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Making Waves: The Art Of Cinematic Sound at the Milwaukee Film Festival

By: Michael Diedrick on May 1, 2020

When we think about the magic movies can create, we probably never think about sound design. Recording audio is tricky to begin with, but creating realistic sounding effects is certainly worth an interesting documentary. 

Yet, when I started researching this year’s Milwaukee FIlm Festival’s community partner film, I thought back to some of my favorite movies of all time, and I can easily remember sound making a substantial difference in the film. The best films I can remember make sound diegetic, part of the story, like Children of Men, which starts with a ringing in the protagonist’s ears and heightens the post-apocalyptic experience throughout the film, or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with endless clangs and hums of metal through just about everything.

When a movie describes a place really far from home, the sounds of each scene have to really take you somewhere and be something you’ve never heard before. Movies like Star Wars and Indiana Jones are easy examples, ping and pops and zaps and stone dragging on stone, but less obvious and incredibly moving far-away-land movies like The English Patient, Code 46 and Lost in Translation paint a soundscape that’s foreign and even more human. Sofia Coppola paints a soundscape from a melange of sounds, some familiar and some acutely foreign, like the elevator’s air when the doors open, in the way Edward Hopper paints people in the rooms and windows they perch.

Making Waves is a documentary that includes directors and sound designers behind some of these great examples of so near yet so far movies, including Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Pat Jackson (The English Patient), not to mention what seems like a litany of who’s who in movie making, and covers some history and some of the newer technologies in the realm of sound design. 



Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound

2019 ‧ Documentary ‧ 1h 34m

Director: Midge Costin



October 25 6:30 p.m. At the Rivoli Theatre

October 29 9:30 p.m. At the Broadway Theatre Center

October 30 1:30 p.m. At the Avalon Theater


The Milwaukee Film Festival takes place Oct. 17-31, 2019 with the complete film schedule to be released on Sept. 26. Discounted ticket packages and passes are on sale now at 

Milwaukee Film is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to entertaining, educating, and engaging our community through cinematic experiences, with a vision to make Milwaukee a center for film culture.