About an hour north of San Francisco, just long enough for the hum of the city to finally start wearing off, lies gorgeous Marin County. And here, tucked away in a gentle valley surrounded by rolling emerald hills, is a picturesque working ranch that also happens to be one of the largest, most versatile, technically advanced postproduction facilities in the world – the fabled Skywalker Sound. Its accomplishments are at least as legendary as its namesake – and the thing is, they’re all real. Besides helping to pioneer digital editing systems, Skywalker’s staff of sound designers and re-recording mixers have either won or been nominated for the Best Sound or Best Sound Editing Academy Award every year since Star Wars in 1978.
At the heart of Skywalker Sound is the acclaimed scoring stage, a vast, acoustically perfect recording facility, big enough for an entire orchestra, yet sensitive enough for a single player. Running it is a complex job – a mix of creativity, technological acumen, diplomacy and precise management. Enter First Entertainment member Leslie Ann Jones, who, for nine years as the Director of Music Recording and Scoring for Skywalker Sound, is responsible for everything relating to the stage, including booking clients, hiring staff, budgets and consulting on equipment purchases. Leslie is also the main staff recording engineer for music, not a small accomplishment considering Skywalker is the pinnacle of the industry.
“It’s an incredibly exciting, challenging place to work,” Leslie says, aware of our awe. “Full of brilliant creative people who thrive on their next challenge.”
Leslie has worked on hundreds of top-tier projects, ranging from movies to television to commercials to CDs. “One of the most recent projects I did was the Dianne Reeves’ “Good Night and Good Luck” CD which won a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album this year. I’m very proud of it because the producers came to us with six songs that were cut on a sound stage when they were filming the movie, and they didn’t have enough songs to make a CD. Our mission was to record nine more songs in the studio and make them sound like the songs that were cut on the sound stage, so that when the CD was released, there was no difference between the two recording environments.”
Though a recognized master of digital recording, Leslie is a purist. “One of the nice things about recording here is that we can put everybody in the room at the same time and get a really wonderful kind of organic, live sound. It’s such a pleasure to record that way, with people that are all playing at the same time. I have a hard time imagining myself making records the way some people are making them now … sending tapes to other people who put their parts on and then sending the tapes back and then they go to someone else.”
Leslie’s been a member since the early 90’s, when she was at Capital’s recording studio, and though she lives in the Bay area she has no intention of ever leaving. “The credit union keeps adding such great services that it’s really not inconvenient at all to live in an area that doesn’t have a First Entertainment branch. Between direct deposit, the CO-OP ATM Network and the CU Service Centers I can walk into if I actually need to see a real live person, it’s all very easy. And First Entertainment’s loan rates and saving rates are always better than anyone else’s. Plus, I decided a long time ago when I was in Los Angeles that I was really done with conventional banks.”
Hey Leslie, we hear you. And frankly, it’s a sweet sound.
Member, Rick R. wrote to share this about our April Profile article that mentioned The Ed Sullivan Show. “The Ed Sullivan Show was originally called Toast of the Town and debuted June 20, 1948. On September 18, 1955, the title was changed to The Ed Sullivan Show.” Thanks Rick! – Editor