Sounding Out a Career Path

Emmy Winner James David Redding ’96 Introduces Students to Sound Editing Industry

Redding has experience working on popular television shows such a The American and The Queen’s Gambit.

Rylan Moraes ’23 

BAM! WHAM! POW! Sound effects in movies have come a long way from the cliche and corny phrases they once were. This past month, the fine arts department brought in James David Redding ’96, an Emmy- winning sound editor and Chaminade alum, to discuss his field and the work he does to make productions “pop” auditorily.

Redding’s in-depth presentation provided professional insight about the process of sound editing and the general career path of a sound editor. Having worked on hit television shows like The Americans and The Queen’s Gambit, Redding discussed many of the scenes he developed and broke down the layers of sounds he created. He detailed how he picks apart filmed scenes, and then layers individual items in those scenes, to make a coherent and realistic foley.

Redding then explained how the industry has a standard for sound that is realistic to an extent, but also often exag- gerated to move the audience. He said that in one of the car chase scenes in The Americans, for example, he made the cars “sound more dangerous” and gave them more “growl” to heighten the adrenaline levels of the audience. The new sounds are “bigger and badder” since layering sounds, pitching them up or down, and adding dramatic breaks can really change scenes.

In another instance, Redding recalled a producer asking him to add realistic gunshots—which are “kind of boring,” according to him. The producer wanted “the real thing” and was completely thrown off when he was given what just sounded like a “pop, pop, pop.” Luckily, Redding had the foresight to plan ahead and put “Hollywood sounds” under the real ones. Redding added the Hollywood sounds back into the scene, and the producer approved of Redding’s new edit.

Aside from his basic presentation on how sound editing works and the techniques he uses, Redding also discussed the career path for sound editors and what he did to get to where he is. The first thing he went over was how the sound system works. He has sound libraries that he generally uses when he works, but he also carries around a special microphone so he can pick up any interesting sounds and store them for future use.

Redding also addressed claims that the editing industry boils down to “family ties” and nepotism. Redding completely disagreed, saying, “You don’t need family in the industry to succeed. I didn’t have anything of this sort. You need to be willing to build the connections and go to the events…you know, put yourself out there. Networking is huge.”

His presentation would not have been complete without giving advice for aspiring sound editors. His first piece of advice was his most important: “Get ready to hit the pavement. Get ready to be told you’re not going to make it, and then have enough belief in yourself to make it.”

He explained how it took him months to get his first job after college and how his employers expected him to quit after six months.

Redding added that students need to “stick with it and persevere through it.” He gave this very real description because he wanted to make sure that he did not “sugarcoat the industry.” 

When asked about the entertainment industry, he said, “It’s not easy…but it shouldn’t be. You should want to have a challenge because when you rise above it, it feels so good and it shows you who you are to an extent. There is a reason why you persevere through it.”

The presentation was a huge success, and all of the “insider information” enthralled an audience of over 100 students. Jonathan Desravines ’23 summarized the event as “incredible,” saying, “Redding did a great job capturing the spirit of the industry and showing us the reality of his job and how everything works.”