“Enjoy every single minute and experience, time passes much faster than you think. When I was young I was always in a hurry to get to the next stage of my career, or the next project. But the first projects were full of so many exciting learning experiences with such interesting people that I wish I was more aware of the preciousness of that at the time.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Greg King, Founder of King Soundworks. With a strong commitment to film tradition, an obsession with technical innovation, and an unrelenting need to achieve creative bliss, King Soundworks is a boutique post production sound facility that brings unparalleled skill and attention to every project they touch. Their expertise in sound design, editorial and mixing is demonstrated by their roster of work including Oscar-nominated feature films, Emmy-award winning television series, and media across every format.
Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?
Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. I wanted to be a rock star and needed a day job when I fell on the doorstep of Alban Streeter (‘Battle of the Bulge’) who was a sound supervisor working in Toronto. I had no idea there was job where you record and create sound effects. Alban took me under his wing and taught me everything he could squeeze into my 19 year old brain, most importantly how sound can serve a movie. I was blown away by the amount of creativity that is required to be a sound designer, I fell in love with the whole process and I still am.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your sound and mixing career?
Being a sound designer has put me in a lot of odd and interesting places. I’ve recorded much of my sound library, so I’ve been in WWII fighter planes, nuclear powered tanks and launched by catapult from a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. I’ve been run over by horses, bitten by dogs and spit on by camels. I’ve also been chased by a bull moose. I wasn’t recording the moose, I was actually recording swamp frogs when the moose and I came upon each other. Same thing happened with a bear. It’s not easy getting good sounds.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
‘The Long Road Home’ for Nat Geo. The true story of the 1st Cavalry Division being brutally ambushed in Iraq in 2004. Also, The Highwaymen directed by John Lee Hancock about the two Texas Rangers who hunted down Bonnie and Clyde. And ‘The Orville’ with Seth MacFarlane. This is a fun combination of projects because we get to travel through time from 1934 to 2004 and then 400 years into the future.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
The first man who hired me was Sonny Grosso. He and his partner Eddie Egan cracked the French Connection case, Roy Scheider played Sonny in the movie. Sonny was the youngest person to ever earn a gold shield in the NYPD and he and Eddie Egan invented undercover work. I worked for Sonny for about 6 years on multiple projects. Sonny was involved in many seminal police movies and TV shows, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a cop show that hasn’t been influenced by his work. One day Sonny was showing us his revolver that Al Pacino used in the Godfather, I was pretty impressed that they used his gun in the movie, I was trying to play cool and not let on that I’d never seen a gun up close before.
Muhammad Ali is another person I would put on the top of this list. I was able to spend a little bit of time with him when I was working on ‘Ali’ for Michael Mann. This was in 2001 so ‘Ali’ was at that time in his life where he was having difficulty moving and speaking. But even so he was still a master communicator, I learned a lot about what it was like to be in the ring, and for my purposes what it sounded like. One day a crew member had a birthday and we brought in birthday cake. I made a point of sitting with Ali to get his impressions of how everything was sounding and get his feedback. It was not lost on me that I was sharing birthday cake with one of the most well known and respected human beings in all of history.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
My father Dennis King. He owned a commercial art studio for advertising in Montreal. He cut quite the figure at a little over six feet with jet black hair and always impeccably dressed (think Mad Men). He dressed impeccably out of respect for other people, not from vanity. He was (and is) a talented artist who ran a business full of artists and designers who tend to need awareness of their quirks. I broke my arm when I was 13 and couldn’t caddy anymore so he gave me a job for $25 a month to deliver artwork from his studio to the agencies. This is where I got to observe him in his native habitat. On my first day he asked me if I understood what my job was, I responded of course, deliver artwork. No, your job is to eat shit. Everybody here is going to ask you to do all the shit they don’t want to do. They all started by eating shit too. No job is beneath you because no job is beneath them. There were no kings or paupers in my dad’s world. I saw him address and speak to janitors and elevator operators by name and ask about their families. He spoke to them in the same way I saw him speak to the presidents of the largest ad agencies in North America. He treated his crew with respect and always seemed to find the humour even in the worst of situations, his guys felt safe knowing he was in the trenches with them. I model him in every way I can.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
My wife had advanced stage metastatic cancer. Conventional treatments didn’t work and we were told to make preparations. After an enormous amount of research we discovered that conventional cancer treatment is not very successful. We stopped the chemo and radiation treatments and pursued other scientifically-based protocols. She is now cancer free as a result. A cancer diagnosis is terrifying, my movement would be to provide cancer patients with the knowledge and counseling to educate them what cancer is so they better understand it. Once my wife and I began to understand what caused cancer and how to effectively treat it our stress dropped dramatically, and by the way, stress encourages cancer growth. Cancer is not an alien invader that enters your body, it is a systemic problem and the key is to understand why you got cancer before you can treat it. Conventional cancer treatments just treat the symptoms of cancer, not the cause. This is why the majority of cancer patients have cancer return sometime later in life. By empowering cancer patients with knowledge and control of their treatment we could greatly reduce cancer deaths.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Enjoy every single minute and experience, time passes much faster than you think. When I was young I was always in a hurry to get to the next stage of my career, or the next project. But the first projects were full of so many exciting learning experiences with such interesting people that I wish I was more aware of the preciousness of that at the time.
2. “We’ll pay you on deferral” is an imaginary concept. It exploits young people whose only goal is to do a great job and advance their career. I learned the hard way that if a filmmaker doesn’t have their act together enough to properly finance their project, they certainly won’t have their act together enough to sell it or get distribution.
3. Be honest about who you are, people relate to you much more. I was pretty young when I started, so for many years I was always the youngest person in the room, even when I was the crew chief as a sound supervisor my assistants were older than I was. Insecurity makes you put on a false front portraying how you think other people want to see you. Being yourself and being sincere grants the people around you the right to be themselves and sincere, which in turn garners trust and a better working relationship.
4. Don’t be afraid to say no. I’m a people pleaser so it’s hard for me to say no when I’m asked to do a project, even if the money and schedule are bad. I want to help make their project better. It leads to many long hours when you say yes. I bet most people in the arts have this problem, the smart ones have agents and managers to say no for them.
5. This is a tough one because I can go both ways. I was going to say only work with decent people, life is too short to be working with megalomaniacs and otherwise self absorbed people. But then as I thought about it, although the process of working with them is difficult, they make for the best hollywood stories. Which, for the benefit of my own career, I can’t tell you until I retire.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Jerry Jones — Owner and General Manager of the Dallas Cowboys.
My wife is from Texas so I am by default a Dallas Cowboys fan. The Cowboys also have their training camp not far from where we live in Ventura, CA which we make a point of attending every year. I would like to break bread with Mr. Jones not because he owns the most valuable sports franchise on the planet, but because of how he did it. He built his empire around family, and employees who he treats as family. A strong respect for the traditions of the past and an acceptance of the new ones that lay ahead. He also has complete readiness to take full responsibility for any mistakes or errors by his organization. The result is a very strong leader. As my business grows and the scope of my leadership expands, I would love to hear how he built his business while expanding on those values.