Studio City, California – On January 19th, the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) 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, Witness, 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, of course, 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 The acetate tape and mags that were once the tools of the trade have long since been replaced by keyboards and files.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 ½¸ 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.”
Although Hall’s class meets just once a week, she devotes considerable time outside the classroom to provide students with advice and guidance on their projects. She often asks students to send her their scripts, before they begin shooting. She wants them to begin thinking about sound from the outset.
Her indefatigable energy, willingness to go the extra mile and supportive attitude have made her a popular instructor. “Most students take Cece’s class for the same reason: she’s an incredible teacher,” says former student Jennifer Arnold. “She takes time from her busy schedule to offer up her years of experience. It’s a gift. And if you accept that gift, you end up with a mentor and a friend for life.”
Jane McKeever, co-owner of the sound company Happy Feet Foley and an associate professor of television and film at California State University, Los Angeles, credits Hall’s class with her decision to pursue a career as a sound professional. Expecting to learn something about the mechanics of sound editing and recording, she came away inspired by Hall’s vision of sound as a creative art as well as invaluable connections to professionals working in the field.
“I took the class every time it was offered,” McKeever recalls. “The second time around, we visited the Foley stage at Soundelux. Through that initial interaction, I met my future husband and business partner, Jeffrey Wilhoit, and, later, award-winning sound editors Wylie Stateman, Ann Scibelli and Harry Cohen, who continued to mentor me after I graduated from UCLA and gave me my first film editing jobs.”
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.”
“Having spent a life in sound and enjoyed a terrific career, I find it very satisfying to give back to the filmmaking community,” she adds. “I learned so much from others, not only about sound, but about creativity and collaboration. I want my students to understand not only how sound works, but its importance to the process of making films.”
Cece Hall will receive the Career Achievement Award at the 67th Annual MPSE Golden Reel Awards ceremony, January 19, 2020 in Los Angeles.
Founded in 1953, the Motion Picture Sound Editors is a non-profit organization of professional sound and music editors who work in the motion picture, television and gaming industry. The organization’s mission is to provide a wealth of knowledge from award winning professionals to a diverse group of individuals, youth and career professionals alike; mentoring and educating the community about the artistic merit and technical advancements in sound and music editing; providing scholarships for the continuing advancement of professional sound education; and helping to enhance the personal and professional lives of the men and women who practice this unique craft.