The Motion Picture Sound
Editors promotes the artistry of sound through scholarship programs,
educational outreach and other activities.

HOLLYWOOD—On February 19th, the
Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) will gather at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los
Angeles for their annual Golden Reel Awards ceremony, one of the oldest and
most prestigious technical awards competitions in Hollywood. It’s the biggest
night of the year for the group as sound editors from the worlds of motion
pictures, television, gaming and other media pause to recognize the best work
in their field. Handing out awards, however, is only a small part of the MPSE’s
mission. The 61-year-old organization is active year-round in a variety of
charitable, educational and social activities all aimed at promoting the craft
of sound editing and its contribution to the various forms of entertainment.

“The MPSE was founded in 1953 by a group of very talented
sound artists who felt that the role of sound in film was underappreciated and
poorly understood,” explains Paul Rodriguez, treasurer of the MPSE. “Since
then, this organization has been working hard, and in many different ways, to
change that perception. And we feel we have been successful, both in promoting
a better understanding of the critical role that sound effects, dialogue and
music play in cinematic storytelling, and by encouraging a higher level of
professionalism and creativity among sound editors.”
Contrary to a popular misconception, the MPSE is not a trade
union and does not negotiate labor contracts. Rather, it is an honorary society
composed of working sound professionals who donate their time to promote their
craft both within the film and television community, and among the public at
large. It does so by hosting screenings and other educational events, providing
scholarships to aspiring sound professionals and carrying out various
charitable activities.
The MPSE’s philanthropic work includes the presentation of
an educational scholarship to the winner of its annual Verna Fields Award, a
student award presented in conjunction with the Golden Reels. Verna Fields was
a sound editor, picture editor (whose credits included Jaws) and longtime studio
executive who was an early champion of the craft of sound editing and of women
in film. The scholarship is named in honor of Ethel Crutcher, the wife of the
late sound editor and MPSE Career Achievement winner Norval D. Crutcher, Jr.
and the mother of sound editors Norval D. “Charlie” Crutcher III and Samuel
Crutcher. Submissions for the Verna Fields Award come from around the world and
involve some of most acclaimed schools for film and television production.
Last year, the award and scholarship went to Axle Kith
Cheeng, a student from England’s National Film and Television School, for her
work on the animated short Head Over
Heels
(a 2013 Oscar nominee for Best Animated Short). A citizen of
Malaysia, she became the first person from her country to win a major Hollywood
prize.
“It is a great honor to receive this award and be recognized
by the finest sound and music editing professionals,” Cheeng said upon
accepting the honor. “Not everyone understands the importance of sound and
music in a film or video because it is designed to be seamless and subtle. If
you have the passion and love for it, I believe you can thrive.”
While scholarship winners earn a cash benefit to help with
their education, the award’s true value may lie in the prestige associated with
winning an honor from a Hollywood-based professional organization. “It looks
fabulous on your resume,” says Rodriguez, “and that can help to jump start a
career.”
“However, it may not necessarily be as a sound editor,”
Rodriguez adds. “It could just as easily be as a writer or director. Our
interest is in encouraging a talent for storytelling; we just happen to focus
on sound.”
In fact, many Verna Fields Award-winners have gone on to
productive careers in sound. Luke Dunn Gielmuda, who won the first Verna Fields
Award in 1999, is today a successful sound and Foley editor. With credits that
include Monsters University, The Avengers and Avatar, he is a three-time winner of Australian Screen Sound Guild
Awards, and won a Golden Reel Award in 2012 as a member of the sound team from Wreck-It Ralph. Sue Harding, who won the
award in 2007, has amassed more than 100 credits as a Foley artist, including Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and Quantum of Solace, and has four Golden
Reel nominations to her name.
MPSE’s outreach also includes an annual celebrity golf
tournament. Held in Malibu, the all-day event is designed as an opportunity for
sound artists to socialize with their peers outside the confines of their
darkened studios. Additionally, it has a charitable component. In the past, the
golf tournament has been used to raise funds for such groups as the Inner-City
Filmmakers and Save the Children. Last year’s event benefitted the Motion
Picture and Television Fund and its retirement community for former film and
television workers.
Rodriguez says that while the Golden Reel Awards earns the
organization a great deal of attention, it’s the group’s charitable and
educational efforts that may have the most lasting impact. “It’s exciting and
we hope to do more,” he says. “Recently, we’ve been hosting sound shows, where
our members and other filmmakers screen and discuss their latest projects. They
have been very popular. So, we are continuing to grow stronger and make headway
in our mission to support the craft of sound.”
About MPSE
Founded in 1953, the Motion
Picture Sound Editors
is a non-profit organization of professional sound
and music editors who work in the motion pictures and television 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 motion picture sound in education; and helping to
enhance the personal and professional lives of the men and women who practice
this unique craft.
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