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90th Anniversary Alumni Conversations Series: MAKING WAVES: THE ART OF CINEMATIC SOUND

October 23, 2019, 7:30 P.M.

The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108, George Lucas Building, USC School of Cinematic Arts Complex, 900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007

The USC School of Cinematic Arts' 90th Anniversary Alumni Conversations Series and Matson Films invite you and a guest to attend a special preview screening and discussion of

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound

Directed by SCA Alumna/Faculty Midge Costin
Written by SCA Alumna Bobette Buster
Produced by Bobette Buster, SCA Alumna Karen Johnson,
and Midge Costin

Followed by a Q&A with Midge Costin, Bobette Buster,
Karen Johnson, Editor/SCA Alum/SCA Faculty David J. Turner,
Supervising Editor/SCA Alum/SCA Faculty Thomas G. Miller,
and Special Guest WALTER MURCH

7:30 P.M. on Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007


Official Selection: Tribeca Film Festival 2019; Cannes Film Festival 2019; Munich International Film Festival 2019; London Film Festival 2019.

In theaters in Los Angeles and New York on Friday, October 25th, 2019, followed by a nationwide rollout.

About Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound

Few have “ears to hear” or comprehend the emotional storytelling impact sound plays in so-called visual media. Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas have both declared “sound is 50% of the movie” with Steven Spielberg noting, “Our ears lead our eyes to where the story lives.”

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound reveals the hidden power of sound in cinema … and our lives. Through film clips, interviews and archival footage—an enlightening and nostalgic look at many of Hollywood’s biggest box office hits—the film captures the history, impact and unique creative process of this overlooked art form and the artists behind it. Filled with insights from legendary directors—including George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, David Lynch, Ang Lee, Sofia Coppola and Ryan Coogler, among others—who share revealing stories about the award-winning work their sound collaborators help to create.

In Making Waves, we witness the wild creativity of some of the industry’s most-respected key sound designers—including Oscar winners Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now), Ben Burtt (Star Wars), Gary Rydstrom (Saving Private Ryan), Lora Hirschberg (Inception) and Cece Hall (The Hunt for Red October); and Oscar-nominees Anna Behlmer (Braveheart) and Bobbi Banks (Selma)—who, in pursuing their art and desire to push the medium, are the very people who will go down in the history of cinema as developing sound into the immersive storytelling force it is today. Audiences will discover many unsung collaborators for the key creative artists they are, in a domain that has for too long been characterized as “technical.”

Provided courtesy of Matson Films. Not rated. Running time: 94 minutes.

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About the Guests

MIDGE COSTIN (Director, Producer, SCA Alumna, SCA Faculty)

Producer and director Midge Costin is the Kay Rose Chair in the Art of Sound Editing, endowed by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Her film credits span 25 years and include Oscar-nominated Crimson Tide and Armageddon, as well as John Waters’ Cry-Baby, David Wolper’s Imagine, Amy Heckerling’s Look Who’s Talking Too, Kenneth Branagh’s Dead Again, and Michael Bay’s The Rock. Midge worked her way up editing sound on action-adventure films at a time when very few women were cutting FX in Hollywood. As a passionate teacher and advocate for the creative use of sound in the cinematic arts, she has traveled internationally to lecture on sound design and her experiences as a sound editor in Hollywood. She is a past Board member of the MPSE, and is a long-standing member of the Editors Guild. Midge directed the documentary short, Almost Home, which had a PBS premiere in 1990. She received her B.A. from Smith College in Art History, and her Masters in Cinema Production from USC. Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound is her documentary feature debut.

BOBETTE BUSTER (Writer, Producer, SCA Alumna, Former SCA Faculty)

Bobette Buster is a Professor of the Practice of Digital Storytelling, Northeastern University (Boston), and the author of “DO STORY: How to Tell Your Story So The World Listens” (2013, Chronicle BooksUS), now in its 9th printing, and “DO LISTEN: Understand What’s Really Being Said, Find A New Way Forwards” (2018, Chronicle Books US). Bobette’s lectures on “Sound + Storytelling” and “Deconstructing Master Filmmakers” have been held at the Visiting Faculty of Pixar Studios, Disney Animation, Catholic University of Milan, La Fémis (Paris) as well as many film and business programs worldwide. In addition, Bobette leads workshops on “How to Tell Your Story So the World Listens” to corporations in-house, including Google (Dublin, London), the BBC, and Animation Ireland. Bobette holds a BS Speech from Northwestern University (Evanston) and an MFA from the University of Southern California’s Peter Stark Producing Program. She worked as a creative story executive in Hollywood for Tony Scott, Ray Stark and Larry Gelbart, while also creating the first MFA course for Feature Film and Television Development at USC, where she was an Adj. Professor from 1992 - 2015.

