At the beginning of July, I had the opportunity to hang out with Michael Russo, a foley artist and sound engineer based in Baton Rouge. Russo creates sound effects for feature films at Building Studios, the Celtic Media Centre-based recording company he co-owns with Paul Knox.
When I arrived at the studio, Russo and local actor and foley artist, Ryan Chase Lee, were working together on a feature film that required Lee to don high heels to record the footsteps of the female lead in an abandoned building.
Moments later, Russo was holding himself above a mattress and was practicing his fall to mimic a fall on screen. He fell a few times until they deemed his fall – and the noise it made for the movie – acceptable before moving on to the next sound.
It was fascinating seeing the everyday objects used to create background music for the feature film the artists were currently working on. The guys used a ladder to create a creaking sound. Lee held an old jacket as he mimicked the movements of an actress onscreen to create background cloth noise. And they walked on various surfaces – concrete tiles, scattered hay and gravel – to create different sounds as characters walked on the screen.
In the studio, there is a collection of random objects the foley artists use daily for their work. Old telephones, a rusted car door, grates that appear to have come from a grill, size 14 high heels and brittle sticks, caked in mud, that sit inside of a kiddie pool, among other items, sit on a shelf – and a general quarter of the room – that is overflowing. Russo said that over the years, he and others have dug items out of dumpsters, that family members have contributed random objects they have found or were willing to part with and they have gone to junk yards to collect other objects, like the rusted car door.
Not only did I make some fun in-the-moment images of Lee and Russo recording foley, but I also made some fun portraits with the objects in the studio. And, to top it all off, I got to learn a lot about sound in movies.