BAR HARBOR — One piece of the post-production puzzle of the recently-released Netflix docuseries “Immigration Nation” was done right here on Ledgelawn Avenue.
Jack Sasner served as sound editor for the series as part of Nocturnal Sound, a sound studio run by Eli Cohn. Sasner has been living in New York City since graduating from Mount Desert Island High School in 2015, but decamped to Bar Harbor in March when everything shut down. He was able to continue work on the editing remotely. He plans to head back to the big city soon.
His work deals with sound effects and it’s one of those jobs where if you’re good at it, no one notices it’s been done.
“My lane is sound editing, so if ever a car passes or a door slams or footsteps” are part of the scene, but the audience can’t hear them well enough from the existing audio, “then I have a huge library of sound effects that I’m searching through and adding in the door and the car and stuff,” he said.
Cohn, his boss, is the sound designer for the series and has worked with “Immigration Nation” directors Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz on several other projects.
The sound designer is responsible for the final post-production sound mixing. In normal times, the directors often come to the Nocturnal studio to work with Cohn on the final mix, as do actors in cases where dialogue needs to be re-recorded and edited in.
There are a lot of different job titles in film sound work, beginning with the boom operator who holds the microphone in just the right place during filming. Even within the post-production world, there’s also dialogue editing and adding effects either from a library or original effects recorded by a Foley artist.
The dialogue editing consists of cleaning up the dialogue tracks, “cleaning up every cough and mic pop and passing car (the ones that aren’t supposed to be there),” Sasner said.
“Sound editing is the hard effects and also the ambiences,” he said. “Literally every scene you need to have the crickets in the background and the wind blowing and the cars passing.”
So once the dialogue editors make the dialogue “as clean and concise as possible, my job is to add the (sonic) bed” underneath it.
“It’s a desk job, 9-5, but at the same time there’s a lot of creativity to what sounds you’re choosing. There’s a lot of different possibilities, potential for experimentation. It’s a good, steady job that is very creatively intriguing.”
Sasner graduated last year from Eugene Lang, the liberal arts college at The New School, with concentrations in contemporary music and journalism. He has been working with Cohn as a freelancer since then, beginning as an intern during his final semester of college.
He’s a skilled musician; several of his bands, including Djar Djar, are well known to Mount Desert Island friends and fans. A college class called Music in Film “kind of changed my life plan,” he said. He signed up for the class thinking he would learn how to write music for film, but he ended up getting fired up about effects and editing.
He met Cohn though mutual friends and bandmates. His last semester of college, “I was spending three or four days a week at this studio” as an unpaid intern, “watching over people’s shoulders, and then slowly started sitting down and actually cutting in the effects.”
It was a big break and he says he was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. He’s also glad he’s able to contribute to documentaries that are telling important stories.
“Obviously we have our goofy short comedies or whatever, but I really enjoy that we’re getting some very topical and timely documentaries,” he said. In addition to “Immigration Nation,” he worked on “Down a Dark Stairwell,” about a 2014 killing of a Black man by New York City police.
“I’m not the one conducting the interviews for this documentary, but it is intriguing to even talk to the directors and talk to my coworkers,” he said. “My job is right in between music and journalism in a really interesting way.”