Foley is an interesting subject, it’s an area that perhaps many of us are not familiar with or possibly haven't even heard of.
Often we’ll discuss who Directed what, or ask ‘who was the Producer on that’? We’ll watch films because we heard about the soundtrack (hands up, TRON Legacy anyone?) or our favourite actor is the lead character. I’m not sure about you, but I have never discussed the Foley in a particular piece of work before. Maybe that is because I am pretty new to it as well, but it’s not something that usually takes the headlines.
This being the case, Foley can actually play a key role in film. It has the ability to immerse us deeper into a story or subtly tell us about something that happened, but we didn’t see on screen. For instance, a character opens a door and walks through. You don’t see the door shut, but you do hear a quiet ‘click’ as the latch catches. Without having to break from the action, our Foley friend has helped immerse us into this scene and grasp a better understanding of the story.
It can also just help to make a scene just seem more 'real'. If you can hear a door open, key jangling and see someone walking, yet can’t hear their footsteps, it can jar and cause you to break from the story, even just a little.
Whilst shooting The Attic we decided not to record audio on set for many reasons, chiefly; time, equipment, space and crew. We did, however, want to include some of those important sounds in the final product. The crunch of paper, scrape of a child’s felt tip and the sound of a careful ‘creep up the stairs so you don’t get found out’.
This meant we had to record all these sounds in post, which is essentially what a Foley Artist does. I’ll be honest, it was a pretty funny evening. Myself and Pete spend the time with various props trying to recreate what we could see on screen. If the bed cover moved, Pete would rub a red blanket over a cushion which had just the right type of filling to match what we thought the noise should sound like. I’m not sure the blanket had to be red, but it raises a good point. Do you try to faithfully recreate the actual sound, or create what you (and the audience) would expect to hear? One that is probably different for each project.
Next, I tried to balance as I found the best sounding spot on the floor to place my foot and Pete analysed the delicate sound waves produced and directed accordingly. It must have been a humorous sight to behold.
Back to the subject - should you use Foley in your next film? As ever it’s a creative decision you have to make, but one worth knowing before you shoot. Do you need to communicate subtle off screen action in order to relay a message to the audience? Are the sounds you want just too difficult to recreate at a later point? Maybe you just want the soundtrack and no Foley at all. It’s your creative decision to make, but hopefully one that will enable you to immerse your audience that bit more.