Canadian sound engineer on ‘Ford v Ferrari’: It couldn’t be ‘all engines all the time’

TORONTO — Canadian sound engineer David Giammarco’s Oscar nomination for the car racing drama Ford v Ferrari is a full-circle moment.

After all, he grew up surrounded by cars in Welland, Ont. — helping out at his uncle’s auto body shop in the summer and working on vehicles at home with his brother, who was an employee at General Motors.

Before moving to Toronto and making his break into the film world as a sound engineer, Giammarco also mixed raw rubber at a factory that made products for the automotive industry.

Those worlds will collide at Sunday’s Oscars, where Giammarco will be up for best sound mixing on Ford v Ferrari.

The film stars Matt Damon as American car designer Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as British driver Ken Miles, who built a revolutionary Ford Motor Company vehicle to rival that of Italy’s Enzo Ferrari team at France’s 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1966.

“With a movie like this we were aware that we couldn’t just be all engines all the time,” Giammarco said in a recent phone interview from Los Angeles, where he’s been living for about 30 years and has dual citizenship.

“The Le Mans sequence is 30 minutes long and we didn’t want to bombard people and just be racing constantly and loud. So we were really trying to find a way where we were just exciting but not over the top, and hopefully we achieved that.”

This is Giammarco’s third Oscar nomination, after 3:10 to Yuma in 2008 and Moneyball in 2012. He shares the latest nomination with Steven A. Morrow and Paul Massey, who spent his early career in Toronto and was also nominated for 3:10 to Yuma.

Their competition includes teams behind the films Ad Astra, Joker, 1917 and Once upon a Time…in Hollywood.

James Mangold directed “Ford v Ferrari,” which has a total of four Oscar nominations, including best picture.

Giammarco and Massey have worked on many other films together, including Total Recall, Star Trek and Mission: Impossible II.

For Ford v Ferrari, Massey handled the dialogue and music while Giammarco worked on the sound effects, which came from actual cars.

Giammarco said the team tracked down a replica of the vintage car raced by Shelby and Miles, a Ford GT40, in Ohio. A crew then went to Ohio and drove the car on a race track so they could record its sounds with microphones set up throughout the vehicle and outside.

The team also recorded the sounds of a ‘59 Ferrari from Georgia that had a 12-cylinder engine similar to the one in the ‘66 Le Mans race. They did the same with a Shelby Cobra and an old Porsche.

Working with Mangold and film editors Andrew Buckland and Mike McCusker, Giammarco figured out which sound effects to feature at what time in order to help drive the story.

“We didn’t want people to be fatigued by the end of it but still experience the exhilaration of what the race driver was possibly going through in his world,” Giammarco said.

“We tried to be in Ken Miles’ head space.”

Giammarco praised the way Mangold approaches his films in his directing, by making the story the focal point and “being bold” with sound.

He said Damon and Bale sat in on sound sessions during the dubbing stage, and he feels fortunate to have been a part of “a great team of talent.”

“It’s such a strong film, I’m very attached to it,” Giammarco said.

“It’s about friendship and they happen to have racing in their blood. It truly is a character story supported by racing.”

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