Sound designer Cindy Takehara discusses Suciedad Ltda.’s success and new Remnants film

Cindy Takehara is a Japanese sound designer who loves what she does. And she is good at what she does.

Takehara realized she could have a successful career in sound design working on the film Suciedad Ltda. The film develops in a retro-futuristic world ruled by the monotony of the industry, where there is only one purpose in life: to live to work. The characters have been immersed in the everyday dullness inside the factory, when they face an unexpected change caused by one of them breaking the work routine. Their fate changes dramatically, and leads them to re-discover something they had long forgotten, the best human qualities: rationality, art, and love.

Takehara’s job as the sound designer for the was to create every single sound from scratch, without using any sound effects library. She did Foley recording, music recording and music composition, and re-recording mixing in a 5.1 surround sound system.

“Both the director, Andres Tudela, and I agreed that in the film it was crucial for it to create its own sonic print, taking into account that we are creating a fictional world, and these sonic elements will bring the story to life,” said Takehara.

The film went to the Short Film Corner at Cannes Film Festival in 2012. It continued on to the Mostra Latino Americana de Animação A Caverna in Brazil of that same year, as well as the International Festival of the New Latin Cinema – Habana Film Festival in Cuba. The next year, it went to the Udigrudi World Animation Convention – Mostra MUMIA in Brazil, the Ibero-American Short Film Festival -FIBABC in Spain, and the Bogoshorts Film Festival in Bogota, Colombia.

“Cindy knows what she’s capable of, but always stays humble. She’s really good at listening and suggesting ideas without imposing it. She’s a real team player,” said Tudela. “She is a visionary sound designer who can bring any fantasy world come to life. She did a great job on creating the soundscape for Suciedad Ltda. Without her creativity and skills, we wouldn’t have been able to make the animation happen.”

Tudela and Takehara met while in college at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia. Tudela recognized her talent immediately and invited her to take part in the project.

“Andres was the writer, animator and director on this animation, and he had very clear what he wanted regarding sound, but also he was very open to our suggestions. With the collaboration of the talented musician, Daniel Casas, we were able to build this imaginary world of Suciedad Ltda.,” said Takehara.

Takehara says she liked working on the film because of the aesthetic of the animation, and its strong view criticizing and depicting the dehumanization during the industrial revolution and modern everyday life.

3-field-recording-with-dpa-5100-mobile-surround-micrphone-at-sequoia-national-park
Takehara shooting at Sequoia National Park

“This format of animation gave me a freedom to express artistically using sound and music. No narrator was included and very minimal dialogue in this animation. The story and emotion was told only via picture, sound effects and music,” she said.

During the production phase, Takehara visited many places looking for any sound that could be useful for the short film; collecting different sounds to make a unique sound library specifically recorded for this animation. To create an industrial environment sound, she did some field recording of few workshops located in Bogota city and was able to record a couple of cooling engines, drills and bandsaw, and then added some layers of metallic hits to recreate the sound of people working in a factory.

The music soundtrack was composed, arranged and performed by Takehara and another sound designer. They implemented extended techniques on instruments such as piano, glockenspiel, and cymbals. Later, those sounds were sampled and used in a music sequencer.

“For the editing process, we took advantage of digital audio processing to convert the recorded sound effects into a completely new sound. The mix was made looking to engage the audience to the story,” she described. “I learned as a young sound designer that the power of music and sound is an important factor of storytelling.”

This knowledge aided Takehara on her work on the more recent film Remnants, which tells the story of an elderly successful writer struggles to reveal his dark and troubled past while suffering from Alzheimer’s. The film premiered during Endless Mountains Film Festival in Pennsylvania last month.

Takehara jumped at the opportunity to work on the film alongside award-winning cinematographer and AFI alumni, Justin Hong.

“It was my first time working with this crew, and it had several challenging scenarios and locations. It was extremely cold, we shot in the Angeles National Forest during Winter,” she said. “But overall it was a great production with some talented young actors.”

The performances, which Takehara herself describes as outstanding, received recognition at the festival. They were nominated for best actor and supporting actor and actress.

“It is such great script written by Al Plancher, a true storyteller. He was a pleasure to work with. He had very clear his vision for this film, and never hesitated to ask me any inquiries regarding sound during the production. And being in the forest allowed such beautiful cinematography by Justin Hong, who I have worked with previously,” said Takehara. “The whole crew displayed extraordinary professionalism.”

This film is a narrative drama with a lot of dialogue involved between the characters. There were a lot of movements with the actors that Takehara had to manage by changing the microphone position in order to get less clothing noises.

“There was a chasing scene where it was hard to get the cleanest dialogue due to harsh running movement, so we recorded several wild lines, giving better options to choose for the editor during the post production process,” she explained. “We also recorded not only the dialogue, but also several ambiences of the location and other sound effects that was useful to record on set.”

The film’s tagline is “always remember your future” and it looks like with Takehara’s abilities, she has a bright one to look forward to.

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