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The Canadian who creates the real, but fake, sounds in Hollywood blockbuster films


Next year will be my 20th season doing the final sound mix for W5. I have seen every story the series has produced in that time, but I had never actually pitched a story idea to the producers.

That, I assumed, wasn’t really in the cards for the sound person. But W5 is a bit of a different atmosphere and when I asked Avery Haines if I could run some ideas past her, she not only listened, but she set me up to pitch my thoughts to the whole team.

I told them about a Canadian sound person that was doing amazing things, but almost no one knew about it.

In quiet Uxbridge, Ont., north of Toronto, there is a farm house that looks no different from all the others on its rural side road.

This particular house plays a major role in countless Hollywood films year after year. It is the home of Footstep Studios and specifically, Andy Malcolm. He and his entirely-Canadian crew have provided so-called Foley sounds for just about every director’s films you can think of.

Foley – named after sound effects pioneer, Jack Foley back in the 1920s – is the creation of real sounds that are then matched to film to create a clean and often uber-real sound experience to match the action.

Crushing a piece of rigatoni can be dubbed over the shot of someone’s nose getting broken. Tearing open a chicken carcass could be a mainstay of a show like "The Walking Dead," where guts need to be spilled.

Andy Malcolm's resume gives you an idea of how good he is. From massive blockbusters such as "Dune," "Planet of the Apes," "Blade Runner 2049," "Ford v Ferrari" to Academy Award best picture nominees including "The Big Short" and "The Greatest Showman," to broad comedies like "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and "Bridesmaids," Andy has a credit on nearly 700 films.

In addition to all those grand accomplishments, he was also a major influence on my life and career, even though he had no idea who I was at the time.

When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a record producer. I loved music and the idea of working in a recording studio and thinking about sound all day was a dream.

Then in my grade 10 media studies class, back in the 1990s, we were shown a Canadian short film called "Track Stars” that showed how Foley artists made films come to life with sound, creating all the sound effects in a studio space.

Wood was being smashed, metal bins were crashing to the ground, and heads of lettuce were being ripped to shreds. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen and I immediately switched my focus from music to sound for film.

The main Foley artist featured in the film "Track Stars" is Andy Malcom who, since the film’s creation in 1979, has gone on to be one of the greatest Foley artists in the world.

Andy Malcolm, left, shows W5 correspondent Richard Crouse how breaking apart a stalk of celery can be used as a sound effect (W5).

He is also a funny and charismatic person and a bit of a risk-taker. Instead of moving to Hollywood, Andy took a gamble by asking Hollywood to come to him. And his bet on Canada and himself has paid off. By staying in Canada he has helped raise the bar for all Canadian film production.

I have won multiple Canadian Screen Awards for my sound work over my 25-plus year career and it all goes back to Andy Malcom starring in the film that opened my eyes to the creative possibilities that a Foley soundtrack can add to a film, series or video game.

I hope there is a whole new generation of kids that will see this profile on Andy and his team and they will be awakened to the possibilities that sound can open up for them too.

Sound Editor Tim Muirhead wanted to be a record producer until he saw a Canadian short film called "Track Stars” that showcased how Foley artists made films come to life with sound, creating all the sound effects in a studio space. Muirhead wrote this article for W5.

Watch the documentary 'Sound Farms' in the video player at the top of this article or on our official YouTube channel Top Stories

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