Do you know what foley is? No, not Scott Foley, the swoon-worthy actor who melted hearts as Noel Crane on Felicity and now has a new show about (I guess) a Cleveland NBA player with a drinking problem. Or maybe it’s about sexy spies. Either one.
No, foley is “the reproduction of everyday sound effects that are added to film, video, and other media in post-production to enhance audio quality.” Here is a video that gives a pretty good overview of the work foley artists do:
Now that we’re all on the same page about what “foley” is, here is the story of my curiosity about television sound effects, “Dynamite” Davy Jones, and a lie that went undiscovered for over twenty years.
When I was four or five years old, I liked watching reruns of The Monkees on TV. I didn’t know anything about controversies involving whether or not Mike, Peter, Mickey, and Davy played their own instruments; they just made me laugh and I loved their music. Still do, actually.
One night, I was sitting on the floor watching the episode, “Monkees in the Ring”. In the episode, Davy becomes a boxer and even though I had no idea what “foley” was at that point in my young life, the sounds featured in an early scene at a boxing gym planted a certain question in my head:
Does it really sound like that when you punch someone?
If you asked me then what the scientific method was, I don’t think I would have been able to tell you. However, I apparently knew the steps of it, because once I had my question, I quickly moved on to the testing phase of the process. No time to even develop a hypothesis; I just needed the answer.
Now is probably a good time to mention that I wasn’t alone in the room while watching this episode. My not-even-two-year-old little brother sat next to me playing with his favorite toy at the time, his Tonka dump truck. I turned toward him, and as hard as I could, punched him in the face.
And wouldn’t you know it, it sounded just like it did on TV.
My little brother naturally started wailing and my mother ran in to see what was going on. She asked me why he was screaming and with no hesitation, I told her that he fell and hit his face on his truck. She scooped him up and carried him out of the room, trying to console him, and I finished watching the episode.
I didn’t tell her the true story until I was almost thirty years old. And it wasn’t like it was something that was eating away at me during those intervening years. This was just a story I told about how my curiosity as a kid led me to deck my little brother in the name of science, and how foley artists are really good at their jobs. Because I’m pretty sure they are able to create realistic sound effects without having to punch a single toddler in the face.
Writing this story down now, I’m a little surprised at how cold I was during this incident. With little to no thought, I punched a one-year-old in the face and when confronted, casually lied about it so that I could finish my show. And obviously, thirty-plus-year-old memories are not very reliable, but I honestly do not think I punched him to hurt him; I just wanted an answer to my question and he was right there. When he started crying, I knew I screwed up and didn’t want to get in trouble, so I lied about it. And it worked.
A few nights ago, I ran into some difficulties while trying to print something using our home printer. Upon closer inspection, I think the problem probably had something to do with the deck of Barbie mini playing cards that had been stuffed in it. When I asked my almost-three-year-old daughter how the cards got in there, she told me her cousin put them in there. Never mind how he just happens to live 200+ miles away from us and hadn’t visited us in months. And never mind how my daughter was playing with those exact cards earlier that day. Nope, she was adamant that her cousin put them there.
I mention this because I’m beginning to think that she may not have a future in getting away with punching babies. And as a father, I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m supposed to want for her.