Sergio Diaz and Zach Seivers (‘Nomadland’) sound design
“That’s what so cool about sound is it really is this amazing magic trick,” exclaims Zach Seivers who, along with Sergio Diaz, is the supervising sound editor of “Nomadland.” The film, which just won Golden Globes for Best Drama and Best Director for Chloe Zhao, stars two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand as Fern, a woman who travels across the western United States following the death of her husband. Both Seivers and Diaz have had extensive careers in film and television. Diaz was Oscar-nominated for his work on Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” while Seivers won an Emmy for his work on the 2011 documentary series “Gettysburg.” Check out our exclusive video interview with Diaz and Seivers above.
The vast setting of “Nomadland” provided a unique set of challenges to the sound department. Diaz took it upon himself to explore the regions highlighted in the film in order to become familiar with each unique environment. ” Because I wasn’t familiar with that region,” he explains, “I did my own research and I tried to find and collect the specific layers that contribute to the film.” Seivers adds that part of the challenge was to make sure that the sound didn’t intrude upon the story. “I do think that there is a nakedness to the work,” he says. “It’s very easy to hear the layers that are being orchestrated. We’re trying to be as minimalistic as possible and authentic to the story as possible.”
Both Diaz and Seivers credit the director with having a clear vision of the film, a a vision that included the sound. “She would talk us through what she wanted each scene to feel like,” explains Seivers, “and trying to convey what Fern’s emotional journey is, through the sound.” Diaz adds, “It was a huge process to discover specific sounds to contribute to the whole journey.”
Seivers believes that there is an element of magic to designing sound for film and television, with the result being essential to the audience’s viewing experience. “It’s really what immerses the audience in the film,” he says. “It pulls them in and makes them forget about all their troubles. It’s the thing that convinces your brain that what you’re watching is reality.” Diaz, who spent many years as a DJ, adds that the goal is to find a balance between all of the sound elements. “[Sound designers] just put the right sounds, the specific layers and the whole universe sound in harmony,” he explains.