STUDIO CITY, CA — On January 19th, the Motion Picture Sound Editors (mpse.org) will honor Cecelia “Cece” Hall with its Career Achievement Award at the 67th Annual Golden Reel Awards ceremony. One of the most accomplished women in entertainment sound, Hall received an Academy Award nomination in 1987 for her work on Top Gun and four years later won the Oscar for
The Hunt for Red October. Her other credits include such classics as
Star Trek I, II & III;
Beverly Hills Cop I & II;
Addams Family I & II; and
Days of Thunder. A past president of the MPSE, she served for many years as senior vice president for post production sound at Paramount Pictures.
Additionally, for the past 25 years, Hall has taught a graduate course in post production sound at UCLA’s School for Theater, Film and Television. Most of Hall’s students are aiming for careers as directors, and her course is meant to provide them with practical experience in how to use sound as a storytelling tool and how to work creatively with professional sound designers, editors and mixers.
Several of her past students have gone onto successful careers behind the camera, including Justin Lin, director of Fast & Furious and several of its sequels; Jennifer Arnold, whose credits include the series The L Word: Generation Q and Shameless; and Reed Van Dyke, whose short film DeKalb Elementary was nominated for an Oscar in 2018.
Hall counts her years as an educator as among the most enjoyable and rewarding of her career. It’s been an opportunity to share her passion for sound and make a lasting impact on future filmmakers. “I want to give young directors some insight into the process…how it actually works,” she says. “I hope to leave them with an understanding of how much sound can do for their films.”
The technology of sound has evolved considerably since Hall arrived at Paramount Pictures in 1978. The acetate tape and mags that were once the tools of the trade have long since been replaced by keyboards and files. But, Hall insists, as an artistic craft, the fundamentals of sound remain unaltered. She devotes much of her class time times to dissecting scenes from films, both contemporary and classic, to show how talented directors and editors have used sound to establish a sense of place, affect mood and advance story.
“I show my students a lot of openings,” notes Hall. “I might show the beginning of Raging Bull, one of my all-time favorites, or Natural Born Killers, or Fellini’s 8 1/2¸ which in terms of sound is as good as it gets. Very often, directors use the opening to tell you what the film is about. They set it up. While the technical aspects of sound have changed, it’s still all about storytelling. I want my students to see sound as a creative tool and to think outside the box in using sound to set the tone for their stories.”
For Hall, seeing her students advance to become working professionals is as gratifying as seeing her own work on the silver screen. “A lot of students come into my class not knowing a lot about sound,” she says. “At the end of 10 weeks, their interest in sound is generally very high. They like it and, more importantly, they get it. That’s very pleasing to me.”