Gator Buzz

A Sound Education

 still frame from the movie &qot;Hemingway and Gellhorn" showing actors Clive Owenand Nicole Kidman leaving a store

Cinema’s Pat Jackson says the biggest challenge of doing sound for the movie “Hemingway and Gellhorn” was “making the archival footage and the live-action footage shot locally appear seamless.” Left: Portrait by Silvia Turchin. Right: Photo courtesy of HBO.
IPAD EXTRA: Watch a video of Pat Jackson discussing her approach to sound editing and teaching.

Associate Professor of Cinema Pat Jackson, the prized sound designer and editor whose credits include "Godfather II," "The English Patient" and "Toy Story," helped edit the sound effects in "Hemingway and Gellhorn," a just released HBO film about the tumultuous romance between Ernest Hemingway (Clive Owen) and the great war correspondent Martha Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman). The film, directed by her longtime colleague Philip Kaufman, was shot in the Bay Area.

Jackson turned down an offer to supervise the film's sound because she didn't want to take two semesters off from teaching. "But I couldn't bear the idea that this movie was being done locally without me having at least a toe in the water," says Jackson, who appeared on a recent ABC-7 news piece about SF State's world-renowned cinema program. "I made a guest contribution for the fun of it, for old time's sake. And I wanted to keep up my chops while I'm teaching, to stay current with the new technology and bring that to the classroom."

Jackson, who edited the sound effects for Kaufman's "The Right Stuff" and "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," found the right sounds to fit archival footage of the freezing Finnish front in World War II, which Gellhorn covered: the swooshing of soldiers on skis being pulled by horses, and the roar of 1930s Soviet warplanes. Jackson also drew on sound libraries to help create the tropical ambiance of Hemingway's Cuba.

"It was a chance to do what I talk about to my students every day, which is using sound to create the illusion that all those things you are seeing are happening in real time in the same place," Jackson says.

She attributes the success of the University's cinema department to the faculty's passion for filmmaking and teaching, and to the diversity of the students. "The gene pool here stays interesting. Students meet people who make interesting movies and they work on each other's films. It's such a crazy business. There's no other reason to do it except that you love it. I tell my students, find the people you love to work with and keep working with them."


Back to Spring/Summer 2012 index