True Hollywood Stories
Texans who took a chance and headed west tell all
Scott David Burton, sound designer
"Raw chicken makes the best punches."
Technically, Scott David Burton shouldn't know this. Technically, this is a foley artist's job the vocation that consists of being locked in a room with various props to re-create a purer sound for the action onscreen. But technicalities don't matter when it comes to the vastness of imagination.
"How do you make a snake slithering down a drain pipe sound frightening?" Burton queries. "How do you create a sound that fits that action perfectly?"
Burton grew up in Brownsville through the Eighties, a border town that has continuously suffered from economic depression. Rather than football (or more harmful distractions), he picked up the alto saxophone when he was young and played through high school.
"At the same time, I was really into computers, which have always fascinated me," he says. "I've probably had a longer relationship with them than music."
While most kids his age were traipsing over the border into foreign territory, Burton sat at home with his Mac Plus and a Roland D5, creating his own music with sequencers. A few years later, at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, he had a head start in the engineering and recording electives.
"So many kids these days are playing music for all the glitz and bling," Burton says. "I just enjoyed making cool sounds."
Soon Burton realized his place was in the studio. After graduating from Berklee, he and a few college friends moved to Los Angeles to set up one of their own. While indie projects, student films, and a few commercials helped them scrape by, the young sound designers ultimately decided to go their separate ways.
"We just didn't have the equipment or resources," Burton admits. "I needed a place where I could learn and grow, not have to worry about running the company."
He found it at Primal Scream, a composing and sound design house that matches and creates tracks for theatrical trailers and national commercials that we all probably know by heart. The following year, producers had him clandestinely record film mogul Robert Evans' voice-over for the acclaimed documentary The Kid Stays in the Picture. Since then, Burton has been offered sound design jobs on other films but has passed them up in favor of doing commercials.
"It's a two- or three-month commitment for a film," Burton says, referencing a monotony he experienced when he was younger. "But with commercials, the jobs are quick and there's always a new challenge."
He pauses for a moment, as if listening for something.
"I'm always up for a new challenge."