Alumnus' sound editing work helps "Ford v. Ferrari" nab an Oscar

Matt “Smokey” Cloud (BFA Filmmaking ’04) uses a cooking metaphor to describe his longtime work as an assistant sound editor on feature films at 20th Century Studios. This emerges when colleagues send him the content or “raw ingredients” they’ve created for a movie on set.

“I chop it all up and prep it and wash it,” he says. “And then I pass along those ingredients to an editor who will then cook the food. Our mixers come in and they season the food. And then we release it out into the theaters worldwide, and everyone goes in and enjoys a nice meal.”

Cloud’s role in the “cooking” of “Ford v Ferrari” was exceptionally high-end, helping earn the film an Academy Award this year for Best Sound Editing. Among other things, it entailed organizing an orderly, user-friendly library of dialogue takes, sound effects and notes for editors and mixers. It had its origins not only in the training he received in the School of Filmmaking’s picture editing and sound design program, but also in the school’s summer Film intensive, which Cloud attended in 1998 and 1999. Cloud called the summer sessions a “transformative experience” that made UNCSA the one school he wanted to attend.


“I think I applied to one other college,” he says. “But I really put all of my eggs into the UNCSA basket. I have a very long history with the Fighting Pickle.”

Cloud decided to pursue sound after David Yewdall, one of his instructors, emerged as one of his most influential mentors and helped secure an internship for him at Fox Studios.

During a recent interview, Cloud talked about why the sound editing on “Ford v Ferrari” is so exceptional. He also illuminated why he has had steady work for so long, and the effect that UNCSA has had on his career.    

What was it about the UNCSA Film summer intensive that made you want to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the school?

I arrived on a campus that was half college campus and half movie backlot. I had a wonderful group of teachers and professors and also active (college) students who were teaching us high school youngsters who had an interest in learning collaborative storytelling. After that first summer, I was hooked. I had the bug. I knew this was what I wanted to do. It cemented my desire to be a part of that community.

What was the school like once you enrolled as a college student?

I spent four years making wonderful mistakes. I think it’s really important to be able to make mistakes when the stakes are so low. There’s going to be so many hiccups in a young person’s maturation as a filmmaking storyteller.

It’s great to be able to dust yourself off with a bunch of people roughly the same as you, who are making the same mistakes. You all get to learn from them together. It just makes everyone a better storyteller down the road.

Smokey Cloud

It’s great to be able to dust yourself off with a bunch of people roughly the same as you, who are making the same mistakes. You all get to learn from them together. It just makes everyone a better storyteller down the road.

Being part of a sound editing team that has won an Academy Award is quite an honor. What do you think the award’s impact will be on your career?

A lot of people will tell you that winning the award is gratifying. But, our industry is really based more around client retention than it is about anything else. It’s a lot of about hustle and grind and showing up for the people who need you.

What makes the sound of “Ford v Ferrari” so special?

It’s about what we can make when we work together. When you listen to the sound of “Ford v Ferrari,” you can hear a whole team putting its best effort forward. Another thing that made the film so special was that there are no trickery sounds; it’s all the actual cars. These cars and these engines and these machines are so special; all we had to do was make sure we recorded them well.

Above: Cloud (right) and fellow alumnus Will Files working together on
sound for "War For The Planet of the Apes."

Can what you’ve just described be traced back to your time at UNCSA?

Absolutely. One of the big things I learned at the School of the Arts was how to be a good coworker or fellow crew member. That was something they don’t put in the brochure, but it’s an incredibly important part of working professionally in the industry. You want to be somebody that people want to work with; I learned that lesson very well at UNCSA.

by Ken Keuffel

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April 20, 2020