Red Stewart chats with Jacob Ribicoff…
Jacob Ribicoff is an American complete artist and complete editor who has been alive in the becloud and television industries aback the late-80s. He is best accepted for his assignment on movies like School of Rock and Maner by the Sea, as able-bodied as best of acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burn’s documentaries.
Flickering Myth had the advantage to account him, and I in about-face had the account to conduct it:
I’ll aloof jump into it – your resume is above amazing. Based on the columnist absolution that was beatific to me, I anticipation you were aloof circuitous in the documentary field, but no you’ve done so abounding movies I love. You did School of Rock, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Maner by the Sea, and of advance The Vietnam War miniseries. Is there a accurate aberration for you amid accomplishing a fabulous cine against an activated becloud against a documentary, or do you booty the aforementioned access for anniversary one?
A little of both. I anticipate there are some commonalities all above the board, like a aggregate of a assignment belief and an artful ethic, if you can alarm it that: a adherence to absent to acquaint a adventure the way that the administrator wants to acquaint it. So that acutely transcends whatever brand that you’re alive on. You’re activity into assignment with an access that says “okay, what adventure is the administrator telling, how do they appetite to acquaint it, and how can I advice the sound?”
But then, they all accept their own alone characteristics and quirks, and it’s about harder to alike generalize amid narrative, documentary, and animation, abnormally with Ken Burn’s documentaries, which are added circuitous and absolutely borrow from the anecdotal apple of complete added than your boilerplate documentary. If you would accede that abounding documentaries are verité or reality-based, it’s about like whatever you see there on the screen is basically what you’re activity to hear, like if accession is talking or the camera is venturing into some environment.
But with Ken’s projects, he goes far above because we’re, activity aback to The Civil War, putting sounds to photographs, to stills, to archival footage that absolutely doesn’t accept complete to activate with. So you’re architectonics out a world. And you could about draw a allegory to action area the images accept no inherent complete that comes with them.
With Ken’s work, you’re award yourself accomplishing that, and in Vietnam in particular, we were provided a new dimension. I’ve been alive for Ken aback 1995, and this was the aboriginal time that he absolutely absitively to add this added abstract, affecting ambit area we could actualize sounds for, and try to accommodate a articulation to, that branch that is usually aloof for music only. We were told go for it and appear up with sounds for that affectionate of thing.
So, aloof to go aback to your aboriginal question, in a anecdotal you accept post-sound process, recording foley, recording ADR, abacus complete effects- those are things that are accepted to mainly be done for anecdotal films, and not documentaries. But foley, complete effects, and activity aback to the flat to almanac choir were things that were absolute important for us in putting calm the complete on Vietnam.
That’s absolute absorbing to hear. I hadn’t anticipation about the attenuate access every becloud average shares in the complete department, and it’s amazing that Ken Burn’s works move to becloud the lines. Now you mentioned alive with Mr. Burns aback 1995. However, according to IMDb and the columnist absolution I was given, I was beneath the consequence that your aboriginal accord calm was on Prohibition, which came out in 2011.
Okay, the aboriginal one was The West, area he was a producer, not the director, but that was still a collaboration.
So, on The West in ‘95, I was a complete furnishings editor. The aing one afterwards that was Thomas Jefferson, additionally complete effects, and again Jazz, area I was a music editor. I’ve been a music editor on abounding of them, including Jazz, the Jack Johnson documentary in 2004 [editor’s note- Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson], again The War, area we won an Emmy; on those I was a music editor. And again there’s Baseball, The 10th Inning, there’s Prohibition, there’s The Roosevelts, and Central Park Five, which is one of my favorites as it was acutely moving.
So, with The West and Thomas Jefferson, I did effects, and again I slid to music because they knew my absorption in jazz, and accepting done some arena myself as a musician, that affectionate of put me on the music alteration clue with them for a acceptable 15 years. And then, aback Vietnam came around, they knew that, alfresco of Ken Burns, I didn’t do a accomplished lot of music editing: it was mostly complete architectonics and authoritative complete alteration and complete furnishings editing. They knew that I did all of that, and they said “why don’t you be one of the complete designers on Vietnam?” And I said “oh, definitely,” I jumped at that chance.
And that’s affectionate of my history with Ken.
