LAMP Interview Series:
James Tobin, Sound Mixer

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with the cast and team from LA Motion Pix’s latest film, “Bouquet of Consequence.” we will try to bring you behind the scenes interviews, updates, photos and videos as we lead up to the release. If you would like to ask any questions to any member or cast, you can email us at pr@lamotionpix.com or leave a comment below.

1. The first thing I have to ask, is do you have to have a degree in Sociology to become a production sound mixer?

Well, the short answer is no. My path to production sound mixing was long and convoluted. It mostly revolves around my love of music. In the grand scheme my Sociology degree is a blip on the radar.

When I was a kid I played piano and was in chorus. I also played the trumpet up until high school when I traded that in for a bass guitar and fell in love with Industrial and Techno music. In college I got a computer and started messing around with computer music software and graphic arts. It is there that I (miraculously) ended up with both Visual Arts and Sociology degrees. After beating cancer and a brief stint as a graphic designer, I found myself working at Wax Trax Records and, a few years later, starting my own record label (Dorje Records).

During this time I was contracted to design the audio installation for a very large theme park’s haunted house. That led to more similar work and eventually I struck out on my own, designing audio content for installed exhibits, toys and amusement park attractions. While networking some new gigs I was asked if I would be interested in mixing the audio for a feature film. I jumped at the chance… by saying no. I suggested hiring a friend of mine who had experience with production audio, and then hiring me as his assistant. That worked and I was hooked.

Inspired by the production and post production environment, I enrolled at the Berklee College of Music and got a Master Certification in Audio Production and Technology. I specialized in composition & production for new media, all the while, boom operating, sound mixing, and recording sounds for my library.

2. With such diverse interests—visual arts, music, interactive media, sociology—what made you steer towards sound mixing?

I like production sound mixing because it combines art and science happening together in a live environment.  There are many players involved in production audio. Sometimes field recording/sfx gathering is a very solitary experience… it can be tough to escape the noises of man. In other words, it is a great balance of technique, the technical, and creative problem solving. Every shoot is different, every day is different, every location is different. Sometimes you only get one shot at capturing what you need. There is something I enjoy about all that.

3. Besides “Bouquet of Consequence,” what other projects are you currently working on?

Right now I have lots of projects on my plate that are in various states of production. Currently I am working on 3 feature film projects ranging from a period western, to a documentary, and even a musical. I am also mixing the post audio for a short dramatic thriller film, as well as, creating and implementing the audio content for a PC video game. I also edit audio books for the Colorado Talking Book Library.

4. Where do you see your contributions in regards to the finished product?

In other words, if you do your job right… will the audience ever notice your work? It is my hope than my work on location goes entirely unnoticed by the viewer. The sound effects, on the other hand, I hope will make the audience scream, wince, grit their teeth, gasp, gag, or worse.

5. Is creating sound for a horror movie different than sounds for a video game? And would you consider “Bouquet of Consequence” a typical horror movie?

Creating sounds for games is a very different task than creating sounds for film. That said, many of the tools are the same and the goals are also the same. In either media, the audio is primarily there to tell the story. In addition to literally telling the story, audio creates emotion and gives the viewer cues for important moments in the story.

“Bouqet of Consequence” has many opportunities for the audio effects to be a driving force in the story telling. Without giving anything away, I think “Bouqet of Consequence” is NOT your typical horror story. It has some classic horror story elements and the use of audio will be traditional as well, but I wouldn’t call it a typical horror movie.

5. Considering the genre, the script, the characters, what sort of challenges are you going to face?

The challenges are usually the same for a production sound mixer, regardless of script or content. The biggest challenge is NOT recording the things that are distracting to the dialog and the action on screen. Things like traffic, airplanes, HVAC, crew noise and equipment, creaky floorboards, lawnmowers, and dogs tend to be the most common obstacles to deal with.