Where are you from and how did you become a sound designer and editor?
[John] I'm from Glasgow and moved in to film and TV from theatre where I had worked as a sound and lighting designer, mainly in performance art and dance. I first started in TV composing music but gradually become more interested in sound design.
What does a sound designer and editor do and can you describe the creative process that went into the creation of the Seachd soundscape?
[John] Sound design as a role is really about the balance between the creative and technical elements of making the soundtrack. If it's done well, the technical side of the job: smoothing dialogue edits, cleaning up sound and mixing the various sounds together - should be invisible to the audience. The creative side is the more conspicuous part of the job, and involves building up layers of soundtrack elements as prompted by the action, locations, mood, story and even the characters themselves. In the case of Seachd, this meant a lot of careful selection of atmosphere tracks which would not only be authentic and believeable for the locations on Skye, but which would also reflect the emotions of Angus at the various parts of his journey. Much of the location sound is not only augmented by adding sound effects, but is frequently completely replaced to create an entirely new soundscape. It was important to gauge Simon's vision for the film as an ambitious cinematic entwining of fantasy, myth and reality, and to ensure that the sound contributed as much as possible to the realisation of that vision.
Was it difficult working in a language that is not your own?
[John] No, and in fact it's actually quite a valuable experience to be liberated from direct understanding, because you become much more aware of the emotions which are being expressed, and you realise that meaning is conveyed by so many other aspects of communication. It was great to work with the flow and pacing of the Gaelic language.
Does storytelling matter?
[John] Sometimes storytelling doesn't matter as much as emotion in cinema, but in the case of Seachd, it is the telling of stories within the film itself which gives it so much of its emotion, so I'd say it's pretty important.
What was the best thing about making Seachd?
[John] When you're working for weeks on a film and viewing scenes over and over again, the beauty of the Skye locations and the cinematography certainly made that a pleasure. The range of emotions the film takes its audience through, from sweeping action, to comedy, to subtle drama, and the opportunities that offers me as sound designer was one of the most satisfying things about the project.
Can you tell us anything little known about the making of Seachd?
[John] It was funny to walk into the studio where Travis Reeves was working on the foley, to find him clambering on a tiny breeze block to recreate the mountain climbing scenes!