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This is me: Anthony Moore's sound design aims to be a form of storytelling

There's no point doing cool sound design for the sake of it, because every sound is part of the narrative.

This is me: Anthony Moore's sound design aims to be a form of storytelling

I’ve always loved music. I know my way around drums, piano and guitar. I would have loved to be a rock star or something stupid like that, but I never practiced hard enough on my instruments.

My favourite band is New Order. My brothers introduced me to them. I love that haphazard story of the band, how everything’s a bit of an accident. It’s a mesh of analogue and digital and quite futuristic. I would think: "How did you make that? I want to do that." It felt like if you got the right bits of kit, you could have a go yourself.

When I was 16, I went to BBC Radio Stoke for a week on work experience. I got the bug for radio and they offered me a place. They had a youth programme and we used to go out, record packages, interview people and make it sound wonderful. I got to interview loads of bands and musicians from the 1990s, like Jarvis Cocker and Saint Etienne. You didn’t get paid, but it was wonderful to go and see a gig and meet people.

Then I went to Falmouth College of Arts in Cornwall to study broadcasting. They enticed me because they said they had a beach and palm trees. When I came out, audio had changed and gone digital, so I had to relearn everything. But it was quite exciting because you could open so many more doors creatively with new editing and layering tools. When I joined Factory (then Production Factory), we were one of the first to do this on Pro Tools on a Mac. Now it’s an industry standard 20 years later.

After uni, I took the plunge to come to London and ended up selling advertising for a higher education magazine, which was run by Jeremy Hunt. I got dragged down to this session with Hunt to make a radio ad, which was really weird. They had PlayStations at the studio and loads of sweets. Because I’d grown up in radio, I didn’t know this advertising world existed. I realised that sound could be applied in many areas.

I met one of my current business partners at my cousin’s barbecue. Back then, it was called Production Factory and I joined as a studio assistant. In the early 2000s, we rebranded as Factory, there was a change of management and I became a partner. We wanted to be about sound design and craft. We started working with agencies that we just got on with, like HHCL. We had an amazing relationship with Mother in the early days – they started at the same time as us. We were their little secret for a long time, because they didn’t want anyone else to know about us.

These days, people are used to everything sounding fantastic in cinemas or TV. The challenge for us as sound designers now is to focus on the story, and not just do cool sound design for the sake of it. That’s when I really love sound design, when it immerses you in a story and makes you feel something. Every sound you choose should play part of the narrative and add a layer of richness. It always amazes me that we can add so much to a film, this level of warmth and depth and character. There’s all this stuff that goes on on-screen, but you can create another world off-screen with sound.

All the work we did on Honda with Wieden & Kennedy London was brilliant, because they were ideas that hinged as much on the sound as the visuals. Those were great challenges, because the sound needed to drive the storytelling.

I’m also proud of all the John Lewis stuff. That’s been an amazing journey because it’s something that my mum can talk about to her friends, and it’s become part of culture. From 2011’s "The long wait" to last year’s "The boy and the piano", there’s been so much focus on what we do with the music and sound design. Each year, it’s got a bit bigger and more intricate. People remember the tracks on those ads. The sound design always feels quite homely and warm. It’s subtle, but it puts you in those places.

Having trust in your sound designer is a great thing. We’re here to elevate the film and add that extra layer of story. Sometimes you’ve got to find where it doesn’t work to find where it’s going to work, because it is such a subjective thing. That’s what I really love about it, that sound can have a different reaction with different people.

I’ve always been a big believer that if you want great sound design, we should be starting from script stage. You can always tell the difference, because the sound has been thought about and crafted. Sound really comes alive when you collaborate. It can be fun sitting in a room for eight hours a day putting sounds on stuff, but the magic comes when other people come in.

Anthony Moore is a founding partner and creative director at Factory, with more than 20 years’ experience in audio, music and broadcasting. He has created the sound design for much of the most awarded and recognised UK film ads in recent years, including work for Honda, John Lewis’ Christmas campaigns and Channel 4’s "We’re the superhumans"

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