Just Foleyin’ Around!
The term “foley” refers to the reproduction of everyday sound effects for film, television, video, video games, and radio. These created sounds can be anything from footsteps to squeaky doors to breaking glass. The best foley art virtually goes unnoticed by the audience and helps create a sense of reality for each scene. Without these important background noises, movies and TV might feel unnaturally quiet and uncomfortable. The people responsible for these reproduced sounds are called “foley artists”, a term Acting/Education Intern Chris Metz now knows all too well.
Appearing in Orlando Shakes’ current production of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (running through Dec. 29), Chris plays a grumpy foley artist for WOST in 1946. Unlike the foley artists of today, Chris’ character doesn’t have the luxury of editing his sounds during post-production, but has to create them in real time during the live radio show. An added pressure: a “live studio audience” (aka the Orlando Shakes audience) is watching his every move.
Using more than 50 props to create over 200 sound effects, Chris admits that his role does come with some stress. “I’m virtually calling my own cues,” he said. Recognizing the challenge, Director Robert Cacioppo made sure Chris started working with props on the first day of blocking rehearsal. Chris also worked closely with Sound Designer Britt Sandusky to experiment with the amplification of each sound effect. Through trial and error, they figured out the distance each foley prop should be from the microphone to create the desired sound in the Margeson Theater.
A musician in real life, Chris has found much enjoyment in this unique non-speaking role, but has also made sure to breathe life into his character (nicknamed Melvin Schwabbington by Cacioppo). Melvin, who Chris describes as “curmudgeonly”, carries a little extra weight around his middle and chain-smokes cigars throughout the play. But it’s clear that Melvin’s responsibilities are essential to WOST’s broadcast and to the audience’s experience. “It’s a great opportunity for people to not only watch the story unfold, but to see how it’s created,” said Chris. “You don’t get that experience with today’s movie magic.”
Some of Chris’ foley sounds include:
- Footsteps in the snow (made by crushing a bag of corn starch in his hands)
- A ticking clock (made by setting a metronome to 60 beats per minute)
- A moving train (made by rubbing a hard-bristled brush against a washboard)
- Cracking ice (made snapping a piece of bamboo in half)
- Pills placed in a bottle (made by dropping jelly beans into a ceramic dish)
- Someone falling into a lake (made by pushing a plunger into a metal basin of water
- Opening/closing a 1940’s car door (made by opening/closing a metal toolbox)
Fun Fact: Foley artists are named after Jack Foley (1891–1967), a pioneer of film sound effects. Jack Foley never received a single screen credit for his work, although to be fair, neither did most other film workers during this period. Today foley artists receive the credit they deserve, and Jack has the last laugh by having them all named after him.
Hope you enjoyed foleyin’ around with me! Happy Holidays!
Public Relations Coordinator