Matthew Wood (Supervising Sound Editor)

Matthew Wood
ILM – Supervising Sound Editor
Interview: September 2005

I believe you started working for Lucasfilm in 1990 as a tester for videogames. How did you get there?

I was 17 years old when I first applied for the job. The job ad didn’t say it was for Lucasfilm, but for a games company. I lived in the area, so I could guess it was for Lucasfilm. I was still in high school and my father helped me putting a resume together. We faxed it to Lucasfilm and they were surprised. I got interviewed and I got the job 6 months later. I had the chance to graduate early so I could start working there.

So you were quite able to work with computers at an early age?

My parents had a computer very early and nurtured my into that direction. My grandfather was a voice actor and I was interested in audio. I had my first Macintosh in 1986 so I was familiar with some concepts.

Speaking of audio: you developed some new recording systems at Lucasfilm.

After the games division I went on to the audio department at Skywalker Ranch and worked on a program called Sound Droid. It was the first digital audio editing system for film. We used this technology for the Young Indiana Jones TV series. George Lucas is interested in new technologies and allows to pioneer with it.
I always wanted to work with Lucas since I was a kid and was very excited about it. I learned a lot in that time from people like Ben Burtt, who became my mentor.

Is your knowledge of these new digital systems the reason you got to work on Episode I?

Yes. That was the main reason. I had proven myself with Young Indiana Jones and his movie Radioland Murders. Between these movies I worked on other movies for Skywalker Sound, like Mission Impossible.

You also played Bib Fortuna in Episode I. Are there other things you did for this movie?

Yes. You have to re-record actors’ voices. I wanted to come up with a new system to do that. We made a portable package so we could go to the actors and it was so more efficient. Sam Jackson recorded his voice for instance on the Bahamas where he was golfing.
I also act a lot and I was asked to play Bib Fortuna in a scene.

For Episode II it was mostly the same story.

Yes, I was supervisor along with Ben Burtt. We were perfecting the process. The beauty of Skywalker Sound is that we keep all the systems so we can upgrade and perfect it for the next project.
I had some voice parts for that movie too, Seboca and Magaloof for instance.

Then came Episode III. You were asked to do the same thing again, but somehow you wanted more…

(Laughs) Yeah. I was actually the first person who saw a cut of Episode III. There were two persons working as a picture editor: Ben Burtt and Roger Barton. Ben had the first half and Roger the second. I had to queue gaps where a digital character was going to have a line, like Frank Oz. Both gave me their halves so I could watch the whole movie.

How long was the movie back at that point?

It was close to 4 hours at least. I was just sitting there and thought ‘wow, I’m the first one!’. Even George hadn’t see the full movie then.
We recorded Ben Burtts voice for General Grievous while Rick McCallum put out a huge casting call. Chris Scarabosio, the dialogue editor and I came up with the way Grievous was supposed to sound and George approved that. Chris said I should try to get the part. I said it was too weird and I couldn’t do it. It was an advantage that I knew what George wanted as I heard him talk to actors about Grievous, so I did give it a try. Chris recorded me and I put the tape under an anonymous name with the rest. I didn’t think about it after that but one day Rick McCallum came up to me and asked if I had the agent’s name of the person whose voice was on a certain tape….my tape. I had all the documentation so that is why he asked me. I thought it was a prank, that he knew it was me and I had screwed up. Then again, he couldn’t know. I was thinking if I had crossed the line but still, I told him it was me.
He said ‘are you s**tting me?’ He asked me what I wanted him to do. I said he should tell George, so he called George and said it was my voice. George called me then and asked me to come over and record it. It was fun, because I don’t have any shyness around George.
I didn’t tell anybody about it. Finally, when the film was printed I told everybody.

About George; how would you describe him? A teacher, a visionary or someone who demands far too much of you?

Definitely a visionary. The best thing about working with him and his company is that it’s just one guy in charge of everything. If I do something I send it to him and he decides if it’s good or not. He’s easy to talk to and he’s very decent; your friendly neighbour the billionaire. (laughs)

You worked on the sound of the DVD release of the original trilogy. How was it to work on that?

Yes, those movies did have a surround track. They tried to remaster it in 1997 for the Special Edition and now it was remastered again. I can’t think of another picture I’d love to work on so much. It did feel strange, because I watched it a zillion times as a kid. George was happy too, because he could do now what he couldn’t do in 1997.

Do you think George will ever stop changing things in the movies?

I don’t know. The Episode I DVD has some longer scenes in the podrace, Episode II was slightly different than the theatrical. He is always improving things he had done before.