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Up Close with Walter Thoma



Movie Marker Magazine got up close with sound designer and composer Walter Thoma to chat about working on the film “Adspicio” for sound editing, dialogue editing, ADR recording with the cast, sound design, and mixing.

Thank you for chatting with us today. Can you tell us about life growing up?

I always had a fascination for sound and music, growing up in Mexico I always found myself spending most of my time experimenting with musical instruments, I don’t know what it was, but I was always hypnotized by them. I started playing piano when I was seven, I was no virtuoso by all means, but I would always feel like I was somewhere else, especially when it was just me after class, trying to figure out how I could create something of my own. I was very lucky to have very supportive parents, they would go to my band’s concerts, almost every week. My career took a lot of commitment, but I would not be here, if it weren’t for their unconditional support.

Did you go through any specific training?

I only had classes for instruments as a kid, later on the learning process for music production would be trickier, I had a friend introduce me to a DJ/music producer in my hometown, he went by the name Yvan Finzi.

I took music production classes with him for about a year, which got the ball rolling, and eventually I mostly just kept on creating all the time. I would take my laptop which had Ableton Live 8 on it and produced in the car, when my parents went to the bank, just about any place where I could, I was always producing. It was all terrible music of course for the first five to six years, but eventually some decent music started to come out.

What was the first project you worked on?

When college finally arrived, I met with people who were filmmakers, and if there’s something they love is: free score for their short films!

So, I worked on a variety of short films with my friends, building my experience as a film composer, I learned a lot and took as many projects as I could.

Eventually I started noticing and internally aching at the fact that the sound for a lot of the projects was abysmal: there was clipping, or suddenly sound would just cut out, the voice would sound like it was in an echo chamber although we were supposed to be in a house.

I reached out to a couple of my friends in LA and said: Hey, I know you’re working on your thesis, I know audio engineering, since I have never really done this for a film before, let me do your project for free.

That conversation led me to 3 projects: Güicho (directed by Hugo Arvizu), Present Day (directed by Tyler Walden), and Lost Sisters (directed by Paola Eiris).

Has there been one moment in your career that you’re most proud of?

I worked on a project with a friend called “Adspicio”, it’s a beautiful short film directed by one of my closest friends: Ana Sierra.

‘Adspicio’ talks about grief through a fantasy-reality paradigm, that I thought was beautiful and powerful.

Ana lost her mother at a young age, which heavily shaped her life, and this movie reflects her inner thoughts and learnings that this experience taught her.

The first time I saw the rough cut, it brought me to tears and I knew I had the opportunity to work on something that would deeply connect with people. But, unfortunately, due to the nature of how sets operate, there was a lot of damage dealt to the sound that was captured on that set, and a lot of repair and ADR had to be done with the entire cast to deliver a quality product.

An incredible amount of work was put into that short film, even did the foley myself, and occasionally Ana, and my mom who was visiting at the time joined in to do some foley themselves!

I did all of the processes: sound editing, dialogue editing, ADR recording with the cast, sound design, and mixing!

Once it was completed, we had a private screening with Ana’s family, and it was the first time that I saw how much our work really matters.

What’s been the pros and cons of pursuing your career?

Getting to do what I love for a living is definitely a reality that I don’t take for granted, I get to put all of my time and energy into something that I started doing since I was a kid, so until this day I still feel like I haven’t worked a day in my life.

Sadly, time often runs out, and sometimes I find myself being too busy to spend time with my friends and family. This career has taught me that the hardest thing to work out, is balance.

What’s coming up next for you?

Work as a sound professional is mostly abundant, there’s not a lot of us out there!

This brings in a lot of new opportunities. Lately I’ve been starting to get bigger projects, which are pointing towards the direction of feature films; lots of exciting new short film projects are also still on their way, but in the next few days I’ll be starting work on: “Petunia” a new drama short film directed by Alec Cohen, “Not Much Left” a sci-fi short film directed by Tyler Walden, “They’re Here” an alien invasion thriller short by Austin Rodgers and finally a feature film called “Stitched” directed by Zach Goodwin.

Being a sound professional for film is a peculiar thing, we’re half of what makes a movie, and our job is to be invisible, if the audience is captivated by the story and is never distracted, our job is to bring them closer to the screen.

I hope my future brings me more of that, connecting with people through the power of sound and music is what brings my life color.

Are you on social media? How can people find you?

Yes, you can find me on Instagram as @walterthoma_sound.

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