I've just spent the last hour or so listening to a fisherman cast his lure out and reel it back in. We have not been standing in a cold mountain stream with late afternoon light speckling the water unfortunately, but under the fluorescent light of a large recording studio. I need the sounds of the swish of his line and the geiger-counter ratchet of his reel for the film 'Jindabyne' on which I'm working. I've been watching the images of actors fishing in streams for the last few weeks, and I remember their every nuance and movement. They have been coached on how to look like real fishermen by another expert angler who was hired specifically for that purpose.
Recording the sounds of the fishing on the shooting location, however, is not easy, and the post production sound crew has been called on to re-create the sound effects in a quiet environment.
Here in the recording studio I become conscious of the fact that although Mike, the angler, is an expert fisherman, he is not an expert sound person. And so he does not know how to give me what I need. "Just do it gently," I say, "like you were really there". But he is not an actor either and so that imagining does not come to him. He clumsily makes noises with the gear and somehow forgets about the delicate little twitches and tensions and sixth-sense estimations that I know he must make when he is out in the river convincing a trout to take his fly. Mike is here on a bit of a favour though, so I don't feel I can push him too hard. I talk him through it: "Pull a few feet of line out, stop, and then slowly a few more," I say. "Reel in slowly, then slow down, pause, and reel a tiny bit more".
My brain flickers over the little line of sound as it whispers across the digital recorder's screen like a fishing-line across a still pool. I calculate all the little edit points I can make to enhance the reality of this artificially trapped audio representation of an angler. It's OK. I know I can make it work.
"Thanks Mike, that's great," I say.
Tomorrow, I will sift through all the little grabs of sound and weave the best bits into my track. I will do it well, because I am good at this. When you watch the film, you will, in all probability, notice nothing out of the ordinary. You will see some guys in a mountain stream fishing. You will believe that they can. I would be surprised if you even notice the sound. As far as the story goes, this is what we require. You will have been hoodwinked by a series of illusions that conspire to affect an expected normalcy.
And I have no doubt that next weekend Mike will be standing knee deep in a cool clear river somewhere, tricking a very clever trout into thinking that the little piece of coloured fluff on the end of his line is really a nice juicy bug.