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And the Emmy goes to... Ardmore graduate wins Emmy for outstanding sound mixing

Drew Butler
The Ardmoreite

Ardmore High School graduate Shawn Holden recently received an Emmy for her work on the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian.” Holden is a production sound mixer on the series, and she, along with Re-Recording Mixer Bonnie Wild and Scoring Mixer Chris Fogel, won the Emmy for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) and Animation for their work on the show’s second episode, “The Child.”

Holden moved to Ardmore along with her family the summer before beginning fourth grade, and after graduating high school she went on to the University of Oklahoma. Though she always knew she wanted to work in the entertainment industry, sound mixing was not on her radar when she began college.

“I entered school working on a motion picture degree thinking I was going to be a set still photographer — I don’t know how I came up with that,” Holden said. “I ended up with a radio-tv-film degree, and because I was in school I was able to get an internship at Channel 4.”

After graduating, Holden was hired at the station where she worked on a news magazine show called PM Magazine. Though the program was a nationally syndicated series, it contained local hosts and local stations produced a number of segments relevant to their audience for each episode.

After the price of oil crashed in the 1980s, she and several others were laid off from the station because of economic issues. She decided to move to Dallas to continue her career, and she began working as a sound technician for several national news series.

“For about 12 years, I was a network news sound technician for shows like “60 minutes,” “20/20,” “48 Hours,” the evening news and the morning news,” she said. “But then I sort of reached the peak of what I could do in that world. I had always wanted to work in the movies, so in 1995 I moved to Los Angeles and transitioned into doing movies and television.”

As a production sound mixer, Holden is on the set each day to record the dialog as well as any special effects sound that can be captured on location. She said her typical workday lasts from 12 to 14 hours, though it has recently dropped down to around 10 because of new guidelines put in place because of COVID-19.

“My goal is to record a clean dialog track to preserve the performances of the actors so they don’t have to go back in post production and try to fix things,”  Holden said. “At the end of the day I turn in what I’ve recorded, and that goes to post production where they sync it with pictures and the picture editing is done. That’s also where any sound enhancement is done, and they’ll add all the effects, noises and all of the music.”

While on set, Holden stays incredibly busy either recording sound, correcting any issues from a previous take, or preparing for the next scene. In addition to recording clean dialog, another major challenge is keeping the microphone or its shadow out of the shot.

“We’re always there and there is always something to do,” she said. “When we start a new scene, we’re watching the rehearsals. We’re watching where the camera is setting up and where the lighting is. We’re watching where an actor is going to move from Point A to Point B and what they are going to say when they get there. We have to make sure we can capture all of that without getting in the shot, casting shadows, or any other number of difficulties that could come up.”

Holden continues to work as a production sound mixer on “The Mandalorian.”  She has already completed Season Two which will begin streaming on Disney+ October 30, and she is currently prepping for Season 3.

“We start shooting in a few weeks, so we’re getting some equipment things underway,” she said. “There’s always new challenges, especially now that we’re dealing with COVID. The COVID shooting is changing the way we do things, so it brings a whole new set of equipment and other items we’re going to need.”

Though sometimes challenging, Holden said she enjoys her work and being a part of bringing a story to life.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “Sometimes it’s easier than others, and sometimes it’s very difficult. But it’s amazing to be a part of such a massive collaborative effort. There is so much creativity all around you, and you’re working with all of these creative people to craft a piece of television or a movie.”

Shawn Holden works as a production sound mixer on the Disney+ series "The Mandalorian." She received an Emmy award for her work on the
Prior to working on films and television, Holden worked on several segments for national news series. Here she and a crew are recording at the Grand Canion.
Holden worked on a news crew coving the 1994 Winter Olympics.
Holden working as a production sound mixer.
Shawn Holden