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The thrilling work of the Top Gun: Maverick sound team, which placed audiences into Naval aircrafts amid high-flying action, won the Oscar for best sound on Sunday, delivering Academy Awards to the team of Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor. Despite the happy moment for the team, others who worked on sound for Maverick did not have a triumphant moment at the Dolby Theatre, as they were not on the ballot.
In January, The Hollywood Reporter broke the story that the Academy’s sound executive branch found itself in a contentious situation when vetting the names that would appear on the Maverick ballot. Sources say this stemmed from the fact that there were two teams that worked on the movie at different times. One was a team at Skywalker Sound in northern California and the other from Twickenham Film Studios and Soundbyte Studios in London. Accepting the Oscar, supervising sound editor/designer Nelson thanked all of the sound artists “who share this award with us.”
Over the years, other productions have faced similar challenges, and the team was asked about the current rules for credits backstage at the Dolby on Sunday, with winners noting they would like to share credit.
“I’ve addressed this before with The Academy, because I wanted to promote some shared credits,” said production sound mixer Weingarten, who won his second Oscar on Sunday after winning for Dunkirk five years ago. “Because so often a movie is shot half in England, half in America, and half here and there … For years I said, ‘Why can’t we have shared credits?’ But they’ll only allow one.”
It has now been three Oscar seasons since the best sound editing and mixing categories were combined into a single category for best sound, but either way it’s not always clear from the start which names fit the category guidelines. Per the current rules, that may include up to six names: two supervising sound editors, one production sound mixer, and up to three rerecording mixers.
This year’s sound winners see a chance to recognize more people in the future.
“It would be great if it was a little more flexible so that you could allow people who had a contribution, and if it was warranted. And I think that in this case, it was,” supervising sound editor/designer Mather said backstage. “Rules are rules and that’s the way it has to be. There are some things that keep changing. And the size of movies keeps changing. And the community that makes those movies keeps changing. So I trust The Academy to totally understand how the balance has to be.”
Added Mather: “But they need feedback from the likes of us and all the other sound teams to understand what it is that we perceive as fair and right. So it’s all our responsibility to make sure that everybody gets the right attention and the right kind of acknowledgment.”
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