I can’t pinpoint the first occasion I met Andrew Plain but by the time I did I had heard a lot about the work of this passionate man. His canon of work is huge, and so many of the films he enhanced and improved with his sound design are in the NFSA collection.
A small sampling of his extensive credits include Oscar and Lucinda (1997), Lantana (2001) and Look Both Ways (2005) as sound designer; The Sapphires (2012) as sound supervisor; and Bootmen (2000), Candy (2006) and Tracks (2013) as supervising sound editor.
Andrew was a very generous man, keen to share his knowledge and experience in sound. He immediately agreed to present a seminar for the general public about sound in film at AFTRS when I approached him in 2001.
I’ve come across Andrew in the intervening years; it might be at an event or presentation where his considerable intelligence and articulation would demonstrate that sound has a direct storytelling role in a film and should not be underestimated. I have also run into him along the Cooks River in Sydney’s inner west where he sometimes cycled on his way to visit his mother. On each occasion he was warm, friendly and the kind of person who made you feel important – he was a listener.
Andrew was particularly interested in sharing his knowledge with the next generation. I was at an event at Fox Studios a few years ago, representing the NFSA, where a very large group of school students were being educated about intellectual property and copyright. I bumped into Andrew and he said, ‘Bring them over’. I couldn’t believe his offer – to have about 100 school students in his sound studio to show them the workings of the sound editor and designer. I conveyed his offer to the organisers of the event and we went across to Huzzah Sound where Andrew showed how he got in the rushes, and how sound effects, dialogue and music were added.
He ramped up the volume so the students could feel the explosions, not just hear them. I think the students couldn’t believe their luck – they saw scenes from Tomorrow, When the War Began (2010), long before its cinema release. It was the insider tips that were so fascinating – including how they recorded people speaking in different languages, cut up the lines and ran them backwards to create a track of background dialogue that wouldn’t be distinguishable as any particular language. It was absolutely the highlight of the students’ (and my) day.
A couple of years ago a family friend, Jennifer Balcomb, wanted to do work experience within the film industry. My thoughts went immediately to Andrew. It goes without saying he offered immediately to help, and without any fuss. Jennifer reflects on her time at Huzzah Sound: