(director: Midge Costin; screenwriter: Bobette Buster; cinematographer: Sandra Chandler.; editor: David J. Turner; music: Allyson Newman; cast: Walter Murch, Ben Burtt, Gary Rydstrom, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Barbra Streisand, David Lynch, Sofia Coppola, Ryan Coogler, Ioan Allen, John Lasseter, Ang Lee, Christopher Nolan, Robert Redford, Peter Weir, Hans Zimmer; Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Bobette Buster, Karen Johnson, Midge Costin; Cinetic Media; 2019)

“Feel-good documentary that pays homage to the industry.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First time director Midge Costin, whose experience is in the sound departments of film, helms this feel-good documentary that pays homage to the industry (almost like a self-promotion video) through the work of the sound designers, sound editors and Foley wizards in the cinema. The script is tackled by Bobette Buster. It tells us that sound is half of the cinematic experience (which is stating the obvious).

It gives us the pioneering sight-and-sound discoveries of iconic filmmakers and how they’re used by recognized and celebrated directors. That’s the cue to bring on the noted sound mavens like the Big Deal of the Hollywood sound revolution Walter Murch (The Conversation, Apocalypse Now), Ben Burtt (Star Wars, ET – The Extra-Terrestrial) and Gary Rydstrom (Jurassic Park, Toy Story). They all openly and modestly talk about their job being mainly to help the story get told better.

We’re informed that it takes many “soundsmiths” to perform such tasks as removing “pops” from dialogue; building libraries of natural elements to give one a feeling of being there (e.g., animals, snow crunches and water flows); creating new sounds by modifying the sounds in characters from R2-D2 to big dinosaurs; and by adding music to special moments thereby making things more emotional.

I found the most interest in the part about how synchronized sound was developed (with speech in The Jazz Singer in 1927). It went on to tell how Hollywood studios came to rely on the same effects and they became cues for all their films. The unsung sound hero Murray Spivak of King Kong was paid homage here as the true pioneer in 1933. Then we move to the seventies where directors George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola are called out as good examples of filmmakers who understand how important the sound of their movies is. Gary Rydstrom in the eighties will shake up the technology with digital sound.

I’m not a techie person, but the film was informative, entertaining and well-done. It’s just not the type of film I crave.

REVIEWED ON 12/12/2019  GRADE: B-