That’s alluring to hear. It’s consistently nice to see abiding friendships like this in Hollywood, abnormally amid aggregation members. Activity off that, let’s allocution about the Vietnam War. This was a huge eye opener for me. I acutely didn’t abound up during the 60s or 70s, and my parents were immigrants so they didn’t acquaintance the American adaptation of it. As such, I abstruse a lot.
I’m wondering, though, what was your own acquaintance with the Vietnam War like, and was there article about your angle that you capital to alone aback in the documentary?
When the Vietnam War was demography place, I was a little kid: I was like five-years-old. My parents were anti-war protesters, and they would accompany me to moratoriums and rallies, and of advance watch the Nightly News advertisement from the war, which was so abundantly graphic. It’s acclaimed how the government and media accept backtracked aback the war in agreement of what they were accommodating to appearance you and what affectionate of war footage fabricated it into people’s active apartment via television. So that was a borderland that has aback been abandoned.
But as a kid, to see these blood-soaked images…I accept this queasy, anxious-feeling that I can arouse up aloof while I’m talking to you now, that I bethink as a kid. And I bethink that activity in the air, and add that to the late-60s area huge important abstracts were actuality assassinated; there was this awareness of abandon and it was a strange, advancing activity for a kid at that time, and that absolutely absolutely stays with me. That’s absolute formative- that’s a allotment of who I am in the faculty that I accept that foundation of emotions. So, while I was too adolescent to apperceive a lot of the facts as they were arena out, I was still absolute accessible at that adolescent age to assertive animosity that were in the air. And that was there aback alive on Vietnam.
And then, this may be activity above your question, but accession affiliation would be watching those veterans on all sides. You know, one of the amazing things about this documentary is that they were able to go to Vietnam and account bodies on both the North and South Vietnamese sides, and add those choir and belief into the mix, in accession to accepting the families of bodies who fought, and again the veterans who fought themselves.
But it’s their recollections filtered through all these amid years, and I’m so afflicted and in awe of the bodies in the documentary cogent the stories; that they can sit actuality today and so acutely anamnesis what happened with a assertive ytic band to it that they would not accept had at the time, but do now aloof due to the access of time. Absolute affecting recollections that they can put into words.
And I don’t know, I assumption somehow my adventures as a kid helped me in a way to feel. That’s absolute important for me aback accomplishing complete design. It’s about like actuality an actor: it’s basic for me to be able to feel what I’m doing. And this goes for any project- you watch a movie, you affectionate of say “how do I feel, how does this accomplish me feel?” And it could be the area of emotions, from abhorrence to amusement to drama, excitement, whatever it ability be. And I do accept I was able to tap into some activity I allegedly had agitated about with me, some affecting aspect to the Vietnam War.
I mean, I don’t alike apperceive how to acknowledge that. That’s a affecting adventure to apprehend about your adventures as a child. But I’m blessed that accomplishing this documentary helped you appear to agreement with the past. And to your point about the agitated images on television, it reminded me of aback Wes Craven was authoritative The Aftermost Abode on the Left. He was allegedly aggressive by the adverse on television: how you would cast amid seeing appalling images on the Nightly News and again Bewitched. It was this awe-inspiring activity area bodies would be watching abandon and peaceful, arcadian stuff.
Now, the soundscape for this miniseries was absolutely phenomenal. Compared to Ken Burn’s Civil War series, complete played a bigger allotment actuality because of all the tension. You accept to claiming or fix up gunshots, soldiers affective through brush, abstruse conversations, helicopter blades twirling, and so forth. One of my admired moments was aback this one veteran, his name abominably escapes me, but he was talking about how he has to beddy-bye with a night ablaze because there were times area he had to angle bouncer in angle atramentous while Viet Cong soldiers were affective agilely or underground about him. And you and your aggregation did such a abundant job of putting us in his nightmare. Did you guys acquaintance any challenges during the alteration aback it came to carrying the attributes of those affectionate war scenes?
I’m absolutely blessed that you brought that arena up, because that was one of the ones that I formed on. That was at the alpha of adventure two. John Musgrave is the admirer who was talking –
Yes, John Musgrave!
Right, and he’s this amazing articulation throughout the absolute documentary. I beggarly really, truly, a abundant affecting storyteller, amusing at times. So that was candidly one of my admired moments of the episodes that I formed on. I additionally formed on adventure six, which was the Tet Offensive, and that was huge for aloof accepting into action and recreating battles on a ample calibration and for a continued time on-screen. Erik Ewers had spent two years acid account and designing an intricate sonic action architectonics that puts the eyewitness appropriate in the bosom of battle. I was able to accord added points, sweeteners, and textures to that.
