Sound editorDavid Yewdall

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After high school, Yewdall’s first job was for a California police department: he was their homicide squad photographer. Photography led to movies: he made a documentary about the Hopi Indians, and then decided to be a stuntman. His first movie in that career: Grand Theft Auto. But he thought better of that profession when the stunt coordinator from that film was killed the next year doing a stunt at 29. So Yewdall went into the Army. He was put in charge of a film unit, but that didn’t work out either: it had been dissolved the year before, so he came back out and finally found his niche: sound editor for films. One of his first assignments, as sound effects editor, was for 1978’s Piranha — so presumably it was his job to figure out what it sounded like for someone to be eaten by the toothy fish.

Yewdall at work.

He was good, and was hired a lot: he worked on more than 100 films, including Escape From New York (1981), the 1982 remake of The Thing, Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Stephen King’s Christine (1983), Robin Williams’ Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Starship Troopers (1997), and various installments of the Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Living Dead franchises. He literally wrote the textbook for his profession (Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound*), and was a pioneer in “organic sound” for films — he always strove for “the authentic, no matter how weird it was,” said his wife, Lisa. “‘The Thing’ is arguably his masterpiece,” said sound man Steve Lee. “All those frightening creature sounds he created are just fantastic, and just as scary today as they were when the film opened 35 years ago — almost to the week.” Yewdall went on to teach his craft at the college level, at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. He died July 4 in Winston-Salem, N.C. from pancreatic cancer, at 66.

From This is True for 9 July 2017