Antoine Fuqua, the director behind Training Day, The Equalizer, The Magnificent Seven and Southpaw among other movie hits, is being recognized Sunday by the Motion Picture Sound Editors, who are giving him their Filmmaker Award at the 66th MPSE Golden Reel Awards.
Ahead of the ceremony, sound editors Mandell Winter and David Esparza, both frequent collaborators with Fuqua, reflected on working with the music video director-turned-filmmaker.
“Antoine uses sound as an important storytelling element, often putting the audience in the middle of the action,” said Winter, who has worked with Fuqua on six films including the upcoming documentary What’s My Name: Mohammed Ali. “He wants clarity in the track, but more than anything, he looks to the emotion of the scene.”
Said Esparza, another member of Fuqua’s regular team: “He loves a rich and detailed track and wants it to have a strong point of view. A dangerous location should sound dangerous. An intense wind storm should feel that way. If someone’s neck breaks, the sound should make you blurt out, ‘Oh, sh*t!’”
To wit, Esparza recounted a story about Southpaw, the 2015 boxing pic starring Jake Gyllenhaal. A small crew traveled to Las Vegas to capture crowd sounds at an actual prizefight. They placed one mic above the press box, while others set up around the arena to capture individual perspectives.
“When we brought the recorded elements back to the lot, we lined them up and panned them around the mix stage to create a full spatial environment,” Esparza said. “We also captured bell rings, 10-second warning clappers and referees’ whistles. We used all that stuff.”
Said Winter; “We also made recordings backstage, in the locker rooms, of fighters coming up the stairs, in the lobby,” adds Winter. “One crew member went into the balcony to record individual people shouting at the boxers.”
Fuqua is being honored Sunday at the Golden Reels with two-time Oscar-winning sound man Stephen H. Flick, who will be feted with the MPSE Career Achievement Award at the MPSE ceremony at the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles.