We had the pleasure of interviewing one of our clients, the BAFTA award winning Audio Director Adele Cutting, who heads up Soundcuts. She founded the Audio Production company in 2011, and some of her many game credits include the Harry Potter franchise and Sim City. We talk (a)typical days, how every job is a good job…and plumbing!
How did you get started as an audio director and what are you up to now (if you can even tell us!)?
Unfortunately not! The Games Industry is famous for its NDA’s ☺️
One game that is announced is As Dusk Falls which has an amazing narrative drama. We’re also working on another big game, that’s been going on for 3 years, plus an Audio Drama, an Art Installation in Norway, a Netflix series plus other games and trailers.
What was your first gig as an audio director? Any memorable ones since then?
As an audio director in games you’re responsible for all the audio in the game – dialogue, music and sound effects. I also work as a voice/performance director, which is a discipline that works alongside the audio director. Sometimes I do both on the same project.
The first title I was an Assistant Audio Director on was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and then I moved into the Audio Director position on other HP titles. The very first time I was a speech director was on Beasts and Bumpkins, a small PC title back in 1998 and then Theme Park World quite soon afterwards. I recently worked on Planet Coaster with the same actor (Lewis Macleod); we were both in the early days of our careers on Theme Park World , so to work on a similar game 20 plus years later was really fun.
Since then, there are lots; every title you work on has a special memory attached. Some of my proudest games are really small ones that weren’t commercially popular.
What’s your typical day like as an audio director?
Flying by the seat of my pants. ☺️ Although I’m an audio director and speech director on a few games, the company I run, has multiple projects on the go, and we’re quite a large team now! So in addition to the ‘normal job’, I have to do all the things you need to when running a company.
I generally always have a meeting first thing with the sound team of the game I’m specifically overseeing and plan out the day/week. Then it depends on what needs doing! I could be organising and sending off casting briefs or I could be directing. Similarly a day could involve arranging music stems, integrating interactive music or designing sound for a trailer. It can also involve visiting clients, firefighting, reviewing the game and feeding back to the team, sitting with the creative director and going through notes, interviewing new hires…My day never goes how I thought it would at the start of the day. I have a massive list of tasks and for each one I cross off the top I seem to add ten more to the bottom!
What do you love about your job?
So many things. I love the team here at Soundcuts. They’re a great crew, really positive and passionate about their jobs, with no egos. Everyone supports everyone else, so it’s a very positive environment to work in. I love working with creatives and people, which is probably why I enjoy the voice direction work so much.
I love working on games with great stories to tell. I love directing voices and hearing the character and believability in the performance. I love bringing a game to life with audio! I love it when I add a music cue sits so well it really heightens the scene, or even adding just a super small sound effect, like a glass jar being lifted off a table, but it’s just so right it’s completely believable – ok I’m sounding like a right geek here – maybe I am, I’ll own that. ☺️
What did it feel like the first time you saw/heard something you had directed?
It’s weird, because on many of the games I’m the audio director too, so it’s not a ‘big reveal’ as I’m working with it every day for months before it comes out. However, I have worked on some big games just as the voice director (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Immortals: Fenyx Rising) so in those instances you do have to wait until the game comes out and that is really cool.
Prior to working in games I worked in film. I do really clearly remember the first time I saw my name in the credits (spelled incorrectly…grrrr) I had gone to see Welcome to Sarajevo at a cinema on Tottenham Court Road, with my friend Gillian who was a dialogue editor where we were working. She knew it was my first credit. So we waited for the sound team to come up and she screamed ‘THAT’S HER NAME!’ that memory makes me laugh.
That’s what’s strange about working in games – maybe less so now, with Twitch and YouTube – but you used to work on a game, that could have sold millions of copies, but you wouldn’t see anyone play it. So it was hard to grasp the success.
When working on Harry Potter, I managed to get a ticket to an event at the Royal Albert Hall, where JK Rowling was announcing a new Potter book, and they’d invited tonnes of school children. She asked if any of them played the game and the audience erupted, which was an emotional experience.
Can you tell when a voice actor has the potential to “make it” and if yes, what is it about them?
Oooh. When you really find someone special, there’s not one thing that you can put your finger on as advice to pass onto someone else. They just ‘have it’ …I mean if you could, then everyone would be famous.
I think for me it’s about how they can adopt a character and understand their own voice and how to manipulate it. How they can read a script and get the character nuances from the words and bring it to life. The ability to read the same line with so many different subtle undertones that match the character. The ability to take on and respond to direction well, but also bring so much to the party and use the timbre in their voice in a way which is exciting and unprescribed…Oh, and great sight reading skills and the ability to turn on a dime, and being flexible when changes happen on the spot.
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?
- Every job is a good job. (I don’t think you should ever be snobby about work, you never know where it will lead.)
- Keep learning and developing your craft.
- Embrace the character you’re playing.
Who do you look up to in the industry/your business mentors?
I think Amy Hennig is amazing and Leslie Ann Jones, Ben Burtt, Christopher Boyes, Walter Murch (my dog is actually named Walter after him). There’s a long loooong list.
When I was in the process of hiring my first employee, I spoke to my friend Debi who owns multiple companies – nothing to do with what I do – and she was amazing and basically imparted a whole tonne of business wisdom over a pizza and a bottle of wine.
If you weren’t doing audio direction, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?
There’s so many things I’d like to try….animation, costume design, stage design, teaching, plumbing (handy skill), directing film, furniture upholstery, pottery…or in the future running a fancy dress shop with my daughter, we LOVE fancy dress.
And, on a more serious note….
If you had a choice between two superpowers, being invisible or flying, which would you choose, and why?
Ok, now you hit me with the heavy stuff…..Invisibility, just so I could earwig.
You’ve been given an elephant. You can’t give it away or sell it. What would you do with the elephant?
Ride around on it, instead of using my car…. Also WHY would you want to give it away or sell it, you own a bloody elephant!! How cool!