Becoming a Foley Artist with Emmy Award-Winning Oli Ferris

Without it, every television show and movie would feel lifeless, yet Foley work is often overlooked in favour of the more glamorous side of soundtracking music for picture. However, as one recent dBs Music open day proved, once prospective students and parents stepped into our Foley studios and experienced first hand this creative and fun part of the audio industries, they are hooked!

For more of an insight into the world of Foley, we recently caught up with Oli Ferris who has returned from L.A. after winning an Emmy for his work on the Black Mirror episode USS Callister. Discover the steps that led to his award and his advice for anyone interested in following a similar path into Foley…

Tell us about your journey into working in Foley and audio to picture…
"After leaving university I took a couple of production and post-production running jobs. I eventually landed a job as a post-production runner at Twickenham Studios and ended up spending most of my free time in the Foley theatre. After two years as a runner I made the move over to foley and I haven’t looked back since.

"Foley first came to my attention at college when I was studying music technology. After spending a lot of my spare time watching the foley team at Twickenham, I realised this was for me.

"This role is definitely something I’ve grown into. There is no guide for Foley, it is very much something that has to be shown to you. I have been fortunate enough to have worked with incredibly supportive artists who have taken the time to show me exactly what they do. And it is this experience that has allowed me to slowly start taking my first solo steps as a Foley artist – I still have a long way to go."

Explain more about your role and what sort of things you do month on month...
"I am an in-house Foley artist at Twickenham Studios. My role involves watching through films and television shows to pinpoint sounds that need to be re-recorded and then acting out those sounds so that they can be added to the project in a post-production setting.

"The amazing thing about Foley is that every project is very different. What happens on a month to month basis very much depends on the scale of the project and its budget. If it is a huge blockbuster film, an entire month can be spent working on it whereas smaller projects are only a couple of day’s work."

You recently won an Emmy! Tell us about how that happened, the work that was involved and how it felt!
"Yes, I still can’t believe it! Just being able to work on Black Mirror was a dream come true. The team at Twickenham was incredibly dedicated to the whole series and the opportunity to see them in action and work on this project so early on in my career was amazing.

"Attending the ceremony in LA was very surreal; spending time with Charlie Brooker and the team from Black Mirror was great fun."

What have been the biggest challenges working in this area of the industry?
"The biggest challenge in Foley I think is time management. As an artist I want to spend as much time as possible perfecting a project, but often the schedule and budget of the project does not allow for that."

Do you have any advice for our students looking to work in this field?
"The best advice I can give to students starting out in this industry is to know how to make a great cup of coffee! Be prepared to work for long hours with little to no pay in order to get to where you want to be. It will take hard work and determination, but it is so worth it when you find an area you really enjoy working in."

What are the critical pieces of gear for your job?
"My shoes! A big part of Foley is recreating every footstep on screen so finding shoes that make good, natural sounds is really important. I spend a lot of time walking around charity shops to hunt for the right pair of shoes.

"I don’t really have a favourite tool, but we have a huge props room that we can dive into to search for materials to create the right sound when we need to."

What's next for you?
"I am right at the beginning of my career so who knows what it will entail! The studio has got some great projects lined up and I’m really looking forward to being a part of them. An exciting challenge for me is getting more responsibility on feature films and developing and honing my skills in order to become a better Foley artist."



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