'Jungle Book' Director Jon Favreau Says Sound Mixing Is Like Cooking

"Good chefs add a lot of flavors," says the filmmaker, who will be honored Saturday at the Cinema Audio Society Awards and calls sound pros the "unsung heroes of VFX."
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Jon Favreau

Multihyphenate Jon Favreau — who has used sound so effectively in such films as Iron Man, Elf and, most recently, The Jungle Book (which has earned $996.6 million worldwide), is set to receive the Cinema Audio Society's Filmmaker Award during the 53rd annual CAS Awards on Feb. 18. Also during the ceremony, production mixer John Pritchett (Memoirs of a Geisha) will receive the Society's Career Achievement Award.

"Before you get involved in filmmaking, sound is an invisible art," says Favreau, who has both a Jungle Book sequel and a similar virtual-production The Lion King in the works for Disney. "It's one of the most important aspects of a film in terms of how much life can be brought into the film and how audiences perceive the story. Every time I do a sound mix, I learn a little more." Adds the director-star of Chef, "It's a lot like cooking — good chefs add a lot of flavors but you don't taste individual flavors. They combine a lot of ingredients and the result is always unique."

In the case of The Jungle Book, the movie was shot entirely on a bluescreen stage and features a photo-real CG jungle. The sound team had to create a believable soundscape to transport audiences to such a lush landscape. Favreau also recalls details from Iron Man, which was nominated for a sound editing Oscar in 2009, such as how Skywalker Sound's mixing team "created a tone for what was a practical suit — all the little intricacies that made you feel like you were seeing real technology."

He's grateful for the CAS honor but even more so for the group bestowing it. "I love to collaborate with people as talented as this," he says. "It makes me happy if [the sound teams] found it enjoyable and think I was respectful of their collaboration. They are the unsung heroes of VFX."

This story first appeared in the Feb. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.