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Sound effects editor Javier Quesada Anaya triumphs at Golden Reel Awards for work on Roma
Roma won the Golden Reel for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing: Feature Film (Foreign). We spoke to one of the film’s Sound Effects Editors, Javier Quesada Anaya, who studied for an MA/MSc in Professional Practice at SAE.
How do you feel about this tremendous achievement?
Very excited. It really is great to be rewarded with an award for doing something that is the most rewarding thing I can think of doing in life, which is helping directors tell stories with sound. Being recognized by the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) is both very humbling and inspiring. It is humbling because most of the other nominees and winners I saw at the awards are artists whose work I’ve admired and followed for years. It’s also inspiring because all the other nominees and voting members are people that like me are dedicated to improving the art of storytelling with sound, and having their nod of approval really makes you want to keep pushing yourself and improving your craft.
Were you expecting to win?
I was just happy that we were nominated honestly. Drama movies are typically, and in my opinion unfairly, hardly ever recognized for their sound. I had confidence in the work we did and knew we had put together a great sounding and nuanced track, but the sound in Roma is more about transporting Alfonso’s memories to the present and taking the spectator back to the México of the early 70s and not so much about blowing the spectator away with sound effects and hooking the audience with leitmotifs.
Could you tell us a little bit about the other sound designers, editors and artists that you worked on Roma with?
I’m still ecstatic to have been a member of such talented and hard working crew. It really was a group effort. There were up to 50 people involved in the sound department at one point, whether recording sounds, pre-dubbing scenes or editing ADR, everybody brought their A game and it really shows when you listen to the movie. I have worked on several projects with Sergio Diaz before, who was the supervising sound editor. And I knew Skip Lievsay’s and Craig Henigan’s work but I had never shared credits with them in the past. When I found out that they were going to be doing the Atmos mix, I knew our tracks were going to be in great hands.
How would you sum up your professional journey so far?
It has been an amazing journey. It is a tough profession in the beginning and I don’t think it ever stops being challenging but I wouldn’t ever dream of doing anything else. I have been very lucky to work on challenging and unique projects and with very sound oriented directors in general. The last 3 full-feature films that I’ve worked on, Amat Escalante’s The Untamed, Jonas Cuaron’s Desierto and Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma all have in common that they’ve been helmed by directors that really like to push sound. So no complaints there. And the new generation of directors that I’ve worked are for the most part very aware of the power of sound in storytelling. Plus the technology and tools keep getting better every year so it’s a great time to be a sound designer.
What made you choose to study on the masters programme with SAE?
During the years since I finished my studies in Barcelona I’ve always been on the lookout for sound and film literature. Especially literature that combines those two: books on sound for film. I believe you can never have too much curiosity about the topics that really interest you. I have wanted to pursue postgraduate studies for a while now. Both to develop further as a professional and to answer some of the unanswered questions I have accumulated during my career. When I saw that there was a Master’s program at SAE the decision to continue my studies under their wing was very effortless and logical for me. SAE is where I learnt all the foundations about sound and the craft of sound engineering back when I didn’t know anything about it. I believe their programmes are very focused towards the academic training of individuals that want to specialize in audio. And it helps when an institution has been succeeding in doing exactly that for over 40 years.
What are you focusing on as your main area of specialism?
Sound post production for films.
What are you enjoying about the course?
Carrying out reflective practice and research in a structured way as well as doing peer review and exchanging feedback with fellow researchers and academic supervisors is something I’m really enjoying. But the thing I’m enjoying more is the new doors the programme is opening in my thought process.
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I really don’t like talking about ongoing projects because in my job I’m being trusted with the work of others and with projects that are basically in a gestation period. I prefer talking about finished projects that are public. But I will share that I’m very excited for the projects that I will be supervising this year and the challenges they will present.
What are your ambitions for the future?
To continue improving as a professional each project and each year. To never settle with what I know. To always work on the creation of spaces and collaborative relations where the art and craft of storytelling with sound can be pursued and pushed to new frontiers by directors in collaboration with sound designers. And last but not least, because this I believe is very important, to pass along what I learn in my journey and help form future generations of sound designers.
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