Oscars: Nominee Mark Mangini recalls 'Mad Max: Fury Road'
Issue: January 1, 2016

Oscars: Nominee Mark Mangini recalls 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

BEVERLY HILLS, CA — Mark Mangini of Hollywood’s Formosa Group was at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater when the 88th Annual Oscar nominees were announced on the morning of Thursday, January 14th. In addition to being a member of the Academy, he is a four-time Oscar nominee, including this year in the Sound Editing category for his work as supervising sound editor on director George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. 

In addition to Sound Editing, Mad Max: Fury Road is nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Costume Design, Make Up & Hairstyling, and Production Design. The post apocalyptic action drama is set in a barren desert wasteland where gasoline and water are scarce, and where Immortan Joe leads a cult of followers who chase down Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) and  Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) as they try to flee.

Post spoke with Mark Mangini (right) about his work on the film and the meaning of a nomination.

Tell us about your morning?

“My wife and I went to the Sam Goldwyn Theater for the live broadcast. I am a governor of the Academy, so I am allowed to go to that [broadcast[, and I was cool as a cucumber until they got up to read the nominations. The same thing happens to me on Oscar night. I have been nominated three times before (Aladdin, The Fifth Element, Star Trek) and I am great up until that envelope gets near by. Then I go into space.”

Where do you sit on Oscar night?

“We’re down front, usually just behind those four or five rows of celebrities. They want us close to the stage so that we can make the most of our :40 speeches. The more travel time, the less you have to talk.”

Are you aware of the competition in the category?

“One: As a member of the Academy, I make it my mission to see as many movies as I can, ideally in a theater. If I miss something while I am working on a film, I’ll catch it on a screener in the fall. Two: I keep my ear to ground in the community for what people are saying are the good-sounding movies. And I make it a point to hear all of them. I want to be able to make an informed vote on my Academy ballot. Of course I’ll put Mad Max as #1, but what should be #2 and #3, because I want to make an honest and correct vote, and it’s incumbent upon me as a professional to know what is good and why it’s good, and learn from my peers.”

Does a film have to be ‘groundbreaking’ to get nominated, or is it more about ‘high-quality’?

“All of those elements play into what makes a film potentially nominate-able. I like to think that films that do get nominated for sound, get nominated because sound transported the audience — immersed the audience — one way is through Dolby Atmos and speakers all around you. I’m taking about sound allows the audience to forget they are watching a movie and transports them to another reality. I think that’s what the members look for in terms of something that’s nominate-able.”

What were you aiming for, sound wise, with Mad Max: Fury Road?

“The goal was pretty clear from George. There were obvious things you need to do in any movie — not just Mad Max — and that is create a fabricated reality. This post-apocalyptic future doesn’t exist. Those vehicles don’t exist. And those people and the denizens of that world don’t exist. So we are created fabricated worlds — places, sounds, vehicles. Those are the easy-to-notice challenges. But the bigger challenge really is that this is a very busy, dense movie, and it’s finding what our ‘sonic focus’ should be at any moment. You could be in the War Rig and hearing any of hundreds of different things, but George is always about what is the story saying and what one or two sounds best tells that point? Our work with George was always sonic focus. What do we want to hear here at this moment?”

Is there a particular scene that you feel you really nailed?

“I think we did that in every scene. We spent an extraordinary amount of time in post. Our big piece is the big chase where Immortan Joe and the war party have found Furiosa and Max in the War Rig and are chasing them to essentially kill them. That’s a 20-minute-long set piece and it’s a full-on chase for 20 minutes. It’s finding the dynamics in a scene like that so you don’t abuse the audience. We spent the bulk of our time on that 20-minute sequence — more than its percentage value of screen time — to try to make it right, with peaks and valleys of sound density and volume, so that the audience was always interested.”

Tell us about the sound team?

“It was a multinational team. Warner Bros. produced the film. I work for a relatively-new sound editorial company called Formosa Group in Hollywood. We were engaged to assist the Australian team in getting George’s vision on the screen. In Sydney, we had a large crew — I would say in the magnitude of 20 people — dialogue, Foley, ADR, sound effects. And here, state-side, we had a crew of about 10, just in the sound editorial department.”

The film is also nominated for Sound Mixing.

“Chris Jenkins and Gregg Rudloff are two LA-based sound re-recording mixers, and they mixed the entire film in Sydney and in Los Angeles. They did extraordinary work. This film would not sound that way if it wasn’t for those two. They were at Stage 1 at Deluxe in Sydney. We were housed there for about three months and then moved to Los Angeles and continued mixing for another three to four months.”

Tell us about Formosa Group?
“We’ve become a multi-service company. We have a feature film group, which includes sound editing, sound mixing, ADR and Foley. We have interactive that does video games and VR, and that nature of work. We have a broadcast group that does television. We have a music group with music editorial and composition. We’ve become quite a diversified company.”

Are you working with Pro Tools?

“Yes, primarily (Mac).”

What was the timeline for posting the sound on Mad Max: Fury Road?

“David White, my co-nominee, stared in 2013 during production, and he stayed on through October of 2014. He was on it for almost two years. I came on in August of 2014, and I was on through April of 2015 — another seven months. George is a real believer in the value of post sound and was willing to spend the time and money to get the best results possible.”

As a four-time nominee, what is Oscar night like?

“It’s lovely for people like ourselves — the non-celebrity disciplines — to feel like a celebrity for the night. We all get treated like celebrities on Oscar night and walk the carpet and have microphones shoved in our faces and do interviews, and get treated like somebody really important. And of course we know we all are.”