But the John Musgrave adventure of his acquaintance of actuality in the jungle: he’s on a alert column in Con Thien, it’s angle black, there are enemies about him, and he hears them whispering, and the fear….it was an amazing opportunity. It affectionate of goes to the aspect of what we’re consistently aggravating to do in complete design. So, here’s a man who is sitting in advanced of you cogent his story- and you could be at his house, you could be sitting at a bar, but he’s cogent you his story.
If you accept to the adventure afterwards any complete added it’s already absolute powerful. But we were afforded this befalling to array of add accession ambit to his storytelling and absolutely put the eyewitness as if you were there with him. So it’s about like a radio play, area you accept annihilation but him cogent a story, and again with complete you can actualize all this imagery. And he talks about application his handset and beat what the cipher was for responding and answering in the affirmative, and so the claiming was, “okay, how can we put the eyewitness there, but additionally do article to adjure up the affections that this guy is activity through?”
There were altered means that I was able to do that. One was that there is a helicopter complete that I alloyed with the baby sound, so the “thwamp” of the helicopter brand alloyed with a beating that was acquired from a heartbeat. And again I did some things like EQ and casting and angle and agee to alloy the baby with the adduce of the helicopter blades, and again accept that acceleration up and apathetic bottomward and then, by the end of his story, about go into double-time. That was one aspect of it.
Obviously, there were some added little sounds like the caliginosity insects, the boscage crickets, that was allotment of ambience up the scene. There are abroad explosions, and at one point they do cut to an abstruse allotment of footage of a caliginosity explosion, aloof a access of orange, and so there’s a deadened explosion. And again he’s audition the whispering of the Viet Cong, and we did recording sessions with built-in Vietnamese speakers of assorted ages, and men and women and so forth. We did like two or three canicule of that, and that actuality was invaluable, and so I acclimated some of that whispering for that sequence.
And again there were aloof added things, like some boring breath sounds, some sounds played backwards, some added abstruse tones. I did assignment with Roger Waters on his [Roger Waters: The Wall], a concert documentary, and average some of the songs he goes aback and visits the gravesites of his ancestor and grandfather, who both died in wars, Apple War I and Apple War II, and they had asked me, for some of those sequences, to appear up with these abstruse account like the complete of alcohol or the complete of death. And so I was able to aloof actualize tones and intervals. And some of that went into this arrangement of Vietnam.
And again while I was accomplishing that, it was the account by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that was additionally abundantly addictive and is the ablution for all of these absolute sounds. It’s an abracadabra of all of these things calm and the adventure actuality told that makes that moment absolute powerful.
So I’m beholden that you acicular that out, because aback I go aback now to watch the things that I’ve formed on, I anticipate that that’s about my favorite. A lot of abundant moments, but that one was absolutely absolute powerful.
And it was absolutely able to experience. It’s alluring to apprehend about the altered sounds you put into the assembly process, because it’s air-conditioned how acutely baby noises like whispers and heartbeats can be accumulated to actualize a belly moment. It’s a attestation to how basic complete architectonics is to a activity and how accomplished you accept to be, like yourself, to accomplish the best out of it.
I additionally noticed on IMDB that you are accustomed as the music editor for the absolute Vietnam War miniseries. You talked about this position a little earlier, but all-embracing what duties did that entail compared to actuality a complete furnishings editor?
So, I don’t absolutely get to participate in allotment the music- in all the Ken Burn’s documentaries, that happens absolutely aboriginal on. Sometimes the music is alike accounting into the script: the cues accept already been anticipation of. So I absolutely wasn’t that involved. Occasionally, actuality and there, I anticipate they asked for my opinion, but best of that had been alleged and approved. It’s amazing that they were able to get permission for aggregate from those years, including the hardest actuality like The Beatles and Neil Adolescent and Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones, it’s all in there.
But my job absolutely was to…it was a bit of a abstruse job, admitting it could additionally get artistic where, in their action of acid picture, they cut into the music to the amount that, by the time they had assuredly accomplished their account cut, the music had gotten absolutely chopped up. And they were additionally ambitiously aggravating to hit beheld moments: cuts, credibility in the narration, they were aggravating to hit them with assertive contest that action in the music.
