MPSE Awards Preview: Honoree Skip Lievsay on Sound Mixing vs. Editing

An Oscar winner for 'Gravity,' Lievsay is a Motion Picture Sound Editors Career Achievement Award recipient.
Courtesy of Skip Lievsay
Skip Lievsay

Supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer Skip Lievsay will receive the Motion Picture Sound Editors Career Achievement Award and Darren Aronofsky will be presented the MPSE Filmmaker Award during the 62nd MPSE Golden Reel Awards. Also Feb. 15 at the Westin Bonaventure, winners will be announced in competitive categories for work in feature films, television and video games. (A list of nominees can be found here.)

As the event approaches, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Lievsay, who won an Academy Award for best sound mixing for his work on Gravity and earned an additional five nominations for his work on Joel and Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis, True Grit and No Country for Old Men. His credits include Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and Aronofsky’s Noah.

What is misunderstood about sound editing and mixing?

The most basic thing is many people don't know that the sound doesn’t come out of the camera. We have to create, record and edit together the dialog and music and sound effects—whatever the movie requires. And we have to put them in sync with the picture. And then we have to re-record that into one complete track, a final version. We spend 2-3 months originating [the sound] and one month re-recording that.”

Among your first credits as sound editor is Blood Simple for the Coen Bros. That began a collaboration spanning such films as Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski and Fargo. Tell us about working with the Coen Bros.

It’s like working with good friends, even family. A lot of the sound direction is written into the scripts. I’ve been working with them for 30 years so we have a lot of common, shared experiences, so we can refer to those films. The relationship, friendship and common experience is a short hand.”

What’s next?

[The Coen Bros.’] Hail Caesar, I start on the sound in May.