Anderson Wright directs ‘Listen’.
An auditory journey that peeks into experiences both universally shared and unique to Southern California.
Words from Anderson below.
Anderson, in what ways did your own personal experiences of living in California influence the film?
KCRW has soundtracked my drives through Los Angeles for over a decade — and when you’re in LA, you’re often in a car. That’s a lot of listening time. With this in mind, I wanted to make something that paid tribute to the station. I also wanted to communicate that KCRW is woven into the fabric of the city. To me, this meant taking the idea of listening and exploring how it manifests in everyday LA life.
Many of the scene ideas were generated from real moments that I’ve observed throughout my years here.
Many of the scene ideas were generated from real moments that I’ve observed throughout my years here: a couple sharing earphones overlooking the valley, a boom operator catching the sound of a plane flying in the distance, friends listening to the roar of a Dodgers crowd from Angel’s Point, etc.
Christian Stropko worked with you as the Sound Designer, could we explore that collaboration a little?
Christian is an amazing sound designer who I’d collaborated with in the past, twice on projects edited by Sophia Lou (the editor of ‘Listen’). Sophia has a fantastic ear and helps build the first pass at sound design in her edits. The three of us enjoy a lively group chat during the sound design process; it’s very iterative and always story-driven.
I love how resourceful Christian is with the way he sources sounds. I was struggling to find the perfect talent to ADR a line towards the end of post on Listen, and Christian literally contacted a neighbor via the NextDoor app because he had a feeling she’d do a great job. Her performance was exactly what the scene called for — and the BTS footage of the ADR session reminds me how fun and surprising DIY filmmaking can be.
Are there any filmmakers that you believe have a strong affinity for sound design?
Ringan Ledwidge immediately comes to mind. His Puma spot ‘After Hours Athlete’ beautifully toggles between grounded and dreamlike sound states to create the hazy sensation of a late night out.
Rupert Sanders’ spots for Air Jordan – ‘Slap’ and ‘Clock Tower’ – were major influences on my approach to sound design when I first began directing.
The club scene in Iñárritu’s ‘Babel’ was a reference on ‘Listen’, for sure.
Could you talk about working with Trust on this project?
‘Listen’ was sparked by a Trust brief called “Beyond Portraits” which called for a concept driven by unique portrait shots.
I’d recently been in contact with KCRW about my interest in shooting a passion project for them, so the timing felt fortuitous. The brief gave me the impetus to bring my idea to life.
Any advice for filmmakers looking to use sound more effectively in their projects?
My advice is to minimize SFX to the barest elements in the name of realism. I think sound design feels most realistic when you emphasize a single evocative sound instead of trying to represent all of the sounds that are present in a real-life moment. People listen selectively in everyday life; we don’t actually hear everything happening around us at once.
If you think of camera moves in sonic terms, what comes to mind for you?
Another idea about sound that’s separate from the sound design conversation: consider how camera movement is inherently sonic. If you think of camera moves in sonic terms, what comes to mind for you? Perhaps a gentle dolly move evokes the sound of a faint breeze; maybe a sweeping steadicam shot sounds like an airplane taking off from a runway.
I like to think about the onomatopoeia of camera movement and then playfully speak in that language (usually just to myself). It gives the camera an added sense of life. I hope that saying this right now doesn’t come across as juvenile, because I really do find it fun!
What are you reading at the moment?
‘Tokyo Ueno Station’ by Yu Miri. Meanwhile, I’m halfway through the audiobook of ‘Lost & Found’ by Kathryn Schulz. I also recently enjoyed ‘Luster’ by Raven Leilani.
- Executive Producer
- Alex M. Kennedy
- Director of Photography
- Sarah-May Levy
- Casting Director
- Christian Stropko
- Sound Designer