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26 June 2012
Oscar-winning Hollywood sound designer offers up his trade secrets

“I’d like more silence in films!”

Coming from anyone else it might have seemed an understandable plea amidst a widespread public concern over the perceived loud volume of films in our cinemas. But for a Hollywood director of sound it was quite a statement.

Speaking at a unique University of Nottingham alumni event at the British Film Institute on London’s South bank, leading Hollywood sound designer Randy Thom said he favoured a dynamic range of sound, which included the lack of sound, as opposed to cramming non-stop music and sound affects in modern films.

“I think directors fear that when they use silence people will lose interest but when set in the context of what comes before and after, silence can have a real impact on the story.”

Mr Thom called for greater and earlier collaboration with sound designers in the pre-production of films so that sound might enjoy equal status to image.

Randy Thom is Director of Sound at Lucasfilm Ltd’s Skywalker Sound facility in Northern California.  He has won two Oscars hosted a unique alumni event at the British Film Institute last night and has a string of blockbuster movies to his name including Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter. His most recent award was an Oscar for his work on Pixar’s The Incredibles.

Around 50 University of Nottingham alumni enjoyed pre-talk drinks with Mr Thom before the full presentation Sound Design in Pre-Production in one of the BFI’s lecture theatres.

Mr Thom is visiting The University of Nottingham this week as part of a unique collaboration between the global film industry and pioneering academic researchers. He will be taking part in a series of events through the University’s recently-founded Institute of Screen Industries Research (ISIR) on a University-funded Industrial Fellowship. The events include  a lecture and seminars at the University and a public presentation, Q&A and screening of Apocalypse Now at the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham.

The University’s Institute of Screen Industries Research is the first of its kind in the UK and has been set up to bridge the gap between the film business and pioneering academic research by offering industry partners…

  • An ideas incubator and innovation generator in a confidential, data-secured environment.
  • Expert and cost-effective research back-up from staff and scholars in several disciplines including Film/TV, Business and Computer Science.
  • Access to a unique talent development resource and audience testing from the University’s 40,000 students over campuses in Nottingham, China and Malaysia. The University is the first institution in the UK to offer internships to Hollywood studios, Fox and Lionsgate.
  • A new programme of executive and postgraduate courses in Screen Industries Studies including a brand new MA/MSc in Film and Television within the ISIR.

Director of the Institute, Dr Gianluca Sergi, said: “ISIR is thrilled to host a week of events with Randy Thom, who is one of the leading figures in Hollywood production. This is a unique opportunity for staff, students, alumni and the general public to get an inside look at how some of Hollywood’s most iconic films are made. Randy has been a great supporter of the ISIR project and we look forward to working together.”

Randy Thom was awarded a highly prestigious Industrial Fellowship from the University’s Centre for Advanced Studies, designed to bring in expertise from top professionals from the international film industry. He is the second Hollywood name to join the University as visiting lecturer. Last year the Institute hosted the award-winning American film production designer Tom Walsh (President of the Art Directors Guild of American and famous for his work on the TV smash hit Desperate Housewives).

As well as lectures and seminars for staff, students and alumni, Randy Thom will meet students from the University’s Creative Student Network which includes the student drama group, New Theatre, NUTS TV and University Radio Nottingham.

An all-day ‘sandpit’ event will look at developing collaboration between universities and industry with academics from the Department of Culture, Film and Media and Schools of Education, Business School, Computer Science, the Horizon Digital Economy Research Hub, as well as external participant from the new regional media support agency, Creative England and Nottingham Trent University. Nottinghamshire’s Welbeck Estate will also host an event to showcase its growing profile as a film and television location.

‘Inside Hollywood – Randy Thom + Apocalypse Now’  is the culminating event on Friday 29 June at 5.15pm at Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema on Broad Street. This is a unique opportunity for the public to meet Randy and ask him about his career, the filmmaking process, and the many famous directors and stars he has worked with over the years. A screening of Apocalypse Now, Thom's very first experience working on a major film, will precede a Question and Answer session. The screening will start at 5.15PM and the talk will begin at 8.15PM. Tickets are £5 available here.

  See images from the event here.

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