Joe Mount — Exclusive Interview | The Hivenh

Career, creative challenges, and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus campaign.

Introducing Joe Mount

Joe Mountis an English sound designer and sound effects editor working in the Sydney audio post production industry. He has composed music and created sound design for international feature films and their promotional campaigns (Prometheus, The Counselor, Under The Skin, The Lobster, Ghost In The Shell), documentaries, and advertising (Dior, Adidas, Audi, Tesla), working with directors, creative agencies and independent artists in London, Amsterdam and Sydney. He is represented by Electric Sheep in Sydney for advertising and short films, and works freelance for feature films and television.

1. How did you decide to start a career in the world of sound design?

I studied Electro Acoustic Composition and Mathematics at Keele University in England, which was a fantastically broad schooling in 20th century art music and it’s associated recording and manipulation techniques.

“I became totally inspired to explore the creation of soundscapes and the infinite possibilities of music freed from the restraints of traditional instrumentation.”

2. What was your training and professional path?

During my university degree I’d learnt a number of programs and hardware systems, but it wasn’t until I joined Wave Studios in London that my training really began. I moved up the ranks, in the way that everyone in London does, from Runner to Transfer Engineer, all the while working in the studio during the evenings on short films for upcoming directors to hone studio craft as well as master the equipment (which at the time was the Fairlight MFX, and later Steinberg’s Nuendo).

3. During your career, what technical and sectoral changes have you noticed with particular importance in the creative industry?

When I started in the industry in 2003 we used Digibeta video systems, and Soundtracs mixing desks linked to our DAWs, so I’m old enough to have seen the change to complete in-the-box mixing, which was a transition sped up by the economic shock of 2008.

4. What sources of inspiration are you looking for to create a project?

Inspiration naturally comes from the subject matter and unique perspective each film brings. I like to give myself as much time as possible to allow creative ideas to form, so ideally that would mean getting involved as early as possible in the production phase, and then work through any technical elements first before concentrating on the overall creative structure.
That’s the initial aim, but more often than not during that process ideas and concepts present themselves, in which case it’s always best to let them take you with them.

“Inspiration naturally comes from the subject matter and unique perspective each film brings.”

5. In your opinion, what is the added value of sound design in the production of a film?

It’s impossible to quantify the added value of any aspect of a film’s production, and the driving force underpinning everything should always be how to realise the director’s vision and support the storytelling in the most powerful way. Thoughtful sound design can give a scene a completely new perspective, as well as an entire film a unique feel, and can achieve these feats explicitly or so subtly that the audience only subconsciously feels the shift in mood.

“Thoughtful sound design can give a scene a completely new perspective, as well as an entire film a unique feel, and can achieve these feats explicitly or so subtly that the audience only subconsciously feels the shift in mood.”

6. You worked on Prometheus’ award-winning transmedia campaign (2012) with Ridley Scott and Johnny Hardstaff. What function does sound play in such complex projects?

That was such an amazing project to be a part of, and pushed the boundaries of what a promotional campaign could do in so many ways. Each of Johnny Hardstaff’s films (David, Quiet Eye, Transmission) presented unique sound challenges, but were united in the need to feel like completely genuine media content from the future world where Prometheus would be set.

“Prometheus was such an amazing project to be a part of, and pushed the boundaries of what a promotional campaign could do in so many ways.”

7. Which colleagues do you think are particularly influential in the industry, and which films did you find fascinating?

Well, I’m running a risk of sounding biased here but Johnnie Burn’s sound design on his latest films Ammonite and Waves was absolutely masterful.

8. What advice can you suggest to an aspiring professional to start his career in the sector?

Sound design is a tricky industry to break into, and certainly requires patience and commitment for a number of years before being trusted to run a session, so passion is very important.

My name is Peter Weyland (28 February, 2012) — In a TEDTalk set in 2023 (directed by Luke Scott), visionary entrepreneur Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) declares his intention to radically change the world and the future of humanity, underlining with mythological references the “divine power” now available to mankind through technology. See Humenhoid’s in-depth analysis.
Introducing the David 8 (17 April, 2012) — In a corporate advertisement (directed by Johnny Hardstaff), the David 8 android (Michael Fassbender) is interviewed presenting its operational functions by simulating plausible commercial availability. See Humenhoid’s in-depth analysis.
Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (17 May, 2012) — Quiet Eye (directed by Johnny Hardstaff) shows a video recording sent by archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) to Peter Weyland (founder of Weyland Industries), to convince the entrepreneur to finance the Prometheus scientific mission. See Humenhoid’s in-depth analysis.
Broadcasting of Prometheus — Available exclusively through Prometheus Blu-ray, Mission Transmission (7:02, Johnny Hardstaff, 2012) contains an audiovisual recording owned by Weyland Corporation created to describe the fundamental knowledge of human civilization and planet Earth, in the form of a signal sent into space (and presumably also transmitted by the USMCC Prometheus spaceship during the interstellar journey). The structure of the video presents several series of materials. Summary list: 1) Start-up and calibration phase (a reference to the historical Arecibo message is visible); 2) Geometric forms + human languages; 3) Captain Janek’s training session excerpt (00: 32–00: 51); 4) Charlie Holloway’s training session excerpt (00: 52–1: 09); 5) Classical piano music piece (probably by J.S. Bach); 6) Examples of relevant human artefacts; 7) Weyland Corporation models of industrial vehicles; 8) Graphical representations of mathematical formulas; 9) David 8 android training extract; 10) Elisabeth Shaw + Charlie Holloway’s training extract (2:15–3:01); 11) Aerial footage of the planet Earth; 12) Classical music piece with strings (4:46); 13) anthropological and cultural references (4: 52–6: 17); 14) Holloway + Janek’s training excerpt (6: 20–6: 51); 15) interference message + Arecibo signal + final signal. The presence of repeated interferences and the diversity of the contents allows us to assume an additional extended version, probably lost or otherwise reserved internally to Weyland Corporation; A reduced preview version of Mission Transmission (0:52) is published on YouTube on Sept. 6 2012 and presented as confidential material. See also as a creative reference, the message recorded for the NASA Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes, launched in space in 1977.

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