A dream come true for a Nepali sound designer and mixer

Published On: October 1, 2020 09:40 AM NPT By: Aditi Baral

Sound designer and mixer Uttam Neupane's selection as a member of Cinema Audio Society, the most acclaimed association of sound engineers, is a landmark development for the entire Nepali film fraternity

KATHMANDU, Oct 1: A dream he had for the last five years came true when Uttam Neupane opened a mail one Monday morning earlier this month. It was a letter from the Cinema Audio Society (CAS). In utter excitement, Neupane read the mail. It began with congratulating him for his entry into the institution.

According to the letter, Neupane had been selected as an active member of the CAS. This is the first time that the institution is enrolling a Nepali individual as one of its active members. "Everyone who is in the field of sound engineering dreams to be a part of the Cinema Audio Society. I had the same dream. It feels surreal that the dream has come true," said Neupane.

Neupane, 33, is a sound engineer based in Kathmandu who has spent more than a decade in sound designing and film mixing. He runs his studio ‘Linewood Audio Post Work’ at Kamalpokhari.

CAS is one of the most venerated institutions for sound designers and sound mixers. Since its formation in 1964, the institution has nurtured the community of sound designers and mixers and has helped them get acknowledgement as major contributors to the field of entertainment. To be a part of CAS, Neupane says, is a dream for almost every person dedicating his/her life to the field of sound engineering.

It was the fixation of watching Hollywood films that introduced him to the CAS. "I often saw that sound engineers that worked in Hollywood movies kept CAS after their names. I was curious to know what it was," said Neupane. He then started searching about the institution. "When I fully understood this institution, I knew I wanted to be a part of it," he said.

Since then he carried the dream of being a part of this institution. His longing got deeper when he realized that Oscar winner sound mixers like Tom Fleischman, Paul Massey, NivAdiri and Jon Taylor--all of whom Neupane regards as his ideals--are also a part of the same institution. 

But the path ahead was not smooth. The Cinema Audio Society has a sturdy set of criteria to select people as its active members. Participants need to meet a number of qualifications including a minimum requirement of at least five years of experience as a professional sound mixer in motion pictures or television. An applicant must also be sponsored by two active members from the institution in good standing.

Neupane knew that meeting these qualifications would not be easy. This somehow made him anxious. But he would not give up. "For years, I kept an immense amount of effort and dedication in my work to meet all those requirements for the application," he reminisced.

Within this span of time he worked with more than 70 national and international films. While Neupane is a national award winner from the film 'Mero Euta Saathi Chha', two of his films, “Bulbul” and “Talakjung vs Tikule” also became Nepal's official entries for the 88th and 92nd Oscar awards. His other films have also gained recognition at various national and international platforms like Asian Film Academy, the Busan International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance Film Festival awarded his short movie “Dadyaa” in 2017. He has also worked as a sound designer in Eric Valli’s Oscar nominated Film “Beyond the Clouds.” 

All of these achievements gave recognition to his work in the international film community but the biggest challenge still remained. "Two good standing CAS active members had to sponsor me to verify my work. That did not seem to happen for a long time," he shared.

Fortunately, he met prominent sound engineers, Marti D. Humphrey, a two-times Emmy award winner, and Oscar winner Gregory H. Watkins. They analyzed his work and agreed to sponsor him. He could finally apply for the membership.

Since his early years Neupane found himself fascinated by the technical and aesthetic essence of tunes and melodies. With a burning passion to work in this field, he went to study at National Institute of Audio Art in Chennai in 2006. But, with a strong aspiration to do something in his homeland, he came back to Kathmandu when the digital era was just beginning. Since then, he has continuously worked as a sound designer in Nepali films.

For Neupane, filmmaking is all about reflecting one’s mind and feelings in a non-verbal manner. "The interrelation of sound designing in film-making is somewhat undermined. However, the sound effects that are minutely studied and designed are what contribute to the success of film-making," he had said in a previous interview with Republica.

Having worked in this field for over a decade now, Neupane says that more than technical graft, sound designing closely links an individual with the artistic aspect of working in films. "It is often a tough and challenging job to produce sounds that could match the vision of the creator and require enough artistry to be designed," he said.

Neupane also believes that this is not just his achievement but an achievement for the entire Nepali film fraternity. This achievement, he says, has added a big responsibility in him to represent the Nepali film fraternity in the international market. He hopes to help the Nepali film industry attain an international level of recognition by expanding it in the global market. “I want to share this achievement with the Nepali film fraternity. I think this opens the door for other Nepali sound engineers who also carry a dream to be a part of this,” said Neupane.


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