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Tony Gibson & ‘The Last Dragonslayer’

Stuffed full with Christmas dinner, families around the country crowded their sofas to watch Sky1’s premiere of The Last Dragonslayer. Based on the original novel by Jasper Fforde, The Last Dragonslayer is the first book in The Chronicles of Kazam series.

So to celebrate the great success of the feature, we’re sitting down with Sound Effects Editor Tony Gibson to talk about his work on the film. A sound designer from London, Tony has been in the industry for over 18 years working on various films and TV series. He has an impressive IMDB page including Misfits, Silent Witness, and Silk, and has won awards such as a 2011 Music and Sound Award for Best Sound Design TV and a 2009/2010 RTS Award for Best Audio Drama.

You have such a long list of titles and TV series to your name. How did you get into sound design?

Working in TV/Film post production was something I always wanted to do. I had many work experience placements when I was about fifteen, working in a film lab, VFX house and an edit facility. It was when I went to work in a sound studio (DB Post) that I began to fall in love with sound, realising just how much of a story can be told via the soundscape.

The Last Dragonslayer is based on Jasper Fforde’s novels. Had you heard of it before you started working on the project? Want to tell us a little more about your role throughout production?

I was aware of the novels before I was booked on the project, but hadn’t read them, although it is a genre I am hugely interested in. Once I found out I was working on the project I read as much as I could before starting, to try to immerse myself into the world. When I first met with the director and editor they had some rough sound ideas in the cut of the magic and dragons, I went away and started to record and source sounds to develop and build upon these ideas whilst waiting for the final VFX shots.

The movie is set both in the past and present, two dynamically different periods with vastly different soundscapes. What was it like blending these?

The film was like nothing I had worked on before; when you get set a project you get into mindset of what effects you will need. Never before have I had to source blacksmiths and turbo-charged cars in the same show! It was certainly continuously challenging, but that’s what makes a job enjoyable.

Dragons have been portrayed many times in films over the years. What gave you the inspiration for Maltcassion’s voice?

Jamie (the director) was fantastic to work with, he was a great fan of Panzer Dragoon (Sega Saturn Game) and wanted the young dragons to take on a similar sound. For Maltcassion we had to go big and imposing, Game of Thrones has some amazing sound design but they sound very reptilian, we wanted Maltcassion to sound huge and bellowing Skyrim was used a lot as a reference point.

Jasper Fforde is known for his comical and satirical writing style. Did you try to include any of this theme into your sound design when working on the film?

There was quite a lot of freedom to play around with humor in the film, we used some old Hanna Barbara and Warner Brothers sounds to give it a cartoon feel in places.

You also did some great work on Beowulf for ITV. Did any of that prep you for the challenges you’d face with The Last Dragonslayer?

Beowulf was a great learning curve for me as far as the fantasy genre goes. I had to create many different creatures for the series and also record myself vocally for it. That was the first time I had really used ‘Dehumaniser‘ to its full capability and thus gave me a better understanding of what could be achieved once I upgraded to version 2. The presets are fantastic but getting deep into the software opens up a lot of functions I previously had not played with.

Any lessons learned that you’d like to share with other sound designers?

Invest in a portable recorder and take it with you wherever you go, you never know when you may come across a strange and wonderful sound that might be useful in the future. Read blogs and use Twitter as much as you can, never stop learning!

Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon you want to tease?

Who knows what the future holds, have to stay quiet (small hint there!)…

Huge thanks to Tony for taking the time to speak with us. You can follow Tony on Twitter at @northentone or listen to his latest samples on . The Last Dragonslayer is currently airing on Sky, and stars Ellise Chappell and Ricky Tomlinson.