Skip Lievsay – Double Threat and Double Oscar Nominee

The six-time Oscar nominee can do it all…his year for Oscar recognition?


SkipLievsayThe entire Awards Circuit staff is participating in the 2014 Oscar Circuit series which kicked off on Sunday.  The Oscar nominations offered an eclectic mix and big stars and grabbing all the headlines including Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, and Jennifer Lawrence.  More often than not, we tend to overlook the craftsman (with the exception of Cinematographers) and their dances with the Academy.

One Sound Mixer and Sound Editor that is in the mix is the talented Skip Lievsay.  Something struck me when looking over his impressive filmography.  The six-time Oscar nominee has been double nominated, every three years, since 2008.  First beginning with a double citation in both sound categories for Joel Coen & Ethan Coen’s Oscar-winning “No Country for Old Men,” where he lost both to “The Bourne Ultimatum.”  Three years later he returned, teamed up with the Coens again, for the remake of “True Grit,” a film tied with “Gangs of New York” as the second biggest Oscar loser in history with ten nominations and no wins (a record that may be matched again this year with “American Hustle”).  Enter this Oscar season.  Lievsay managed two outstanding nominations for two audibly gorgeous pictures.   Feeling nearly assured, his work on “Gravity” should be landing him his first Oscar in just under a month.  If you were able to watch the reel by Soundworks where they speak about every intricate part that went into mixing Alfonso Cuaron’s groundbreaking motion picture, it gives you a new found respect for all the craftsmen that make this their careers.

llewyndavisHis other work is on, teamed up once again, Joel & Ethan Coen’s beautiful love letter to folk music, “Inside Llewyn Davis.”  Typically musicals do well in the Sound Mixing category as we’ve seen last year with “Les Miserables.”  When musicals aren’t present, the big 3D blockbuster usually takes precedence as of late.  Think of “Hugo” over “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” or “Inception” over “Salt.”

With the poor showing for “Inside Llewyn Davis” at the Academy nomination announcement, unfortunately it will be one of the ignored gems of 2013, at least on the Oscar front.  Lievsay’s work on “Davis” has not gone unnoticed by the guilds, critics, and many admirers from all over the world.

Nabbing headlines for over a decade has been Sound designers Greg P. Russell, 16-time Oscar loser, and Kevin O’Connell, the biggest Oscar loser in history with 20.  Two staples in the sound community that continue to seek out their next big opportunity for recognition.  The community is small and they have all seemed very supportive of each other over the years.   

Chris Munro, another double nominee this year for “Captain Phillips” and “Gravity,” will share his award with Lievsay but has already won an Oscar for his work on Ridley Scott’s “Black Hawk Down.”  The entire team with him on “Phillips” – Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, and Mike Prestwood, are all first time nominees.  Talk about passing the baton.

One thing that often comes up is what is the difference between Sound Mixing and Sound Editing.  Normally they go to the same film as we’ve seen with “Hugo,” “The Bourne Ultimatum,” and “The Hurt Locker.”  I like to think that the readers and film lovers out there KNOW that there is a difference but probably just can’t articulate it into words.  I thought I’d offer a very simple reasoning on why someone like Skip Lievsay, who does both, is one of the most talented technical members working in the industry today.

GRAVITYSound editing is the process by which sounds are sought out, created and captured for the film.  If you require a sound of a car turning into Optimus Prime, than the Sound Editor goes and finds it.  The sound editor finds, creates, and captures the actual sounds you hear in the film.  They will either go out and find a real life Optimus Prime and capture the sound of him switching back into a car or if he’s not available, will create  the sound by mixing together many sounds.

The sound mixer, will put those sounds, from the sound editors, into a track and place them in the film.  It’s not just about putting the sound in the track.  You need the sound of the car transforming into the robot, with a voice over monologue, and cars crashing, all to sound uniformed, not drowning out one another.  They also must take into account the score and most of all, the dialogue.

One cannot exist without the other.  Better yet, Skip Lievsay can do both of these jobs.  In this year’s case, he only did the mixing job on “Gravity” and “Inside Llewyn Davis.”  Not a bad year for an overdue craftsman.  Check out the video of the SoundWorks Collection for both films.



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Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


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Usually when I decide which film had the best sound mixing at the end of the year, I have to sit down and think about it. Not with Gravity. I pretty much came out of the theater saying “That was the best sound mixing I have ever heard.” Sound editing on the other hand, I am still convinced should go to Rush, even though that ship has sailed.

Dan Hogan

Great explanation of mixing vs. editing. My dad’s a sound engineer who has worked for mixer Dan Wallin (Up, Super 8, Star Trek, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) and he’s always harping on the sound mix. It’s really hard to evaluate unless you know what to listen for.

Josh Parham

The difference between the two becomes even hazier to explain because the Sound Mixing category is always perceived to be the more “prestigious” category, but the ones who accept the Sound Editing Oscar, the supervising sound editor, are actually the ones responsible for overseeing the total sound components for a film. Not to mention that you need both the mix and the effects working together to get the best sound design. Splitting them up is like splitting Best Cinematography into Best Lighting and Best Camerawork. Doesn’t make much sense to me. Since the two categories have a tendency to match… Read more »


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