Emmy has a nice ‘sound’ to it
La PORTE – When he graduated from La Porte High School in 1992, Antony Zeller wanted to get into the music business.
Instead, he ended up in the film industry, but he’s not complaining after winning an Emmy for his sound work on the Netflix sci-fi hit Stranger Things.
It was even sweeter because his team from Technicolor Sound Services didn’t think they were going to win.
“We were nominated for some other awards – the Golden Reels and Cinema Audio Society – but lost to Game of Thrones both times. They have a helluva sound and effects crew. Our sound supervisor didn’t even prepare a speech for the Emmys because he figured we would lose again.”
But when the Creative Arts Emmys were presented last weekend at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles – the same venue as the Prime Time Emmys – they not only beat Game of Thrones, but Westworld, Homeland and Star Trek: Discovery for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series.
Zeller said his parents – Bonnie and Alan Zeller, who still live in La Porte, along with one of his four brothers – have always been behind him and were thrilled at the news.
“I texted my mom a picture of me holding the award and she was so excited, she showed it to everybody.”
He was a little more calm.
“I figured it only took me 19 years. I even said to some of the crew when we got nominated that I didn’t care if we won or not. I knew Netflix would have a huge party for us. They are sending a limo this weekend for another big celebration.”
It’s not something he would’ve ever dreamed growing up; he wasn’t even involved in audio-video programs at LPHS.
“I started in music. I was in the band, and I took Mr. Allen’s Music Theory class. I started at IU in Bloomington taking classes for performance, but soon realized I wasn’t quite talented enough. I heard about the recording program so I got into that.
“My brother’s friend back in La Porte, Jeff Vereb, was working at Battery Studios in Chicago, and I went over there and got hooked on recording.”
He transferred to Full Sail University in Orlando, which had a full recording program. When he graduated he “threw a dart” to decide if he’d try to make it in New York, L.A. or Nashville.
“I had a friend from Orlando who had moved to L.A. and was quitting, so I sublet his apartment. I gave myself two months. I took my Jeep, my stereo and my clothes, not even any furniture. I slept on the floor for a while.”
He landed a job at a recording studio and worked five years in the music business.
“I didn’t win any Grammys or anything,” he said, though he got to work with Madonna, Britney Spears and other ’90s superstars. “Then I realized there was a great divide between those who worked in the business for a long time and those who just survived. I just didn’t have the clients.”
But he was familiar with ProTool software, then in its infancy.
“I knew how to use it,” Zeller said, “and I got some work cleaning up old TV footage, removing the static and pops from soundtracks. And from there my career evolved into film.”
And an Emmy for Supervising Foley Editor.
While most people don’t know what that means, everyone is familiar with it.
Zeller said you can equate it to old radio shows.
“When they needed sounds, like someone walking down the stairs or a door slamming, the Foley Artist was the guy who created the sounds. It’s human-recorded sound effects. And not that much has changed from those old radio days.”
He said whenever a film or TV show is dubbed into another language, all the sound is lost, not just the dialogue. The job of the Foley Artists and Foley Editors is to re-create those sounds so it matches up with what you see on the screen.
“I was fortunate to work with a guy who had been doing it for 35 years. I am where I am today because of his connections and his clout.”
And where is he? Only working on some of the most popular TV series on the air.
Technicolor Sound Services is one of many small companies in Hollywood, and each bids on projects – movies or series.
“We’ve done a lot work for Netflix, which doesn’t have a physical studio so they contract out much of the work. I’ve worked on most of the Marvel shows for Netflix.”
Those include Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Punisher. He’s also been involved with The Man in the High Castle, The OA (he says there will be a Season 2), This Is Us, Criminal Minds, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, The Good Fight and dozens of others. A full list can be found on his IMBD page (imdb.com/name/nm3870665/).
The Emmy was for Stranger Things, Season 2, Chapter 8: The Mind Flayer. Technicolor Sound did not work on Season 1, and he doesn’t know if he’ll work on upcoming seasons, though he said Seasons 3 and 4 have been greenlighted.
But he will always have a soft spot in his heart for the show because of his award. Sound supervisors for different shows send in potential nominees, Zeller said.
“They announce the nominees on the website. I figured out we had won because a co-worker said you better get your tux out.”
Will there be more?
Zeller won’t guess, though he’s working on several new shows, including The Umbrella Academy, Carnival Row, Saving Zoe and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
And though he never did get that music thing going, he is enjoying his career, and wouldn’t mind if his kids get into the biz.
“I would absolutely encourage them,” he said. “My son just started in junior high band, and I’ve never seen him so enthusiastic about anything.”
He said not to wouldn’t make sense, since his family always backed him.
“My parents were always supportive. My mom knew I loved music – she still hopes I get back into it someday. She was more concerned about me moving so far away.
“I’ve talked about it a lot with my kids and I would have no problem with them going into show business. Though I’m not sure I’d want them to be actors,” he adds with a laugh.
Prime Time Emmys
The 70th annual Prime Time Emmy Awards ceremony is Monday night in Los Angeles. Local coverage begins at 7 p.m. (CDT) with an Arrival Special on NBC. The ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m. (CDT), also on NBC.