytelling process going way beyond just making things sound good. Good sound begins with the script and I enjoy most those projects where a director gets me involved while the script is still being written. It is at these early stages where one can truly shape the ideas of how sound can be used to be part of the story and not simply react to what is happening on screen but really be a contributing factor in shaping it. 

Sound can at times be approached in the same way a composer scores a film. Thinking about the film as a whole and creating themes and ideas that become characters in the film and that twist and turn along with the arch of the film and its characters.

I find that the most important place where film can yet evolve a lot is in the one aspect that rarely costs any money. Closer collaboration and communication between departments. Close collaboration between us in sound and the picture editor, the composer, the writer, etc. Closer collaboration almost always leads to a richer film.

On that short film Food for Thought I was involved before the film was shot. We moved around some elements in the storyboard, discussed some props to be used on the shoot relating to sound, prepared a small sound library based on the script which I provided to the film editor, attended the picture edit a few times and evolved some ideas with the editor. All this meant that by the time we started working on the sound most of it was done as it had been designed into the film already. All that was left was executing the work. It is no surprise that the project where collaboration was highest is the project with most awards for sound.

 

Has this changed over time?

It’s really exciting now as many new directors are really becoming aware of this and the creative journeys are becoming a lot more interesting! In my own journey those directors with whom I am working with for a second or third time are getting me involved in some form a lot earlier in the process. Also, as I get to work on bigger and bigger projects, I am also noticing how we are having more time to contribute sound material aimed directly at picture editors and helping them shape the edit with contributions we make during the picture editing stages.

 

Recording Ravens

Enos recording ravens

What makes for a good sound library in your opinion?

Obviously the most important part of any library is the subject itself and the access that those recording it had to it. Often a unique and engaging sound recorded even with less-than-ideal equipment can be preferable to a boring or characterless sound recorded with the best mics and recorders. Having said that of course recording with great microphones and with a wide range and coverage of them is always very welcome. One thing I find is always extremely important with libraries is providing many repetitions, performances and perspectives of the sounds or actions being covered. If recording sounds for a sword fight you would want dozens or hundreds of variations on hits, scrapes and so on. Soft hits, medium hits, strong hits. Clean dry metal clangs with no ring, clangs with heavy ringing, metal on metal scrape, double hits/flams, you get the idea! Also, a range of perspectives can also be useful. Close up and wider perspectives. All this variety makes a library rich and very useful to us sound editors.

 

Any movies, or scenes if you prefer, were you think SFX really makes a significant impact on the experience?

Growing up in rural Spain we never used to get to go much to the cinema but each year we spent a couple months in Helsinki, Finland (where my mum’s from) and there we would go see more films in the cinema and I always remember two movies that had a big impact on me back then. One was Jurassic Park which I remember made me leave the cinema with beaming eyes (and ears!). It really brought this big screen magic experience to me and always remained with me as a film that planted a seed as to what I would eventually do with my professional life.

The other movie I saw five years later and although I did not know it back then was by the same sound designer. This was Saving Private Ryan. That opening beach attack scene was so visceral and intense and really had an impact on me. The fact that these two movies were the ones I remember having the biggest impact on me in terms of sound and both involved Gary Rydstrom really is a testament to his work. I remember that with Saving Private Ryan, apart from the visceral real action sound work, one thing that stayed with me was the use of more subjective sonic POV. When a grenade explodes near Tom Hanks on the beach and he enters a shock moment where all the sound goes muffled and ringing and he just stays in place looking around at all the action and then we eventually bring back the real world with another nearby grenade blast and bang! We are back! This concept of stepping into the ears or emotional shoes of someone other than us audience members was an eye-opening moment for me. Even back then when I was not that aware of what sound was.

Of course, there are tons of great films with brilliant sound work. When it comes to large blockbuster movies these days one of my favorite sound artists must be Mark Mangini. I find his work brilliant and his ethos too. Also all the Coen Brother’s movies and anything done by Skip Lievsay is usually also a must see. Of course, all the stuff Ben Burtt did on films like Star Wars and Wall-E particularly too. I will go see almost anything these people work on. Haha! 

However, I am a big fan of indie cinema and arthouse film too so with that in mind some films that I have really enjoyed sound wise in that world have been important to me too. Paul Davies’ work on the film We Need To Talk About Kevin was a great piece of work in regard to using sound in supporting the narrative. Without spoiling anything I will say that the use of the sprinkler sound early in the film and how it ties in with the story reveal later on was just one example of many things that were done greatly in that movie.

I recently saw a smaller indie film called Waves by Trey Edward Shults. I went to see it not knowing anything about the film and not only did I love the film but the sound work really stood out. I realised in the credits that the sound designer was Johnnie Burn who has been doing a fair bit of interesting films lately.

Finally, I want to sidestep away from film and mention something in the land of “TV”. I work across features and TV series myself and am aware of how, unlike in older times, expectations across both formats are very close these days and working in TV although you tend to get a LOT less time than on film people expect a similar standard these days. With that in mind I thought the show Chernobyl had some absolutely brilliant sound work. It also certainly helped that the brilliant score by Hildur Guðnadóttir crossed over hugely into the grey area of sound design and field recording based soundscapes. I love that grey area where as sound designers we get to play with tonal and rhythm elements to do some work that plays the role of score and vice versa when composers cross over into our world and sneak in a score that is not as easily spotted or identified.

 

When you watch a film, does it ever happen that you forget about what’s happening on the screen and pay more attention to the SFX?

I used to have this happen to me all the time when I was first starting out. I would get so caught up in the mechanics of how the soundtracks were put together and would often find myself breaking down things in my head when watching the movie. Often, I would then go to the studio and try and recreate or imitate certain sounds or design styles. It was a cool learning method. These days however I find I can 100% get lost in the movies I watch without this happening. Not because I no longer feel I have anything to learn but because I’ve been able to re-engage with stories without over analysing the soundtrack. A good film and a good soundtrack should allow you to just get lost in the story. Otherwise, what’s the point, right? I will often go back and watch a film later though or a specific sequence just to listen to the sound work in some more detail!

 

And finally, what is next up for you?

I’ve recently signed up to work on a feature film which is by far the biggest project I’ve ever worked on. Can’t say anything more than that for now but I must say I’m very excited and loving each moment of it already. Definitely a career milestone which is going to be a fun ride and a great experience getting to work on a larger scale project like this with a larger sound team to match.

 

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