Todd Warren’s lost eerie souls and airy wind in trees.The reason Torontonian Todd Warren packed his life in a suitcase and moved to France may not be unique – love (he met his French wife during an immersion stint in Montpellier) – but what he does here to pay the rent most certainly is.
In 2003, he put life as an award-winning sound engineer behind him and with his wife purchased two mediaeval townhouses in Aveyron, with the idea of running a B&B. After five years of renovating, “the dream was gone” and they moved to Cannes.
“What has always struck me,” Todd says, “is how Cannes is the Hollywood of France – PACA is second in the country for shooting on location – yet it lacks the post-production infrastructure that goes with that. For example, if you shoot in New York, you post in New York. If you shoot in Paris you post in Paris. If you shoot on the Côte d’Azur you post in … Paris.
“I did a market study in 2010 and found from Théoule over to Monaco, the area is undernourished in terms of post-production facilities, even compared to Marseille. For whatever reason, gravity pulls everything film-related towards Paris. True, it used to be that you needed a film processing facility – with lots of money, lots of chemicals and lots of personnel – to produce the first 35mm image and then print copies. But now everything is digital, made on your computer with a DCP – a Digital Cinema Package – for delivery to cinemas. There is no more need for film production and no more expensive copies.”
Todd set up his own business. “The world has a made a shift into High Definition video but why aren’t people talking about the sound in a film? This is why I named my company HDsound: if you’ve redefined the parameters of the image, certainly you’re going to need better sound to qualify that image.”
He contacted local post-production companies La Dame Verte and Adastra and little by little they are trying to push the post boundaries that are nonexistent in this region.
“In Toronto, the city is very proud to cover all aspects of the film industry whereas PACA seems to be satisfied with just the nuités d’hôtels numbers. It’s great that people are staying in local hotels during a shoot, but there’s a whole other ‘half’ to a budget of a film for visual effects, post-production audio, marketing and distribution – millions of dollars passing under their noses.”
About two years ago Todd did a project with Adastra – Social Butterfly – which was entered in the Sundance Festival. Adastra then managed to secure funding to do a Franco-Georgian feature film that they shot at an actual Georgian prison. They needed sound so Todd spent three months working in Cannes doing Brides. It hit it out of the park: it was accepted at the Berlin Film Festival where it won an audience appreciation award, and was at Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival last month.
Like me, people think that when you shoot a film, you use a microphone to capture the sound, cut the picture together and then add music. But as Todd explains, there’s more to being a sound engineer.
“In fact, you try to capture the actors’ dialogue and sometimes you’re not successful in doing that. You have the dialogue as clean as you can get it but then all of the background effects, the ambiences, the personal sound effects – putting down a coffee cup, for example – has to be replaced and embellished.
“So the majority of sound in a movie is replaced. Between 15 to 20 per cent of big Hollywood films use ADR – Automated Dialogue Replacement – when the actor comes into a recording studio to revoice his lines, say for a noisy subway scene.”
Todd is a member of the association La Nouvelle Séance (www.lanouvelleseance.com), an underground film community for those who never had an outlet to show their movies. “It all started off at the Salle Escoffier in Villeneuve-Loubet. Once every three months, with a bit of funding from the mayor’s office, we’d watch a film, have a slice of pizza and a coke.
“This is when I first saw Youcef Mahmoudi’s film Il Portafoglio. At the time I was teaching post-production audio at EFA – École Française d’Audiovisuel – where Youcef was a student of mine. I was totally floored by his use of images and also by how bad his sound was! I told him that if he did another film that we needed to work together.”
And so they did. Todd is the sound engineer on Youcef’s latest short film, Kosmodrome (www.facebook.com/kosmodrome).
Youcef, 28, and July Allard, 21, are both Nice-based writers/directors and graduates of EFA. They co-founded the film company Hypéria; Todd also worked on July’s first film, O, about the Parker family who live in different universes.
“I wanted to make a movie about Russian history,” Youcef describes, “which takes place on the day when man landed on the moon. I asked myself, what did the Soviet Union think when they realised they had lost the race to space? What happens to humans when they fail catastrophically?
“Many of the actors in Kosmodrome are Russian, found through the Maison de la Russie in Nice, which brings together the Russian community on the Riviera. The short competed at The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival in May of this year.
“The big lesson I learned with Todd,” Youcef admits, “is how sound reinforces the images. And, that you have to make films to learn how to make films.”
Both Youcef’s and July’s films were accepted at the Short Film Corner at Cannes this year which gave them access to the festival’s Marché du Film.
“The Cannes Film Festival has a market and that is what’s most important,” Todd adds. “There’s money to be made, but why isn’t there more of it here?”
For more see www.hdsound.fr