KAREN JOHNSON (Producer, SCA Alumna)

Karen Johnson produces fiction and non-fiction film, television, and web media. She is especially interested in subjects that feature compelling women characters and/or women writers and directors. Her credits include the feature documentaries Kusama - Infinity (directed and written by Heather Lenz, Sundance 2018; Magnolia Pictures) and Double Dare (directed by Amanda Micheli, Toronto 2004, winner five festival audience awards; PBS Independent Lens, NBC/Universal); the feature romantic comedy Twice Upon A Yesterday (directed by Maria Ripoll, Best Screenplay Montreal Film Festival; Trimark Pictures, Icon), Wanda The Wonderful (director/writer Carolyn Macartney, PBS), and the web series Nerd Girl Nation (directed by Paola di Florio). Also an attorney, Karen has developed projects with major studios and been funded by major foundations and organizations. She is on the selection committee for the Erik Barnouw Award given annually by the Organization of American Historians in recognition of outstanding film or television concerning American History.

DAVID J. TURNER (Editor, SCA Alumnus, SCA Faculty)

David J. Turner is an award-winning editor, sound designer and documentary filmmaker, with a passion for music composition. He recorded his first album of piano compositions in 2001, and went on to serve as a documentary filmmaker for a global non-profit organization in Minneapolis - directing projects in 20 countries, winning 23 Telly Awards, and helping raise millions of dollars for crisis response. After earning an MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and winning its top sound design award, he went on to sound edit on several feature films, including the 2013 Ryan Coogler film Fruitvale Station. David maintains a passion for education and, while editing Making Waves, he taught numerous college and graduate classes on film editing and sound design in Los Angeles, including an in-depth study of re-recording mixing at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

THOMAS G. MILLER, ACE (Supervising Editor, SCA Alumnus, SCA Faculty)

Thomas G. Miller has worked on documentaries and in public television since 1994. He co-produced the feature documentary Code Black, and co-produced and edited Fender Philosophers (PBS) and Camp Out (MTV/Logo). He has edited the multi-award-winning feature documentaries Good Kurds, Bad Kurds (PBS), Home of the Brave (Sundance, BBC, CBC), SEX[ED]: The Movie (First Run Features), and co-edited Rock The Boat (HBO). Tom was the Supervising Editor on The Eye of Istanbul: The Life and Photographs of Ara Guler, See What I’m Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary (The Documentary Channel), and Paraiso For Sale (PBS). He produced, directed and co-edited the award winning documentaries ONE BAD CAT (Ovation) and Limited Partnership (PBS). Other credits include editing and producing television films for Discovery, Fox Family and WNET. Tom served on the board of the International Documentary Association and is a member of American Cinema Editors (ACE), the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the Writers Guild of America. He is Professor of the Practice of Cinema Arts at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Tom graduated with a BS degree from The University of Michigan, an MD from the Medical College of Ohio and an MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.


Walter Murch is a film editor, sound designer, director, translator and amateur astronomer. His forty-five years of pioneering sound design and picture editing work on films include THX-1138, The Conversation, The Godfather (I, II, III), Julia, Apocalypse Now, The English Patient, Cold Mountain, and Jarhead, as well as writing and directing Return to Oz. He is author of In the Blink of an Eye, a book about the craft of film editing, and is the subject of The Conversations by Michael Ondaatje, as well as Behind the Seen by Charles Koppelman. His latest film work (2014) is Particle Fever, a feature documentary on the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson, directed by Mark Levinson. Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland, which Murch edited, was released in May of 2015.

Most recently, Walter wrote and edited Coup 53, a documentary about Operation Ajax, the CIA/MI6 staged coup in 1953 in Iran that overthrew Prime Minister Mossadegh.

