Profile by Jane Ledwell
Every day I watch a movie, and I would never go back to watching movies the way I used to,” says musician and record producer and film sound designer Adam Gallant. “I can watch a really bad movie and really enjoy it—if it has incredible sound design and special effects.”
Out of his home and his dedicated recording studio, The Hill Sound Studio, in “the old garage” in his backyard, Adam is working sound design, sound editing, and mixing on a full-length feature film for the first time, Sally’s Way directed by Joanne Johnson, a family drama for young audiences being produced out of Trinidad and Tobago.
Adam now listens to films with curiosity about the “storytelling standpoint and creative standpoint. I previously didn’t get this when watching a movie.” It’s like “adding thunder in a rainy scene: there’s a distinct purpose behind every little detail”—down to the pitch of the “silence” in a room, whether it matches or clashes with the music, to reassure or discomfit an audience.
When sound design works, Adam says, “It’s not even a question the sound is there; it’s an emotional effect.”
After establishing a strong reputation recording independent bands, including Racoon Bandit, of which he is a member, Adam has “just been getting into film work the last few years.” He has done work with Millefiore Clarkes on documentaries and on the dramatic short Islands, written by his partner Jill MacRae for an Island Media Arts Festival premiere. He and fellow–Racoon Bandit Roger Carter also did music for the Rainbow Valley documentary, which Adam describes as “a total blast.”
Working on an independent feature film is an enormous challenge. “Normally,” Adam says, “a team would do that on a big film.” This film—a family drama—is about 80 minutes, and Adam’s sound work takes about one to two hours per minute, “depending on how much repair work is needed.” Adam also is excited that there’s some music composition involved—“filling in the gaps with stingers and musical elements, and two more performance-length musical pieces.”
The key to a creative career in Charlottetown, Adam says, is “diversity.” It’s “being able to do twenty or thirty different jobs. The advice I got was to say yes to everything, and you have to do something every day to further your skills.”
Adam is in awe of the film-making process, which he describes as very collaborative. “It takes way more people to make films than to make an album. You have people like Mille, or Monica Lacey, or Jill, with these broad, sweeping skill sets and vision, and then people with highly specialized skills, like knowing how to slate properly, or making wardrobe and makeup work well on film.”
Working on sound for film doesn’t mean leaving behind the independent music scene. The Hill Sound Studio, in its downtown location, “is booked every day of the week,” for Adam or others to produce recordings and is available for rent.
Everything Adam has learned is influencing current projects. Adam’s band, Racoon Bandit, is working on a new full-length album. I ask his thoughts on the role of albums: with album sales so tough, are albums more of a hook to get audiences for live performance? “Maybe,” Adam says, “eight years ago, I might have thought of an album as a calling card. But more and more, I’m finding recording really gratifying. What comes out of the speakers can blow you away, or bring tears to your eyes. The more I treat recordings as an art form, the more impressed I am with sonics, and with mood.”
On the Racoon Bandit project, he and the band are more inspired by the question, “How can we make this sound amazing and really hit people with it?”
Sound in film is the invisible element in a visual format. He adds, “The burden is off the musical focus, so it can be way more subtle or way less subtle… A great reason to go to the movie theatre is the sound,” paying credit to a sonic art form through the art of listening.