Nathan AshtonNathan Ashton

My Friends

When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.

– Japanese Proverb


In my life, this is proving true in another way. The projects on which I work become my friends. Of course I take some jobs simply for money, but even those media projects influence the way I think. Their ideas and ideals drill deep into my head.

I spend more time listening to dialogue on a short film than speaking with many of my closest friends. I remove background noise, replace ugly bits, and push each spoken thought forward into clarity. I use my craft to distill the story’s point. Dialog is king and my job it to make sure it is easily understood.

With sound effects, a passing moment for the audience may take days to properly sound design. Consider a bolt of lightning on the giant wheel in Beyond the Mask. Does it sizzle, crack, or thump? Maybe it does all three as the Wheel gets grumpy. What about the sound of a vampire’s bite rending flesh. Is it crunchy, squishy, or even euphoric? These are the decisions I must make for each and every frame of the film.

If I do my job well I am part of giving birth to something new. The dialog merges with sound design and picture. The story wakes, sits up upon the table, looks at me, and marches off into the mind of its audience.

But it leaves something behind – in me.

I can’t help but be changed by the encounter. I am colored by the work I do.

This is why sometimes it is best to turn down a project. When a project’s purpose is dark and poisonous to the soul how can I expect to escape unscathed? Its like moving in with an alcoholic dalek who keeps wild alligators in the bathtub. Some things are simply best not done.

On the flip side, I have had the distinct pleasure of working with remarkable filmmakers on remarkable projects. There is where the deeper distinction lies. A person’s character can’t be read only from their iMDB page because it may not reveal their purpose. Does that vampire film say something important about the fallen state of man or is it a gore fest? Even a family comedy can be toxic if it insults and pulls down fatherhood. Some people intentionally reach out to work with the homeless, drug addicts, and criminals. Some filmmakers are driven to make the world better by working in a milieu of film you don’t like.

I choose my friends. At the end of the day, my character is influenced by the ideas who’s company I keep.


Read Part 2 of this series HERE.

One Comment on “My Friends

  1. Not only do you choose your friends and have them influence your life but you said yourself that you “remove background noise, replace ugly bits, and push each spoken thought forward into clarity.” What person doesn’t want a friend who will take the time to remove noisy distractions, replace the ugly bits that no one but a friend needs to know exist, and push things toward clarity? You are truly a friend to the characters you bring to life and then give to your audiences.
    Thank you for your hard work. It *does* make a difference.

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