5 questions with Michael Hedges
March 19 2015
Academy Award winning audio engineer, Michael Hedges believes a key to success is to be “driven, passionate and really, really crazy – like Steven Speilberg and James Cameron”.
“You must be enthusiastic – enjoy what you are doing. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. You must be energised – be fit for life – have physical and mental stamina.”
“Be hands on – be passionate about what you do,” he encouraged.
Hedges has nearly 20 years of experience in the industry, and over 40 feature credits to his name, including Peter Jackson’s King Kong, The Lord of the Rings and District 9. He was a stand-out speaker at the 2015 National Young Leaders Day for secondary students in Palmerston North. Students queued after the event for a chance to take a ‘selfie’ with one of his Oscars, and questions continued to flow in well after his presentation. We put five of your questions to Michael.
What was your favourite movie to work on and why?
“I have three all-time favourites. The first was Heavenly Creatures, a Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh film. This was Pete’s first really serious movie, and really put us on Hollywood’s radar. We worked so hard on recreating Christchurch in the 1950s, telling a pretty gruesome story of a real life event.”
“The second movie was District 9. I loved this movie because Neill Blomkamp gave us such freedom to experiment with sound in all areas. Sound FX for alien space ships and weapons too – and a new language for the creatures, so much fun!!”
“The third was working with Steven Spielberg on Tintin. Working with Steven was a tremendous privilege, and Tintin was on of my favourite series of books when I was a kid. We had the best time again designing sounds and treatments on the mix stage, great job!”
Did you go to uni, if so what did you study?
“Short answer is no. When I left school to further my career there weren’t any film schools or courses that really applied to what I wanted to do. At the time TVNZ took on a few interns called TV A’s .They ran in-house training at Avalon Television Studios which was really some of the best ‘on the job training’ available in the world.”
Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into any aspect of the film business?
“Like anything today it’s hard to get started in the industry. I would say that it really comes down to the individual’s drive and determination. It’s a very small industry and it may look glamorous from the outside, but it really is a lot of hard work, that being said, dream big, and and get as much experience in the field you want to work in, and then work hard at getting started.”
What is the longest amount of time you have ever spent getting a piece of sound right?
“Hard to say on one sound, but working with the team on The Hobbit 3 was the toughest and longest stretch of mixing I think we all did. 36 hours straight to make the deadline for Warner Bros, was not fun!”
What type of prerequisites would you need to have to have a job like yours?
“Being crazy helps!! I think you need to have a very creative side to your character, along with the ability to concentrate on what you are doing for long periods of time. Passion for the industry, love what you do, but always know that it’s not world peace and that you have to have a life outside of work!!”