WHAT OUR MEMBERS DO: Jessey Drake, MPSE, Sound Editor

Jessey Drake, sound editor. PHOTO: Courtesy Jessica Drake.

Where are you currently employed?

I’m a sound effects editor and sound designer located in Buffalo, NY.  For the past two and a half years I have remotely worked from my home studio for Skywalker Sound, and have been a part of the Skysound family ever since.


Current projects?

In the fall, I finished sound effects editing for the new Star Wars series, “The Acolyte.” More recently, I finished supervising Foley for the fourth “Despicable Me” movie coming out in July. At the moment, I’m sound effects editing on an up-and-coming Marvel series.


Describe your job.

What I do varies from project to project, but I mostly have one of two roles. My first love is sound effects editing or sound design, which is the art of creating the sonic landscape of a film or TV show. I either create sound effects from scratch through synthesis, sound processing and recording, or else I combine pre-existing sound effects in interesting creative ways that help tell the story. Secondly, I’ve had the opportunity to supervise Foley. Foley is when we record a team of highly talented individuals called Foley artists who perform nuanced sound effects while watching picture so that the sounds they create are recorded largely in sync with the picture. Footsteps, picking up cups and plates from wood tables, or delicate movements of a necklace as someone moves around are all examples of Foley elements. They’re recorded on a Foley stage, a small dedicated soundstage filled with a gamut of objects used to make specific sounds. It’s my job to supervise where in a movie or TV show those Foley elements will go and make sure all the necessary Foley elements get recorded on schedule. After the Foley is recorded, I confirm that it’s edited in perfect sync to picture and then delivered to the mix stage in the most organized and timely fashion possible.


How did you first become interested in this line of work?

As a kid, I was always playing with a Fisher-Price tape recorder, going around and recording my cat or dog or my parents. I like to say it all started there, but I originally went to college for music business and music/audio production. Toward the end of my undergrad years, I had a professor who suggested I take the sound design capstone class because she thought I’d really benefit from it. Lo and behold, she was absolutely right; I fell in love with creating sound for a visual medium.


Who gave you your first break?

I was working on my graduate degree when I learned through professors at my university that there is a vast network of alumni who work in the film industry. One in particular, Rob McIntyre, was working in post-sound, and that’s what I wanted to do. I interned with him in Los Angeles for a summer, and after I graduated, he took me under his wing and gave me my first sound jobs. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. Right out of college, I was working on Foley editorial for “SpongeBob SquarePants” and sound effects editorial for various other TV shows. Rob and I are still great friends. When I get the chance to work with him now, it’s always a nostalgic and gratifying experience. I can’t thank him enough for basically fostering my sound career.


What was your first union job?

That was on a Disney+ series called “She-Hulk.” I only did a few episodes of that show. After that, I quickly jumped to “Ms. Marvel,” where I was sound effects editing for the whole season. So it was kind of like a “2-for-1 First Union Gig” special.


What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?

Although I’ve been professionally sound editing for over a decade, one of the projects I’m proudest of occurred about a year ago when I worked on my first commercial theatrical feature film, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” I was asked to be the Foley supervisor, and it was an incredible experience. In all honesty, we also had an amazing crew that I was honored to be a part of. That movie will always have a special place in my heart.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, I edited sound effects on my first Star Wars show, “The Acolyte.” I’m both a Star Wars fan and a sound design enthusiast, so the magnitude of experiencing that “first” was and still is mind-blowing for me.


What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?

As a woman in a male-dominated industry, I find that every new project or new studio is a challenge, especially when you’re the only female or one of a few women on a team. Women have a different approach to making our opinions and our artistic value heard within those realms. A big part of that is learning the dynamic of the crew you’re on and learning how to navigate many different personalities  while also being your own champion. It’s not always an easy thing, but I tend to let my work speak for itself and the rest seems to follow. However, there are times where being your own champion is paramount and takes precedence over any type of work. In those moments, you have to choose yourself and your own well-being.


What was the most fun you’ve had at work?

