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A Sound Experience

March 2023 | Joan Retamero

Joan Retamero's journey into the film industry started with a short film competition, which led him to pursue his love for post-production sound earning him an award at the Cannes Film Festival.

It is important to remind each other from the very start that the movie industry is probably the biggest in terms of the number of positions to cover and the different departments that need to be filled. I am pretty sure all of you have stayed for the credits after a movie that you really liked, and it is clear in almost all of them how many people can be needed to work in a movie, and all of them are important. 

I think it was after seeing the premiere of “Avatar”, a movie that generated lots of interest for everyone for the technology they applied to it, that I realised the full third act had almost the same time on screen as the credits after the movie. I was surprised, even though I had been conquered by movies since I was a 4-year-old child.

After seeing ¨The Last Hope¨ I became passionate about everything related to filmmaking. I watched lots of movies per day (some of them more than once and on repeat), and I was interested in every single department included in the making of the movies I loved. At the same time, I was listening to my first music albums. I remember having ¨A Hard Days Night¨ by the Beatles and the “Blade Runner” soundtrack by Vangelis. Of course, there is no need to say that when you listen to John Williams's ¨Star Wars¨ theme, you will probably love it forever. I continued learning lessons without even noticing: A good movie without good-quality sound doesn't exist. 

One day, when I was 18, my father called me to the garden. He had a newspaper in his hands and he gave it to me. Ridley Scott was offering a short movie contest. It was a really good one. That same afternoon I started to write the idea of a story. I spent hours and hours trying to figure out what kind of a story I could create with the budget and possibilities I was counting on. At that moment, my best friend was a boxer and I said, “well maybe it could be related to that”. In three months I had a short movie in my hands. I had to investigate cameras, camera movements, audio and video editing,  microphones, how to write scenes and how to improve them. I was giving orders to my best friend to improve his poor acting (we had a lot of fun). I had to give orders to cameramen that were much more professional than me. I had to be cautious about every single random possibility that could improve my story. A complete amateur movie experience, but strong. I loved it. 

After that amazing experience, I only had one thing on my mind: I want to be a movie director, or at least, be a part of this beautiful world. 

For different reasons, making that happen was not easy at all. But passions never rest and I said to myself: “Why not music? Or sound?” Within a couple of days, I was studying Music Production in my hometown. Results arrived truly fast, I was signing contracts with labels, and I won a scholarship to study Sound Engineering in London. 

Suddenly I was paying attention to movies in a different way. When you listen to the sound in the movies you are probably paying attention to lots of things at the same time. But if you go to the details, one of the main aspects of being really ¨inside¨ the movie is thanks to the sound. 

If on-screen a car goes from left to right, the engine of the car follows it as well and with precision. Sound Editing is an amazing work of art. The full idea of recording sounds and making them fit with the story is incredible. All the sounds off-screen are recorded and processed with precision. It can take tons of time to make them fit in a way you don't realize is actually an edit. Good sound editing is, of course, one which you don't realize took hours of work to achieve. Starting to practice everything related to live sound takes time but is super possible. Recording sounds in the street and attaching them to videos was a really good start. When you can afford a good recorder and a good microphone the experience becomes better and better. 

Talking a bit about technical data, most of the Sound Engineers dedicated to movies use ProTools and Cubase, but honestly, if you know your program and you can make art with it, it doesn't matter.

In terms of music, what would be the movies without a good soundtrack telling the story with them?  Sometimes, the soundtrack anticipates what is going to happen in the story. Learning music theory is asking questions and answering them with the music itself and it is inspiring. Every single musical note or chord expresses emotion. Building a soundtrack from tonalities is a mastery of the art. 

Thanks to my music career, in which I have had the opportunity to be in compilations surrounded by artists like Hans Zimmer, The Royal Philarmonic of Prague and Vangelis, I met a movie Director in Spain who wanted to collaborate with me. Networking is probably everything and the world is full of people that would love to collaborate with you. Start showing your work with people that you trust and if you can, work as a team. Magical ideas will appear!

We filmed a short movie called ¨Caravan: Love Moves On¨, in which I was in charge of the overall sound, but I also had the opportunity to read the script from the beginning, to make opinions about it, and to be present in the overall process of production. That short movie was selected for Short Films Corner at Cannes Film Festival and I was present in the credits as Head of Sound.  

Today I am continuing my path in this beautiful industry, and for everyone trying to find a way, the beautiful truth is that there are many of them, and learning a bit about everything is important. A movie is a universe of creation and a mix of different arts. So if you love taking pictures or drawing, or writing, or if you are interested in make-up and trying new clothes, or recording sounds or videos and mixing to make them work together, and if you really want to make it happen, the movie world definitely will help you FIND YOUR WAY.

Sometimes it is a matter of ¨pressing play¨ and believing in ourselves.

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