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Twickenham Film Studios Shines a Spotlight on the Foley Team

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Adam Méndez, Sophia Hardman and Oli Ferris sit down to explain exactly what Foley is and what it's like being the team behind invisible natural sounds

Twickenham Film Studios Shines a Spotlight on the Foley Team

Twickenham Film Studios catches up with its multi award-winning, creative Foley team to hear more about exactly what Foley is, delve into some of their highlight creative creds and favourite recent projects, what it’s like being the team behind invisible natural sounds that people didn’t even know existed!

 

Q> Tell us about the TFS FOLEY team? Each of your roles?

Adam Méndez - senior Foley / ADR mixer

Sophia Hardman - Foley mixer and editor

Oli Ferris - Foley artist

With long time Freelance Collaborators Sue Harding and Andrea King

 

Q> What is FOLEY and how does it work for those who aren’t clear on what your team does and how you work?

Foley can be thought of as the part of a soundtrack of a Film or TV show that was performed by an artist to match the action on screen. 

The Foley artists are similar to musicians in that they can take an object (from the shoes they are wearing, to an oven, to large piece of sheet metal) and ‘play’ it in time with the action on screen to produce a sound that augments the story. 

Generally, we look at the picture and fill in the appropriate sounds with the artists performing them, the mixer recording them and the editor tidying them up and making them mix ready after the shoot. 

We’ll either have a Foley Supervisor in with us or have notes from the Director via the Sound Team to guide us. 

We have a large room covered with different surfaces and several storage areas full of props and shoes, which we rummage through to conjure up the sounds. 

Our TFS Foley Theatre is one of the largest in the UK, one which we have evolved over time to create a recording space that we are immensely proud of today.

 

Q> What's it like working as part of the TFS Sound Team?

AM: We’ve been fortunate enough to work on some great projects for outstanding crews here. Twickenham Film studios in its various guises has been an incredibly creative place and that’s allowed us to build a studio environment that we are very proud of.

SH: The Sound Team at TFS is a tight circle of creatives who are highly skilled and motivated. Being a part of such a successful and youthful team is inspiring and exciting. 

OF: It’s amazing to be part of such a talented and hardworking team. 

 

Q> Talk us through your big historical Film and TV credentials? Best moments / greatest hits? Challenging ones?

AM: My first big film was Slumdog Millionaire. Sound Supervisor Glenn Freemantle’s enthusiastic direction got me very hyped up. Hugo Adams Supervised the session and we produced some nice sounds, including a boy falling into a pile of poop that involved a lot of wet newspaper. That project really opened my eyes to what you could create in a studio. It also opened a lot of doors for me, and I'm very grateful to have been involved.

OF: Black Mirror, USS Callister, was a pivotal project for me that cemented my transition from working front of house as a Runner to full time Foley Artist for the studio.

SH: I cut my teeth editing many episodes of Poldark and learning loads as I went - the extremely busy episodes coupled with fast turnaround times meant that I had lots to learn, fast. From here I went on to apply my knowledge to feature films, such as The Kid Who Would Be King, Sound Supervised by James Mather which was my first jump into feature editing! 

 

Q>Tell us about your award-winning projects?  

AM: I’ve been very lucky with the projects I've been exposed to. I was still fairly inexperienced when Glenn Freemantle hired me for Slumdog Millionaire and some years later Gravity came along which was such an exciting project to be involved with. I was basically just keeping up with Nicolas Becker and Hugo Adams on this huge learning curve whilst they experimented with tons of metal and unusual microphones. It was my first time using a geophone and deliberately saturating sounds and I was happily thrown well outside of my comfort zone. 1917 was a hugely exciting challenge. Oliver Tarney and his team had a very clear and specific brief for us which involved some research into WWI trenches and kilos of clay being mixed up by Sophia and Oli. The single shot nature of the film meant we were following the leads in a way that meant performance was key, so after we had built a trench and covered it in sticky clay and mud. Foley artists Sue Harding and Andrea King had to perform long walks with as much nuance as possible. The Foley we shot was then married to location Foley tracks by Hugo Adams and then fed back to Oliver and his crew for mixing by Mark Taylor before being presented to the director in huge continuous chunks. It was a very intense project

SH: Being a part of the TFS Foley team has meant exposure to some incredible projects and getting to be a tiny tiny part of amazing projects like 1917, which I assisted on (and experienced mud and mess like never before). Also I would be remiss to not mention Black Mirror S4, which I was part of the CAS award winning team for the episode USS Callister which was a whirlwind of an experience but one I’m extremely grateful to have had. 

OF: Like the other two have said, 1917 was a Foley dream project for everyone and a very messy one at that, and being part of the sound team for USS Callister gave me a opportunity of a life to go out to LA as it got nominated for a EMMY, and as luck would have it we won, a moment I will never forget.

 

Q> Tell us about some other key creative highlights?

AM: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil for James Mather and the team at Soundbyte was extremely enjoyable as we had to create sounds for toad-pig creatures, walking mushrooms and fairy-leafed trees as well as rippling feathery wings. We had a lot of fun rummaging through the props as we were asked to bounce a golden crown through fairyland at one moment then record massive suits of armour the next. News Of The World for Oliver Tarney was beautiful to work on as there were a lot of delicate sounds for the artists to perform which had plenty of space for them to sit in the mix. We also got to let rip as Oli and Sue tore a wheel off a wagon which involved large pieces of wood being furiously shaken. 

