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Sound Engineer James Emswiller Dies After Fall on Tom Hanks Film

Emswiller won a primetime Emmy in 2015 for audio work on Bessie.

Mt. Lebanon, PA (October 15, 2018)—James Emswiller, an Emmy-winning sound engineer, died Thursday, October 11, after falling off a second-story balcony while on location for a Tom Hanks movie filming around Pittsburgh. Emswiller was 61.

The production had been shooting an interior apartment scene for the film, You Are My Friend, a biopic of childrens television legend, Fred Rogers. During a break, Emswiller stepped out on to the balcony to smoke, where he may have had a heart attack. No one in the production saw the fall, but numerous crew members reported hearing a sound and discovered the sound mixer had fallen. According to reports, the production’s nurse and crew rushed to assist him, and Emswiller was taken by ambulance to Mercy Hospital, where he died from injuries related to the fall.

Emswiller had worked in the film industry in various roles for 30 years, notably as a sound mixer on films such as The Avengers, The Fault in Our Stars, Foxcatcher and Jack Reacher, and in other behind-the-scenes roles on films like The Shawshank Redemption and Wonder Boys. In 2015, Emswiller won a primetime Emmy Award as part of the audio team that won Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or a Movie for the HBO film, Bessie; he was the film’s production sound mixer.

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Outside of sound, Emswiller was also a constable for the City of Pittsburgh, an author and avid outdoorsman. He is survived by his wife, Beth Amber; his stepdaughter, Nikki Wallace; his sister, Lauren Lega; two nephews, Ryan and Austin; and his father, James. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Pittsburgh Film Office.