Hollywood Expert Criticizes Shrinking Sound Budgets for Indie Films

Schwarzenegger in "The Last Stand."

Veteran Michael Broomberg also says he only had eight days to work on Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie "The Last Stand," which he called "ridiculous."

ABU DHABI – Michael Broomberg, a Hollywood sound artist whose studio worked on War of the Worlds and Watchmen, calls shrinking sound budgets for independent films “madness.”

He is a specialist in Foley, a process by which sounds are created or altered for use in a film. The sound effects, such as gunshots and breaking glass, are created live in a studio.

Broomberg said at an Abu Dhabi Film Festival Masterclass that he had just eight days to do Foley work on Lionsgate’s latest Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie The Last Stand compared to one month for studio releases such as Watchmen and Spider-Man 3. Broomberg said: "The Schwarzenegger movie is a big action film with lots of guns and explosions. It was ridiculous."

STORY: Ari Emanuel in Abu Dhabi

The Hollywood sound expert told his audience of young Emirati filmmakers that independent producers never earmark enough money for Foley work, "but they need it because sound is just as important." He added: "Sound tells the story just as much as visuals. It's really important to set some budget aside for sound."

Broomberg described Fokey as "the organic movement of things on screen." Producers need to earmark at least $50,000 for Foley work on the average independent movie, he said.

Foley work costs $5,000 a day and, in the case of a big Hollywood movie, can cost up to $150,000 as a below-the-line budget item. Broomberg showed a variety of clips during his technical presentation, giving away trade secrets such as recreating fireball explosions by simply blowing into a microphone.

"If Foley work draws attention to itself then we haven’t done a good job," he said. He was upbeat about his craft despite falling budgets. He said TV unsuccessfully tried to eliminate the work by just using a library of pre-recorded sounds on a synthesizer.

"You can’t capture the emotion on a computer because there are always nuances," he said. "Foley will be around for years."

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