Director's Note

In the late 1980s, fresh out of graduate film school at the University of Southern California, I was getting some work in Hollywood in my chosen field of picture editing. Struggling to raise the money to finish my thesis documentary, Almost Home, I lowered myself to take a sound job for the money. Sound editing seemed like a soulless, technical field that appealed to engineering geeks. My interest was in story! It might not have happened on that very first project, but somewhere very early in the process, I found myself using sound to shape narrative, reveal character, elucidate ideas, and to express emotion.

A year or two later, while cutting sound on my first studio feature film (Days of Thunder) on the Paramount lot, I got a flood of calls from friends, agents, and even an independent film director, telling me that I had received a terrific review in Variety for Almost Home (that thesis film). Knowing that I was at a crossroads, I thought of how excited I was to be sound editing with this crew that had just won the Oscar for Hunt for Red October; how I was one of a just a handful of women who edited FX on big Hollywood movies; and what heady days these were for us sound editors who were designing and editing on this exciting new 5.1 surround format. I never looked back. It was the start of an exhilarating career that includes two Academy Award nominated films for Sound Editing (Crimson Tide and Armageddon), in which I cut FX and dialogue, and several Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) Golden Reel nominations, and a win (Crimson Tide).

As I tell my students at the School of Cinematic Arts at USC, I am the ideal person to teach sound since I am a “born-again” sound person, having started out not comprehending sound, and, in fact, I was quite technophobic. But I discovered I have a passion for sound that is paralleled by the great filmmakers and sound designers who understand that sound is 50% of their motion picture. Now, I have a profound desire to teach people how to listen; how to appreciate their sense of hearing; how to awaken to their sonic environments – both the physical and emotional response; and how to use sound to tell a story, shape a character, set a mood/tone, highlight a plot point, reveal an emotion. The art of sound is what I focus on, and oh, yes, there are some technical things one must learn along the way.

In 2000, when I became a tenured professor and took over as Head of the Sound Department at USC, my colleagues in the industry were shocked that I could leave my career at the top of my game. I was a vital member of that sound crew that was regularly recognized by the Academy and MPSE for outstanding work. But I loved my teaching and wanted to pass on to the future writers, producers, directors, editors, cinematographers, and sound people the skills and passion for the art of sound and the awareness of the impact that sound has in our art and lives.

Nine years ago, Bobette Buster, a faculty colleague of mine at USC School of Cinematic Arts, approached me about making a documentary on sound in film. I had been recommended to her by seven-time Academy Award winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom, who Bobette had met while lecturing on sound and story at Pixar and who she asked to come on board as an advisor. It had been my dream to reach a wider audience and open people's awareness about sound, so when Bobette asked me to collaborate – later bringing on experienced producer Karen Johnson (Kusama - Infinity) as a partner – I knew this was a golden opportunity. I wanted to capture the creative process that is involved on the part of directors, sound designers, and composers; to uncover their inspiration, as well as the collaborative process.

It was so thrilling to be able to work with the greatest and most creative filmmakers and sound designers of our time; to get them to share their own discoveries – their "ah ha" moments – from these passionate and playful, yet professional and artistic experiments. I hope that with this film the audience’s ears and consciousness will be opened in a new way as they experience the concepts that are being discussed – that they will feel the connection between sound, our world, and our emotions.

– Midge Costin

About the 90th Anniversary Alumni Conversations Series

In celebration of the 90th Anniversary of the School of Cinematic Arts, SCA alumni will lead conversations on stage with fellow alumni whose work they admire or whose careers have inspired them. Anniversary events will include Q&As with the audience, and on occasion, screenings of a favorite feature film, TV show, or student short. The series will celebrate the incredible history of the School through our diverse alumni community, in order to foster unique and entertaining dialogues that will bring alumni back to campus throughout the year.

Check-In & Reservations

This screening is free of charge and open to the public. Please bring a valid ID or print out of your reservation confirmation, which will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website. Doors will open at 7:00 P.M.

All SCA screenings are OVERBOOKED to ensure seating capacity in the theater, therefore seating is not guaranteed based on RSVPs. The RSVP list will be checked in on a first-come, first-served basis until the theater is full. Once the theater has reached capacity, we will no longer be able to admit guests, regardless of RSVP status.


The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $12.00 at the USC Royal Street Entrance, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & Royal Street. We recommend the USC Royal Street Structure, at the far end of 34th Street. Limited street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.

Contact Information

Name: Alessandro Ago