SH: Getting to record Foley for Enola Holmes for Eilam Hoffman and Nina Hartstone, was a real step up for me in terms of recording and it was a dream job in terms of foley as it was laden with moments that meant we could really show off what we can do and the end product was something I am extremely proud to have been a part of. Also recently, a personal highlight was getting to be involved in No Time To Die. It goes without saying that the Bond films are iconic and getting to be a part of such a film is something I always wanted, so I feel very grateful to have been part of the team.

OF: The One and Only Ivan was a great challenge with all the different animated animals from elephants, gorilla and seals to a rabbit in a firetruck. The fight scenes in Enola Holmes were great fun as well, making sure we got the right amount of energy in them.

 

Q> You recently worked on No Time To Die? Tell us more about how Foley worked with Sound?

No time to die for Oliver Tarney was a very exciting piece to work on as we were part of a huge franchise that started before I was born! 

The most fundamental part of the work we do involves the footsteps of the characters in a film. The goal is to make a sound that blends in seamlessly with all the other sound elements but also adds something to the story. In Bond, for example, when he is in the classic Bond tux he needs to sound smart, yet also dangerous. Anna de Armas’ character, Paloma, similarly needed to sound elegant but also deadly so that you believe it equally when she is walking through the party or running at an assassin. This means that in the studio we chose the shoes and surfaces that give us the right sound to enhance the soundtrack. We work under close supervision from Oliver Tarney and the sound team who give us the work-in-progress soundtrack to play back the Foley against so we can make sure we’re giving them the best elements.

Sounds like explosions, gunshots, car chases are all created by Sound Designers from a mixture of raw recordings and library effects. We can augment these moments by adding any details that might sound better performed by a human. For example, in No Time To Die when the hi-tech thieves abseil into a top-secret lab we recorded the sounds of their footsteps on the glass building, their ropes slowly pulling through carabiners which blend in around the laser glass cutters and eventual explosions. Later, when Bond and MI6 agent Nomi are stalking the tunnels of Safin’s lair picking off a small army, we perform sounds for their tactical kit and feet through the puddled water that sit in between the gunshots. Our role is really to provide the human element amongst these wonderfully crafted effects.

Aside from the excitement at being involved in such an iconic franchise, there was the added buzz of the long delay of its release caused by the pandemic. We actually finished our work on this project around Christmas 2019, so it was great to finally be able to see it hit the screens this year.

 

Q> What are your favourite props used in notorious effects? Can you tell us about what you use for some of the best known sounds?

AM: Although we do have certain 'go-tos’ for some situations, we try not to get too stuck on favourites as we want to keep everything evolving. Our clients are paying us for something new each time so we try our best to deliver and to keep progressing.

SH: Adam is totally right and it’s hard to pick out a favourite prop. But I will tell you what my least favourite sound is.... a sound that makes me recoil in horror and usually get annoyed with Oli for doing: A fork being aggressively scraped down a piece of metal. It’s the worst and I hate it, but in the context of a project when it’s added at the right moment it can bring so much energy into what it’s applied to, think car crashes or explosive fight sequences.

OF: I guess my shoes, I’ve got a really big collection now that is forever growing which helps me get the right amount of character for each walk, also I have to give a shout out to the flaming sword! a plastic door curtain, that I try to get into everything we work on from cigarette lighters, ovens and fireplaces to swords, wings and explosions.

 

Q> What tech do you use as part of your role at TFS you couldn’t live without? 

AM: Our dust extractor. The amount of dust the studio generates is unbelievable, and on days where we have been working with sand (for example, on The Martian) or dry dirt it was quite common to head home with a sore throat and chesty cough. That dust extractor is a hero!

SH: Of course, we couldn’t do without our pre-amps & microphones, ProTools or mixing console, the tools that we have access to, we have spent time testing and learning how best to utilise to the best of our abilities. 

 

Q> Any favourite gadgets / sound apps you’d recommend?

AM: I’m always on Spotify

OF: I like having a guitar in the studio

SH: App wise I’m really enjoying Worldwide FM - a way to listen to broadcasters around the globe. 

 

Q> Films with best Foley you wished you had worked on?

AM: I would have loved to have worked on James Cameron’s Aliens. I remember impersonating the sounds of that film with my schoolmates in the playground. From the purring computer in the opening scene to the nasty visceral sounds of the eggs hatching. It's one of the main reasons I got into film sound and I was so excited to add a small contribution to that series when we worked on Alien: Covenant.

SH: I wish I could have worked on Big Hero 6, that film charmed me with its soundscapes and its use of comedy sound also in particular for the Baymax character I thought was genius. 

OF: No country for old men would have been amazing to work on, love the captive bolt pistol Javier Bardem walks around with, it’s just a great sounding film all together.

 

*The TFS Sound department has just gone through a full renovation and tech upgrade as part of the exciting TFS complex redevelopment making us the most state of the art, technically advanced Sound Theatres in the world.

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Twickenham Film Studios, Wed, 15 Dec 2021 11:52:52 GMT