David White details the pressures on sound professionals

15 January, 2019 by Don Groves

Gregg Rudloff.

Oscar-winning sound designer David White has written an open letter to his colleagues after reports that the death of renowned re-recording mixer Gregg Rudloff is being treated as a suicide.

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Rudloff, who won best sound Academy Awards for George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, shared with Chris Jenkins and Ben Osmo; The Matrix, shared with John T. Reitz, David E. Campbell and David Lee; and Glory, shared with Donald O. Mitchell, Elliot Tyson and Russell Williams II, died in Los Angeles, aged 63.

White, who won an Oscar for Mad Max: Fury Road, shared with Mark A. Mangini, hailed Rudloff as “an understated colossal giant of the film sound community.”

Miller told IF: “Only those privileged to work closely with Gregg Rudloff would know the mastery and brilliance of his work. All who encountered him, however, got to know the brightness of his mind and the elegance of his soul.”

In his letter White refers to the demands and stresses placed on sound professionals, the long hours, poor pay and lack of proper recognition.

White, whose credits include Harmony, Mountain, Blue, Zach’s Ceremony and The Railway Man, writes: “The burden on sound people is immense; we have to psychologically counsel and look after the filmmakers, often hold them by their shaky sweaty unsure hands and guide them through.

“We have to throw ourselves fully into the films in a totality that usually occupies long stretches of our lives, listen to what the story tells us to do, feel the pain of the characters, accurately signal every single emotion in the narrative.

“Most often feeling that we’ve got a far more intuitive understanding of the narrative than the young or less experienced director has because we practice it every second, and then sometimes be ignored even after rescuing a piece of crap narrative into something with meaning, our input and contribution not being valued, our credits appearing long after the audience has left the cinema, after the carpenters and caterers, after assistant to knob head proudly went by early in the roller, after 3rd unit oil can getter has been read; this all comes at a price.

“I don’t know for a second whether that was true for Gregg, but I know it’s exhausting, and the long hours, crap remuneration, (not a single sound professional in Australia is a rich person; they all struggle, all complain and are sick of hearing themselves do so), and the demands on our attention and time often leave our loved ones frustrated and angry. My own story by way of example is an unmitigated disaster. You can lose at work, and at home.

“I reach out to all my colleagues at this time to say you sound professionals are bloody awesome; I see you and I value what you do immensely, I know what you do, I know how hard this game is far too intimately. I really appreciate what you do, I hear your detailed decision making and know you missed the family dinner, had to cancel that night with your partner and didn’t get to tuck your kids into bed…again.

“You my dear colleagues are artists of the highest order that absolutely deserve billing on the roller immediately after the picture editor and sometimes before.

“None of what I’ve written may be relevant to Gregg’s situation; it’s ages since I saw him, but what I know for certain is that Gregg was brilliant and our world has become significantly darker with his departure. Deepest condolences to all his family and friends; he was extremely well respected and I’m honoured to have known him.”

Lifeline: 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au

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