I’m a big believer that “the crew makes the show.” I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some creative and fun post-sound crews. Since I work mostly from home and across the country from the crew I’m on, it’s always rewarding to meet these folks in person. Back in December, I flew to San Francisco to meet my fellow crew members for a Marvel Spotlight show I did this past summer, “Echo,” as well as a few other crew members from other shows I’ve worked on. I had a blast. They are all extraordinary people and I’m honored to be able to call them my friends.


Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?

Honestly, I am so happy with the status quo. I love what I do. I love the people I work with. I love that I am constantly learning and growing as a sound professional. So maybe that’s the hope: just keep learning, growing and being able to challenge myself with something new on each project. However, if I did have to pick something, I would love to do some immersive-type sound design or sound editorial for a Disney attraction. That’s been a lifelong dream of mine.


What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

Outside of what I do professionally, I love weightlifting. I do a lot of deadlifts and bench presses in my basement in the wee hours of the morning. I’m also a huge Disney fan, so I try to get to Walt Disney World when I have a hiatus. But aside from that, any free time I have is spent with my wife and my daughter. They’re the reason I work so hard. We recently signed up our daughter to play soccer, and I cannot wait to be a “soccer mom.”


Favorite movie(s)? Why?

Oh man. There are so many. I’d have to say that my absolute favorite movie of all time is “A Goofy Movie.” (I’m currently drinking coffee out of my “A Goofy Movie” mug!) In no particular order after that, some of my favorites are “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze,” “Toy Story 2,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back,”
“The Muppet Christmas Carol,” and “Tron: Legacy.” “Tron: Legacy” was one of the first films I saw that inspired me to pay close attention to sound and dive head first into film sound as a career. The movie has such a unique palette of sound effects and sound choices. It piqued my interest, to say the least.


Favorite TV program(s)? Why?

Once again, there are a lot, but I recently caught up with the first two seasons of “The Bear” in order to prepare myself for the next season that’s coming out soon. I’ve also been deeply absorbed in “Shogun” on FX. It’s such a compelling and visceral experience. From top to bottom, it’s produced exceptionally well, and the sound is incredible.


Do you have an industry mentor?

I feel that as we go through different stages in our careers, we come across different people who want to  mentor us, to offer guidance and ultimately elevate us. Over the past two years, I’ve been working closely with sound designer and supervising sound editor Jon Borland. He has an incredible ear for what needs to be going on at any moment, not only to create something sonically stunning but also to propel the story forward. It’s been amazing to see how he works and to work with him. He makes me a better sound effects editor — and he’s a pretty cool dude as well!


What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?

Send that email, send that DM, make that call and make that connection. Connections and people get you jobs. Yes, your ability to do the job helps you to keep the job, but when it comes down to it, creating relationships with other industry professionals is the key. So don’t be afraid to reach out. All it takes is one person to give you your break.


Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?

Getting your first union gig is all sorts of scary, but the Guild was absolutely wonderful to me during my professional transition. Up to that point, I had worked non-union for the majority of my career, so it was an enormous relief when the Guild’s assistance and generosity helped me through that process.


Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

I’ll leave everyone with a story. About ten years ago, a very bright-eyed Jessey went up to the Skywalker Ranch in Marin. Randy Thom had invited me to have lunch with him, see the ranch and show him some of my work. He wanted me to interview to be his next intern. However, because of some personal things, I couldn’t make that happen. I settled back into the work I was doing, started a family and eventually moved back home to Buffalo. Fast forward a bunch of years; COVID hits and my mom passed a week before the whole world shut down. I honestly don’t know where that three-year span went. I don’t know where I went during that time. But after reaching out to Mac Smith — then an acquaintance, now an esteemed colleague and friend — I got an email from Kim Foscato at Skywalker that changed my life, and I’ve been living the dream ever since. (Thanks again, Mac and Kim!) My point in all this is that you can have it all. It might not come in the timeframe that you first dreamed up. There may be some hardships along the way. But take the opportunities as they come and enjoy the ride. Dreams and goals have a way of working themselves out in the end.