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I have my opinion on when the sound of a film should fade in and the film editor has a different idea on it.

The director is unavailable at the moment and I wanted to know your guys' opinion on how much I can hold my ground on it. The editor wants to have it as finished as possible before the director sees it and wants to cut off a bit of my sound, but I want my sound left as is.

I've never really seen a list in order of artistic authority who's opinion should submit to who's, but as the sound designer of this piece I feel like I have the right to stand up for when I want my sounds to fade in (it's in black before the picture starts which is what the script says to do).

What is your opinion?

Thanks in advance.

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9 Answers 9

Since creative control ultimately lies with the director, my vote would be to keep both options available for when the director shows up. I don't like to pit myself against other collaborators, especially by constructing a pecking order. While we each may think that our craft determines the genius of the project, we're all helping to tell someone else's story. Good luck.

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Thanks for the answer, Matt. Appreciated. –  Utopia May 25 '11 at 19:11
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sounds like you have a negotiation on your hands.

I'll bet that even if you could show the picture editor a list that shows you above him you'd still have a negotiation on your hands.

I'd suggest trying to find out more about what the specific objection is that your picture editor has, and begin looking for a solution that fits what the two of you both want.

For example, if he's worried about sync and doesn't want to move the first frame of picture off of 01:00:00:00 or whatever, then maybe you two could negotiate an alt timecode location to set the slate and 2-pop at that will accommodate your earlier sound design, and also agree to have a tailpop on the end of the program to double verify sync.

You may have to bend a little somewhere in order to get what you need there, and the trick is figuring out where you need to bend in order to get the deal done.

Negotiate openly and in good faith and you'll be more likely to get what you want. OTOH, if you come off as self-important or egotistical to the editor he'll go out of his way to screw you.

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Thanks for the great answer. –  Utopia May 25 '11 at 19:10
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The picture editor has the advantage of sitting in a dark room with the director for weeks or months while cutting the movie and as a result normally gets as intimate and familiar with the direction and goals of the project as the director. Also because of this time spent together the directors often form a strong bond with the editors and trust them. Having the picture editor as your friend can be a major asset down the road as recuts and changes start rolling in. I have also landed projects based on picture editors recommendations after successfully working with them in the past. Long story short the picture editor is normally pretty high up on the chain of command, so you don't want to start an adversarial relationship with him/her. Your best bet is to have both options available as @Matt Cavanaugh suggests. Or concede the change the editor wants and then during the screening bring up the reason the fade is the way it is and not as listed in the script. Then you can talk it out with all parties present. You don't want to be going behind peoples back and starting he said/she said situations, these lead to problems long term when everyone is not pulling in the same direction.

In the end you have to pick your battles and decide if this fade is worth ruffling some feathers or not. Sometimes it is and you have to stand your ground but you can not win every battle so pick where you take your stand wisely. Good Luck.

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Thanks Azimuth. Your advice is extremely useful. –  Utopia May 25 '11 at 19:11
    
Great advice... –  Justin P May 25 '11 at 19:59
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The picture Editor is higher on the food chain than the Sound Supervisor or Re-Recording Mixer. That's just the reality of the film world.

Offer your professional opinion, but respect his or her opinion as well. If you work well with a picture editor (which doesn't simply mean being a "yes-man"), they will often throw your name in the hat for the next gig. You'd be surprised what influence well-established editors have in determining the audio team. Remember they almost always get their gig before you do.

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Thanks. That makes a lot of sense. –  Utopia May 25 '11 at 21:42
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Next to the director & producer, the picture editor has likely been on the project the longest of anyone, from the start of the shoot (or previz) to the end of deliveries.... so their position & creative involvement deserves respect and you would be foolhardy to try & position yourself between them. Ideally you want to make them both happy. Keep the options available but do what the editor asks. If the director doesn't like it they can discuss it & then try the other options. We've all suffered the 'in love with the temp track' syndrome and sometimes you just have to grin & bear it...

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IMHO it seems like editors get the say over sound pros.
Though diplomacy and being firm may get the win.

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Thanks for the answer, Chris. –  Utopia May 25 '11 at 19:11
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Do as the editor asks, but keep all of the original files just in case. The director never wants to act as a referee.

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Thanks a lot, Iain! –  Utopia May 25 '11 at 21:42
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In my experience the chain of command for the "creative aspects of sound" of the project usually follows: (this is very generalized)

For larger studio films - Director, Main Executive Producer, Picture Editor, Music Composer, Sound Supervisor, Re-Recording Mixers, Sound Designer.

The Director is god.

For Television projects - Main Executive Producers (usually more then one, and are the creators/writers of the show), Network Execs, Show Runner/Associate Producer, Sound Supervisor, Re-recording Mixers.

The Main Execs are god.

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The chain of command I am used to when I am working as Sound Supervisor in Danish films is like this:

Director, Sound Supervisor, Picture Editor, Music Composer.

But sometimes it is like this:

Director, Picture Editor, Music Composer, Sound Supervisor.

So whichever way it goes, the director ultimately has to choose the right decision if the Sound Supervisor and the Picture Editor disagree.

Because of a large degree of state funding, the producers don't use a lot of their power in creative decisions, alt least not in the sound process, but it does happen from time to time.

The only way we can make good films is if everybody says their honest opinion. It is normal to disagree from time to time, but mostly that just makes the final product better. Just make sure you discuss politely and try to listen to their views.

If you try to involve the director in the sound design process, you will be able to do more than if you keep it secret until the last moment. You will also get to know the directors intentions better.

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interesting that the sound supervisor is so high up on the chain sometimes. that's pretty cool! –  Rene May 26 '11 at 13:40
    
@ Rene, well actually the chain is just not so strict here. Of course the director is the boss, but he/she is not God, not all-knowing and all-powerful, he/she is actually relying on your opinion and your skills. –  Morten Green May 26 '11 at 20:14
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