If the lengthy credits at the end of most blockbuster movies are any indication, there are hundreds if not thousands of people who work on any given motion picture, and the vast majority are people you wouldn’t know if you passed them on the street. The fruits of their labor is often summed up as “if we’re doing our job right, you won’t notice our work.” This seems to be doubly true for Foley Artists, the men and women who create the ambient sounds in a scene that boom mics didn’t pick up. The new documentary Actors of Sound highlights the work of these performers, and strives to prove their work can only be done by humans.
Directed by Lalo Molina, Actors of Sound profiles several luminaries in the Foley field and discusses the history of it as an industry. We get to see how different artists make different sounds and how analog the technique still is. It seems like such an old-timey way to do things, but the argument of the movie is that it’s something that digital technology simply can’t replace, even if they try to. However, more and more low-to-mid-budget movies are just using digital library files which has led to a curtailing of some of the once-large studios.
While the artists are all very engaging and it’s undeniably fun to see them at work–a particular joy was seeing how much of the show Breaking Bad was molded around its Foley, and it was one guy who did that–the documentary itself never gets much beyond a lengthy talking head piece. The same point of view–that Foley is important and it’s the human touch that makes the sounds believable to audiences–could have been made in a 30-minute episode of something, or even a 15-minute short doc. It never elevated above being nominally interesting.
The film was made via Kickstarter and screened at the 2016 LA Film Festival. I’m guessing it’ll be available on a platform such as Netflix or Amazon Prime in the near future, and I would recommend giving it a watch there, because you can’t help but find the subjects endearing, it’s just never more than that.
Images: Actors of Sound