Professional Sound - June 2017 - Page 18

PROFILE FRANK LARATTA By Megan Beam S ome in the audio industry can trace their career trajectory back to a single moment – an awe-inspiring concert or hearing a great album through a premium pair of head- phones. Others, like Frank Laratta, can at- tribute their success to a long series of small steps in the right direction, compounded with a few unexpected twists and turns and calculated risks. Born and raised in Calgary, AB, Laratta says that, from a young age, he had his heart set on becoming a teacher. “In my mind, that’s what I was going to be. Maybe science or math, but I was pretty sure I’d end up teaching.” During his later high school years, Laratta took his first few steps off of his set path. Like a number of people in the industry, it started out with playing in bands and generally just dabbling in music and sound. “I tended to be the guy in the band who would do the recording, setting up our gear for shows, that sort of thing.” On the recommendation of a friend he’d met through music, Laratta soon found him- self volunteering at a local TV station, getting some hands-on experience in everything from camera work to setting up lights to even doing some directing. But as far as he was concerned, Laratta wasn’t veering off of his professional path; his end goal was still teaching. Around this time, the band he was playing with had begun writing their own material, rather than just covering popular songs for weddings and parties. That’s when he started to show serious interest in the cre- ative process, such as writing lyrics and music, which led to his considering music and, later, film production as something to pursue. “It hadn’t really occurred to me to do that, but the act of just sort of trying to create your own material really started getting my mind into the world of creative production.” Then, finally, came the decision to shift from his predetermined career goals and enroll in a broadcast and film production program at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), where he would also study sound editing, effects, and mixing, tak- ing full advantage of the school’s mix theatre. Even then, though, Laratta didn’t see himself becoming an audio professional. “I think a lot of people get into [studying film production] not knowing what they want to do. They just want to make films,” Laratta says. “I thought I was going to be like a lot of film students and, you know, direct and write my own films.” After an unexpected opportunity to work in audio post for an advertising project fell into his lap, Laratta found himself taking on more and more such projects, building up his mixing acumen and developing a strong network. Eventually, he started his own audio post-production business. Years later, he’d built up an impressive reputation with his firm, Sync Spot Digital Audio Post, and was taking on a slew of high- profile projects from Alberta and beyond. In 2014, Sync Spot joined forces with another successful Calgary-based post studio, Twisted Pair Sound, and Propeller Studios was born. In a fast-paced, deadline-oriented line of work that relies very much on networking, communication, and collaboration, Laratta says it doesn’t just feel like he’s always on call; most of the time, he is. In fact, it’s the seasonal ebbing and flow- ing nature of the post-production industry in this day and age that presents Laratta and his colleagues with their biggest ongoing challenge. “Our industry and our business is just very unpredictable,” he states. “It’s up and down; it’s feast and famine. So our biggest challenge is really an all-encompassing one that everyone in our industry faces.” But all that hard work isn’t for nothing. Propeller Studios has had the chance to work on some major productions in recent years, including AMC’s popular Canada-U.S. co- production Hell on Wheels, FX’s TV adaptation of the Cohen brothers’ darkly funny Fargo, and the three-part miniseries Klondike for the Discovery Channel. “They were big deals for us and got some good critical acclaim,” Laratta humbly shares, adding that their work on Klondike and Fargo has landed them Emmy Award nominations for sound editing and sound mixing. Last year, Propeller Studios was awarded a Golden Reel from the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) for their dialog editing on Klondike. Laratta says that such industry recognition has kept his team pushing forward, landing more work on bigger and more significant projects. Striving to have Propeller further cement its status as the go-to professional studio for film and TV audio post-production in their home province, one of the long-term goals for Laratta is to take a less hands-on approach to mixing in order to spend more time developing his team and giving them room to grow. After all, he knows first hand that the right rewarding experiences can lead to long-term prosperity in this ever changing but always interesting industry. Megan Beam is a freelance writer and former editorial assistant with Professional Sound. 18 PROFESSIONAL SOUND