And they cut that so that the contest of the music were hitting with the beheld events, but average there were agreeable problems, so my job as a agreeable addle solver was to accomplish abiding that the music as a whole, whether it was any accurate cue or account or source, was absolutely alive musically. Because if it’s alive musically, it’s absolutely activity to accept an optimal appulse on the viewer, admitting if it’s not alive musically, alike if the eyewitness is not abiding why, it is activity to somehow action with the account and detract.
So a big allotment of my job was that and, if it there was a account or multi-track and it was affectionate of altercation the stems of the account for the mixer, in this case the abundant Dominic Tavella, I had to accomplish abiding that he was able to mix it in the best accessible way.
But, actuality circuitous in music, I was buried to some advice or aloof abundant stories, and I apperceive assertive things like they had a action that annihilation you apprehend that was a accepted song and not account had to accept been appear on or afore the time aeon that was actuality depicted in the documentary. So like, for example, at the end of one of the episodes, they accomplished with a much-lesser accepted Sam Cooke song. And I said “what about ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’?” That’s such a able song for the Civil Rights era at that point in the documentary. And we researched and we begin out that that had been appear like alone several months afterwards the end of that episode, so they said “you can’t use that.”
They were absolute austere and documentary-like in adhering to authoritative abiding that the music acclimated had already been acclimated by the aeon they were depicting. So that was interesting.
That’s absolutely absolute arresting to apprentice about. I absolutely hadn’t anticipation about music alteration as a whole, but acquirements about how basic it is advancement the captivation of a alternation makes me appetite to dig added into the field.
My aftermost question, are you at alternative to acquaint us about any approaching projects you’re alive on, and what to apprehend from the complete there?
Right now, I’m accomplishing complete architectonics and authoritative the complete for Escape at Dannemora. That’s a Showtime miniseries, a anecdotal allotment that’s based on the real-life bastille breach that occurred in 2015 where, at the bound of New York and Canada, there’s a best aegis bastille area two inmates managed to escape with the advice of a boutique foreman women, whom they had gotten circuitous with ually. And she was able to get them the accouterments for their escape. The administrator is Ben Stiller, and it’s absolutely well-realized and well-acted. Benicio del Toro and Paul Dano comedy the inmates, and Patricia Arquette plays the woman who works in the prison.
That’s one project. A brace of things that are advancing out this Fall, both will be at the New York Becloud Festival and again will get a release, are two added anecdotal films. One is alleged Private Life, directed by Tamara Jenkins, a abundant affectionate of comedic ball about a brace who are activity through the action of aggravating to accept and accepting to resort to medical solutions for that, and it absolutely explores that in a amusing but austere way- what that’s like, and the assessment that that takes on a relationship, and the bodies circuitous who are aggravating to do that.
And again there’s accession cine alleged Wildlife, directed by Paul Dano in his authoritative debut, and that’s additionally accession relationship, affectionate becloud about a husband, wife, and 14-year-old son which is set in the early-60s, about 1960, in Montana, and it aloof deals with the alienation of their unit. It’s all told from the point-of-view of the son. It’s got amazing ensemble acting, and a absolute quiet complete design, like absolute very, finer quiet complete architectonics that Paul capital for that.
So those are the projects, and that’s appealing abundant it. It looks like I will additionally be accomplishing accession television alternation alleged the Godfather of Harlem for Epix. That’s a job I haven’t started yet, but that should be advancing up soon. That’s appealing abundant it!
You’re activity to be absolute active for sure! Wildlife, that’s the cine with Jake Gyllenhaal, right? I’ve heard of it.
Yeah, Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan and again this adolescent amateur called Ed Oxenbould. They’re all aloof incredible.
And I’m attractive advanced to annihilation you do. Acknowledge you so abundant Mr. Ribicoff for everything. You’re a absolute accomplished being and I achievement your career continues to be affluent as it is now.
Yeah, acknowledgment for the affectionate words, I absolutely acknowledge it!
Flickering Myth would like to acknowledge Mr. Ribicoff for sitting bottomward with us. The Vietnam War is accessible on DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix, and iTunes. Escape at Dannemora is set to premiere on Showtime on November 18th.
Special acknowledgment to Charles Martin of Impact 24 PR for authoritative this account possible.
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