Tech Talk: Jack Stew

13 March, 2020

Foley Artist Jack Stew visited Screen and Film School on 4th March to dive into the world of Foley, giving an entertaining and practical demonstration of the work he still feels so passionate about.

Jack Stew worked as a Foley Artist for 35 years and, in that time, has worked on over 250 feature films, TV programmes, animations and video games in his time – he even won the Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel trophy for his work on Slumdog Millionaire in 2008.

Jack discussed the importance of Foley Artists in the industry, and how it can be used to add depth to productions of all sizes. On set, the focus may be to record the dialogue, but the little details – clothes rustling or the sound of footsteps walking through snowfall into the hands of the Foley Artist, as their role is to make the world that the character inhabits sound real. How they do this requires ingenuity, patience and experimentation; as Jack says, “You can make noises from anything, the art is making it believable.”

Jack also invited students to perform live Foley for the group, demonstrating the physical aspect of his work – creating the individual sounds of a horse galloping, for example, would usually require at least two people, one to mimic the horse and one to add the finishing touches, like the jingle of a bridle or the rhythmic rise and fall of a saddle.

The aim of Jack’s Masterclass was to inspire students to play with Foley techniques on their own productions, adding depth and texture to scenes without breaking the bank, whether it be for comedy engagement – the over-exaggeration of sounds for comedic effect – or re-creating the noises of a car crash that cannot be re-recorded on set. He ended his Masterclass with advice for anyone looking to start out in Foley work:

  • Be ready to ask questions
  • When you’ve asked these questions, make sure you have the will power to be inventive
  • Show initiative – look at a scene and think, “I’ll give that a go!” even if the answer isn’t obvious yet
  • Prepare to be jolly and helpful: everyone will remember the person who made themselves useful
  • Work hard and have fun!
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