Every film tells a story. Every person that touches that film contributes to telling it. For a film about music and dance, the sound often replaces speech. The sound tells the story.
Sound designer Veronica Li knows this better than most. Her innate talent of working with sound compels audiences, which earned her the Faculty Award for Outstanding Sound at the 2014 First Look Film Festival.
STAND is a documentary about a Krump dance group in South Los Angeles. The subject of the film that discuss social problems through an art form and explore how art can affect people really attracted me.
Full of stomps, jabs, and something called ‘the get-off’, Krump is a cathartic release of emotion. It’s a dance form that is aggressive and loud, but can also be an intimate portrait of individual struggle. As an alternative to the rough streets of Los Angeles, a Krump group called Demolition Crew offers the youth a safe haven to express themselves.
STAND follows one of the crew’s leaders, ‘Krucial the Liberator’, a 24-year old South Los Angeles born and bred Krumper, as she uses her love of Krump to build a safer community in an area known for its history of violence.
“It was a wonderful experience working on STAND,” said Li. “Every crew member on the team was great. And since I also recorded production sound on the project, I got really close to the characters and the story.”
STAND has been recognized continuously for its powerful story and filmmaking. Originally released in July of 2013, it has gone on to receive several awards and nominations. These include the 2013 Director’s Guild of America (DGA) Jury Award for Latino Filmmaker, the 2014 San Francisco Dance Film Festival for Best Student Film, Indiefest’s award for Best Documentary Short, and nominated for Best Documentary at the 2014 First Film Festival. It also was an official selection in in 2014 for ONE LENS Film Festival, Pan African Film Festival, Beijing Film Academy International Student Festival, Chicago International Social Change Film Festival, and the SOUQ Film Festival in Italy.
Melanie D’Andrea, the director of STAND, attributes much of the film’s success to Li’s work.
“Veronica has proved herself to be masterful through an impressive variety of successful projects,” said D’Andrea. “What I love about working with Veronica, besides her respect to the material and her attentiveness to detail, is that she always pushes the soundscape of the film and presents very bold and emotive choices. Veronica’s talent and dedication to the art of sound design has no doubt opened many opportunities for her career. She has rapidly grown and evolved as a Sound Designer and Sound Editor and I am proud to see her credits expanding. I am eager to see her vision continue to be a part of Hollywood.”
Since working together on STAND, D’Andrea has reached out to Li to work on many projects.
“The director Melanie takes sound design very seriously and willing to experiment and explore with sound,” described Li. “It was an luxury as sound designer to have a director who is very creative and open to suggestions.”
Because STAND is truly a film about social problems, there were challenges that came along with properly telling the story.
“We tried to combine signature sounds in South LA sound scape into the sound design and also tried to make it work with the dance and music rhythms, which is quite challenging,” described Li. “There was scene when Krucial, our main character, was dancing on a overpass above the railway. The sound design of train, siren, metal sound elements from jail and ambiences worked so well. I feel it’s a scene that tell story and convey emotions purely through cinematic language without words. It’s very powerful.”
The sound is it’s own character in the film, and Li is the creator of that. She managed to tell an important story using no words, and allowed herself to be impacted by the work she was doing.
“There was moment that as the filmmakers we got so moved by our characters and situation that we had to hold our emotions in order to capture those moments perfectly, and those kind of feelings helped a lot when I started to design sound,” she said. “I felt I really connected to the characters, I was with them, I was one of them. STAND is not just a project, it’s such a unique life experience that I’ll always remember.”