Local native with Hollywood blockbusters on resumé says hard work got him there


Photo provided.

Originally published Oct. 18, 2012.

Ask Shannon Mills how he arrived at working at the Mecca of the movie sound industry and he will tell you simply, "hard work."

The Huntington native has a list of Hollywood blockbusters on his resume that reads like the nominee list for Oscar night.

"I was always interested in music and played in the band when I was in high school," states Mills. "I was attracted to sound in the movies."

The 1990 Huntington North grad followed his dream and attended the Colorado Institute of Art to pursue a degree in music recording.

After graduation in 1994, Mills says he worked for a small media house in Denver, CO, working on sound projects for commercials and a few independent films.

Mills says he got his first big break soon after.

"I had a friend who moved to San Francisco to work at the Music Annex," he says. "Shortly afterwards, I was offered a job and I worked there for about a year, doing sound on commercials."

From there, Mills eventually moved up to the "big leagues," when he was hired on at Skywalker Sound, a production company owned by filmmaker George Lucas.

"I started working at Skywalker Sound in 1996 in the sound library," Mills states. "I began the process of working my way up the ladder by putting in a lot of hours."

His first blockbuster credit was "Titanic" directed by James Cameron and Mills says he, along with the other sound engineers, stayed at Cameron's house for a year while working on the film.

Other movies to his credit include, "Con Air," "Beverly Hills Ninja," "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," "Saving Private Ryan," "Toy Story," "Toy Story 2," "Monsters, Inc.," "Minority Report," "Finding Nemo," "Hellboy," "The Hunted," "Iron Man," "Avatar," "Rango," "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," "Captain America: The First Avenger," "Race to Witch Mountain," "The Simpsons Movie," "The Amazing Spider-Man" and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy.

"When the sound crew views the film, we usually have little to no sound at all," he states. "In fact, sometimes we can't even hear the dialogue because of all the noise in the background of the set. The actors re-record their voices in post-production."

Mills says one of the most creative aspects of his job is trying to figure out how to create sounds that do not exist in real life.

"For a movie like ‘Avatar,' we had to imagine what the creatures would sound like, then go out and create the effects to match that," he states. "That's one of the most fun parts of the job, identifying what sounds we have and what we need and going out to find or create them."

His role on the films spans the sound industry spectrum, from supervising sound editor and sound designer to FX editor and dialogue editor.

"My role usually depended on where I was during my career and at what time I joined the film in post-production," Mills adds.

The length of time he works on a film varies also, anywhere from two months to a year as in the case of "Titanic."

For "The Amazing Spider-Man," Mills and his team focused primarily on three sound effects for the movie, Spider-Man's web shooter, his ‘Spidey sense' and lizard vocals for the main villain, Dr. Conner.

His upcoming projects include "47 Ronin," and "The Lone Ranger," starring Johnny Depp, which is slated to be released next summer.

As impressive as his career has been, Mills says that behind the scenes there were a lot of long hours and hard work.

"For anyone interested in going into this field, I'd say go for it," he states. "But I would also tell them to prepare themselves for the long haul, because this is a hard field to break into because there are so many people who want to do it."

Mills adds that it does start with going to college.

"I'd definitely say go to college because that's where you'll meet people in the industry or even make connections with classmates who may one day be in a position to help you in your career," he says. "Above all, you just need to have the will to do it."

More information on Mills and his accomplishments can be found on his online IMDb profile under "Shannon Mills."