Today we’re talking to James David Redding III, an industry veteran who has worked in audio postproduction for nearly 20 years. James’ work has been featured in some of the biggest TV and film releases of the past decade, including “The Queen’s Gambit,” “The Americans,” “Hustlers” and “MLK/FBI.” For their work in “The Queen’s Gambit,” James and his team were nominated for a 2021 Golden Reel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing. James has worked as an ADR recordist, foley recordist, SFX editor, sound supervisor, re-recording mixer and sound designer over the course of his career. He’s a true expert in his field and we’re excited to hear from him.
Hi James! How have you been?
I’m doing well, with all things being relative. Thanks for asking. Hope all is well with you and yours.
What is like working with a collaborator as successful as those on The Americans? Tell us more about your working relationship and short hand with them.
The Americans were a great crew of people to work with. Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg (the show runners/creators) were creative, supportive, and just great to have on a mix stage. We shared ideas about how to use the sound of the show to create the emotional impact that they wanted. David Woods (co-producer) made sure we had the resources we needed to get the show done.
The audio post crew were folks I’ve known my whole career, from Sync Sound, Inc. Ken Hahn (Supervising Sound Editor, co-re-recording mixer (dialog and music)) and I had worked on a number of projects together and our styles had become very fluid with each other. On mix days after getting a feel for a scene we could practically just look at each other and know what needed to be done. Of course we also had some great sound editors setting us up. Neil Cedar (co-Supervising Sound Editor) would get great notes from spotting sessions with the picture editorial crew and he would handle Foley. Dan Korintus and Gerald Dolan were the dialog editors, John Bowen handled ADR, and Phillippe Desloovre would edit sound effects depending on schedules. In the beginning, after each episode we would discuss what was working in the work flow and what wasn’t. By the last season we didn’t have to discuss the show; it was so well oiled.
You brought a unique approach to MLK/FBI. Can you take us behind one or two of your favorite scenes? Tell us more about your process, how do you decide the right way to approach it?
MLK/FBI was such a unique documentary, with all of the archival footage, some recreations and the fact that you didn’t see those being interviewed until the very end, the sound effects helped move you through and ground the situation.
The recreations and transitional scenes were probably my favorites. With the idea of information being gathered and used, almost as a weapon, even the sound of a microfiche machine carried a little more weight to it. I approached these scenes in a way to keep reality, but make it sound a
little edgier, a little dangerous. The intent of Hoover was to bring down Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with this information, I wanted the sound to help convey the situation.
My process, a lot of the time, when I’m watching a project for the first time is to ask myself two questions 1) What is happening in a scene? 2) How is it supposed to make me feel? From there I start building the aural world of the project.
Let’s talk about your HPA nomination (congrats!) – how did it feel to get this recognition?
Thank you. It’s cliche, but it is always nice having others recognize your work. I feel in audio it’s tough because you want to keep viewers so wrapped up in the “world” and not realize how you are manipulating the audio to intensify their experience. So sometimes I feel like if it’s recognized did I do my job right?
Did you approach character themes in The Queen’s Gambit in a specific way at all?
As with all of the projects I’m on, I try to keep themes/ emotions in mind while working on the sound. Keeping in mind recurring events, emotions, themes and how to tie them together over the course of the story while also trying to keep them sonically interesting.
With The Queen’s Gambit, because of the way the scheduling worked out, I edited a round of the background/ambient sounds for the entire series. Though keeping it based in reality, my sound choices were made with how the scene was to make the viewer feel, how it was to be perceived.
What are some of your other favorite past projects?
I’ve been lucky that I’ve gotten to work on so many great projects, like The Americans and MLK/FBI, that it is honestly hard to say which are favorites. They all have their story. I worked on a documentary about the Rolling Stones (Tip of the Tongue) which was great fun and then got to go to a wrap party with the Stones. I’ve worked with Tom Fontana (Oz, Borgia, City on a Hill) so many times over the years it feels like family. I did a great film called Aardvark that was fun, creative, and I got the chance to go to Skywalker Ranch to finalize the mix. So, why choose a favorite when you can enjoy how different they all are.
What were some of the other challenges you guys encountered with MLK/FBI? How did you overcome them?
Probably the biggest challenge with MLK/FBI was the sheer number of archival type shots that we didn’t have the sound to and had to create. You need to make it feel right and flow with everything else around it. Sam Pollard and the editorial team did such a great job crafting the pieces we really wanted the sound to help elevate it all.
With some of the archival, the viewer’s have seen similar before, but this wasn’t a story they had heard before, and we needed to make the sound help them realize that.
What else is happening next in your world?
Currently I’m editing sound effects and sound designing Season 2 of City on a Hill for Showtime with Tony Pipitone (Sound Supervisor), who is another colleague I’ve worked with throughout
my whole career. I’ve also just completed sound design for an ad, an independent film trailer, and the mix on a independent short horror film. I like being diverse in work, I feel it helps keep me fresh. I am also teaching in the sound department at NYU Tisch School for the Arts. I have a couple prospects for projects coming up, but schedules still seem to be up in the air with the current state of things so I’m going with the flow of things, which is sometimes all you can d