With this only being the second blog post on my site – and the second to feature death – there is a concern that to those reading there may be a fixation with the morbid. However, there is a strong filmmaking point to be made here, so do bear with me.
Someone I worked with tragically died at the age of 33. This post isn’t about me or my grief: what I felt when I read about his passing amounts to less than zero when compared to what his family and friends have experienced. No, this post is about the importance of not only his contribution to one of those films but also the importance of a collaborative spirit such as he one he displayed.
His name was Teitur Arnason and he was the sound engineer on NEON.
I met the lovely guy just once. I had the best audio mix session of my life, watching him work 5.1 wonders and then we went out on a jolly afterwards that was too short. There were promises of further collaborations, not just in the realm of film, but also the excitement of a new friendship that now, sadly, will never be.
NEON features Paul O’Brien’s immense score throughout its entirety: it’s wall-to-wall music for fifteen minutes, building in intensity and emotion until a final flare to white at which point the end credits kick in. Initially, the credits were an emotional, subdued affair, quiet and tender with a score to match.
And this is where my favourite part of the film was born, due to a huge change and the trust to collaborate.
Teitur prepared us before our first viewing for something ‘different’ during the end credits. Something that he had tried out and felt worked. He was excited.
Paul and I sat through the film. An immaculate mix throughout. Then the final scene played out, the flare to white crashed to black – and Paul’s score was gone: or, rather, that part of the score was gone. Instead, Teitur had repeated the drum-heavy action montage theme from earlier in the film, crashing it in with the first credit. It went from ending on a beautiful, moody moment to announcing itself with a barnstorming, Hollywood style finale.
And it makes the film.
After closing our mouths and shaking off he surprise, we told Teitur how immaculate the decision was and how it changed the entire film for the better and – without a second of hesitation – agreed to it.
And this is what any filmmaker, any creative, must always be open to: improvement.
And this extends to every stage of the filmmaking process. In NEON’S case, Teitur’s contribution: of having the creativity to suggest such a bold change to what had been planned for so, so long. And the result? More than worth it – and not just for the film but for opening my eyes even further on the importance of collaboration.
Of letting great people do great work.
Teitur smashed it with a smile and with some mad, mad skills.
So RIP to him and RIP to anyone who doesn’t embrace that spirit of collaboration.