Lunch with Son seul
Where did the inspiration for Son seul [Wild Track] come from? Was it that you yourself tended to work on sound while you were at film school? Was Son seul inspired by real events or people you work with?
For my final project at La Fémis, I wanted to work on the collaboration between the sound mixer and the boom operator. The idea for the film gradually developed as I met various sound professionals, taking inspiration from anecdotes and connecting them to things that I myself experienced on sets as the sound mixer, boom operator and sound intern. The quest for a wild track of seagulls, isolated from the constant sound of the sea, began from a real incident when a sound team on a set actually tried to lead the birds far away from the beach by filling the boot of a car with fresh sardines. The seagulls followed the car for several kilometers. At first, my two characters also managed to attract the attention of the seagulls, but during the scouting of Son seul, we tried everything to get the birds to move, and they completely ignored us. So we had to rework the script.
Son seul pays homage to the work that a sound recorder and his boom operator perform for a film. What place to you think the sound team generally has with respect to the rest of the film crew? What interested you about them?
On the set, the sound mixer and the boom operator form a duo that is exclusively focused on matching the sound to the image, whereas the rest of the crew is more concerned with the image. That gives their work a mystical quality in the eyes of the other technicians. In that way, they are at the heart of the film’s creation, and yet remain slightly excluded by virtue of their listening booth on the film. With Son seul I wanted to showcase the sound team on a set and show off a few of the (sometimes surprising) facets of their profession.
In films, we always hear the work of the sound team, but we obviously don’t hear their actual voices. In Son seul, you uncover a few of those voices. How did you manage to lay your hands on that part of the track that is not normally shared by the sound recordists?
Throughout my studies at La Fémis, I held the post of sound editor at various times. Every time, when we prepared the rushes, I would find a host of priceless comments introducing moods and wild tracks, and over the course of the projects I worked on, I created a collection for myself. Each person has his or her particular way of presenting their recordings, and often you can even imagine the context for them, the atmosphere and humor of the sound mixer during the recording. The voices of the sound mixers that you hear during the film’s credits belong to my five sound colleagues. It was my way of thanking them.
Using these two men who have worked together for many years, Son seul investigates human relations. Among all the possibilities, why did you choose to explore the relationship between two man within the framework of their workplace?
The two characters are men, and I always imagined them as such. Perhaps because for this generation, there are few women sound mixers and boom operators, although the times are changing! Son seul tells the story of a human relation that goes beyond collaboration. I really liked the idea of a breakup that was almost like a lovers’ breakup, but within the context of the workplace.
In Son seul, your characters set off in search of a very particular sound recording in order to satisfy the needs of their director. As a filmmaker yourself, do you also make very specific requests of the sound team, or of others?
Yes, sometimes. In fact, Jules and Maël, the real sound mixer and boom operator on Son seul, actually found themselves in a similar situation to that of the two characters in the film. They had to record footsteps on sand, modulations in the wind, and obviously the sound of the seagulls too! They gave us a good laugh!
Yes, I use sound banks! On the set, the sound mixer can suggest a sound point of view, giving the film a certain orientation, but there is simply not enough time or means to record all of the sounds that will be needed. For example, it is often not enough simply to splice the sound of wind to a scene in order to make that wind come alive in post-production. That is when you can have fun playing with the spectrum of wind sounds to get the effects you want, and in order to do that, you need to dig through the sound banks. Used appropriately, sound banks enrich a film’s score, without covering over the sounds recorded during filming.
I don’t know much about the way in which films are produced abroad, but what I do know is that France offers a wide array of assistance for short films. In addition to La Fémis, Son seul was able to take advantage of logistical aid from the towns of Longues-sur-Mer and Saint-Côme de Fresné, which enabled us to work comfortably throughout the filming.