Beyond Room Tone: Creating Sound Design for Your Documentary

Beyond Room Tone: Creating Sound Design for Your Documentary 

The sound design of a film can set up all sorts of interpretations, expectations and emotions in a listener. And with the growth of documentaries using animation and archival techniques, the sound design of a film is becoming a larger character in a story. This panel will bring in filmmakers and sound designers to talk about their collaborative process and the techniques used for creating a mood and atmosphere with sound.


Penny Lane has been making award-winning, innovative nonfiction films for over a decade. Her third feature, the experimental found footage horror documentary The Pain of Others (2018) recently debuted at Rotterdam. Her previous feature documentary NUTS! (2016), a historical quasi-fiction incorporating both archival and animation, premiered at Sundance where it won a Special Jury Prize for Editing. Her debut feature documentary, the all-archival Our Nixon (2013) premiered at Rotterdam, had its North American premiere at SXSW, won the Ken Burns Award for “Best of the Festival” at Ann Arbor, and was selected as the Closing Night Film at New Directors/New Films. In 2017, Lane was admitted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and named a recipient of a Chicken & Egg Breakthrough Award. She is most proud of being named “Most Badass!” at the Iowa City Documentary Film Festival in 2009. Her short films, such as Just Add Water (2016) and The Voyagers (2010), have won accolades at film festivals and popularity online. Film festival screenings span the independent and experimental film worlds, including Sundance, Rotterdam, Images, IMPAKT, Hot Docs, Full Frame, CPH:DOX and Oberhausen. She has been awarded grants from Creative Capital, Cinereach, TFI Documentary Fund, Jerome Foundation, Catpult Film Fund, LEF Foundation, NYSCA, and many other organizations. Lane is currently an associate professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Colgate University, where she lives in a very old house and shows movies in her barn. And yes, Penny Lane is her real name.

Tom Paul is a two-time Emmy Award winning re-recording mixer and a highly regarded sound designer. He is one of New York City’s most sought after talents in the field of post production audio. The last few years have been filled with working on wonderful films including The Big SickCity of GhostsCartel LandWeinerThe WolfpackParticle FeverThe SquareDoris and Anesthesia, to name just a few. Paul’s home base in NYC is Gigantic Studios, a boutique post facility that he designed with partner Brian Devine. Paul got his professional start as a boom operator in 1988, moving on to production mixing in 1991. Some notable titles of his early years in production sound include: TrustThe Wedding BanquetEat Drink Man Woman, Little OdessaSwoon and The Yards. Some highlights of his sound design and re-recording credits include the Academy Award-winning films The Fog of War and Born into Brothels. Other notable films include JunebugPalindromesThe BaxterThe King and U2 360. Paul won his first Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Mixing on Joe Berlinger’s Under African Skies, and his second one for Best Sound Editing for Cartel Land.

Mark Phillips is a sound designer, music composer and radio producer. He has over a decade’s-worth of experience in podcasts and public radio. He was the editor, producer and sound designer for the first season of Homecoming, the Peabody-nominated scripted podcast starring Catherine Keener and Oscar Isaac. Phillips mixed and wrote an original score for the hit first season of Serial. Before that he worked for five years as a producer and reporter for the NPR media analysis show On The Media. He also contributed as a reporter and producer for dozens of public radio shows and podcasts. He reported pieces for RadiolabAll Things Considered and Studio 360. He also mixed the first season of the hit podcast StartUp (in addition to writing the theme song). Phillips has also had a successful career as a film composer and sound designer. The last two shorts he scored premiered at the 2017 Sundance Festival. He recently completed scoring, sound designing and mixing his latest feature for Lionsgate, Most Likely To Murder, which premiered at SxSW. He was the sound designer on over a dozen of films including the Academy Award-nominated Cutie And The BoxerTeenageBallet 422, and The Wait.

David Teague is a documentary film editor and writer whose work includes Oscar-winning and Emmy-winning films. In 2017, he completed two films: The Departure, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, and The Cage Fighter, which had its premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival. His past films include the Oscar-nominated Life, Animated, the Emmy-nominated and Sundance-winning E-TEAM, and the Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning Cutie and the Boxer. Other films include the Oscar-winning documentary Freeheld; two Oscar-nominated shorts (Mondays at RacineSun Come Up); the Full Frame winner Tocando la Luz (Touch the Light); the feature documentary The Iran Job; the PBS series Constitution USA; and the Emmy-winning Sesame Street primetime special Growing Hope Against Hunger. His work as a consulting editor includes Cameraperson and The Reagan Show. In 2009, Teague directed and edited his own award-winning documentary Intifada NYC about a controversial Arabic language public school. His documentary directing work also includes Our House, co-directed with Greg King, which premiered at Hot Docs 2010. In the mid-2000s, Teague shot and edited many music videos with Flip Productions for artists such as David Bowie, Laurie Anderson and Dolly Parton. He also produced, shot, and edited numerous videos for Broadway theater productions including The ProducersSweeney Todd, and Chicago. Teague has worked extensively with Super-8 film and directed the Super-8 feature film Love Suicides in 2007. For ten years, he ran Flicker NYC, a Super-8 film festival that held over twenty-five events and screened hundreds of new films. Teague lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Cheree Dillon (Moderator) is an independent film editor based in New York City. Most recently she edited Massacre River, funded by ITVS; co-edited Death by Design, which premiered at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2016; and edited the broadcast of The Homestretch for the PBS series, Independent Lens. Dillon’s first feature documentary was the Emmy-nominated Off and Running, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was later broadcast on the PBS series POV. Her other feature doc credits include Surviving Amina (Visions du Reel), Song of Hannah (Avoda Arts), and Sense the Wind. She has also edited award-winning short docs including Southmost USAAn Imaginary ThingArticle of Faith, and His Name is Cosmo. Dillon has edited for The Discovery Channel, The Science Channel, TVOne, HBO, The World Channel and NBC, including The Today Show and long format programming for NBC sports. She has edited branding content for Foote, Cone, Belding and The Boshia Group. As a member of New York Women in Film and Television, she sits on the Documentary Committee and has produced panels on interactive filmmaking, social media/marketing, and independent film distribution. Dillon recently formed a coalition of gardens in West Harlem for community engagement and environmental education.


Produced by Cheree Dillon

May 7 @ 6:00pm
6:00 pm — 8:00 pm (2h)

NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute
20 Cooper Square, 7th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10003


$15 for NYWIFT Members
$25 for Nonmembers
Register by prepayment online

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NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.