CAM Alum Wins Third Emmy; Credits Launch of Career to Training, Connections at CU Denver
Tim Kimmel ’98 wins his third Emmy for sound editing HBO’s “Lovecraft Country”Megan Briggs | College of Arts & Media Sep 15, 2021
CU Denver alum Tim Kimmel ’98 has won his third Emmy for sound editing work on HBO’s ambitious new fantasy/horror/social commentary show “Lovecraft Country.” Kimmel, who won the award category sound editing for a comedy or drama series (One Hour), used the skills he began acquiring in the recording arts program at the College of Arts & Media (CAM) to bring life to a story that deftly swings between gruesome and shocking scenes to those more delicate and nuanced. For award-winning sound editor Kimmel, it’s all in a day’s work.
A ‘Genre-Breaking’ Project
“Lovecraft Country” is “genre-breaking” as actor Jonathan Majors describes it, and Kimmel agrees. The sheer range of the series made Kimmel and his team’s work more difficult. “Each episode could jump from a period piece, to an action/thriller, to sci-fi, to horror. This provides unique challenges for the sound editorial department, as we need to be able to hit these different genres, really make them feel proper, while keeping the overall sound of the show fluid.”
Majors plays Black Korean War veteran Atticus Freeman, the main character and bookish hero of the story. Set in the 1950s in the United States, “Lovecraft Country” tells a riveting story worthy of the fantasy genre and full of impeccably placed allusions to American culture and art. Freeman, with the help of childhood friend Leti (played by actor Jurnee Smollett) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), embark on a journey of mythic proportions to find Atticus’s missing father, Montrose Freeman (Michael Kenneth Williams).
Kimmel’s award recognizes his work on the pilot episode, “Sundown,” which introduces viewers to Atticus and the others as they pick up Montrose’s trail. Along their journey, myth and reality intertwine as the three encounter monsters in the form of other-worldly beings and all-too-realistic racist, white police officers. The episode's name, "Sundown," refers to the horrific practice some towns in segregated America adopted whereby any Black people caught in the area after dark where lynched. “Although it is ostensibly a horror series about monsters, the real horror is the way that the African-American characters are treated in the Jim Crow era,” CAM recording arts professor and fellow sound editor David Bondelevitch observes.
A Knack for Award-Winning Shows
In addition to Kimmel’s win, Courtney B. Vance won outstanding guest actor in a drama series. In all, “Lovecraft Country” was nominated for 18 Emmys.
It appears Kimmel has a knack for working on award-winning television series. The Emmy for “Lovecraft Country” represents Kimmel’s third; he's won the same category for his work on two episodes of "Game of Thrones"("The Long Night" in 2019 and "Hardhome" in 2015). After this first win, Kimmel gave some guest lectures in Bondelevitch’s classes at CAM. While Bondelevitch and Kimmel have not worked together professionally (nor did their time at CAM overlap), the world of sound editing and design is small enough that the two have mutual friends in the industry and both belong to the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) organization.
Bondelevitch, who previously led MPSE as president, and who has won sound editing awards himself, can appreciate the complexity of Kimmel’s work on a show such as “Lovecraft Country.” He articulates the layers of difficulty the show presents:
First, you had to create the reality of the 1950s. This means that every sound effect and background sound has to be authentic from the 1950s, but it can’t sound like it was recorded then, so finding period vehicles and props can be a huge challenge. The second challenge is the amount of original monster sounds they needed to create for the series. This is a massive amount of work, and they could not have chosen a better pair for the job than Tim Kimmel and Paula Fairfield. Finally, there is an art to sound design, which they used to create tension in a number of scenes. Although the music in the series was excellent, music can often be overused, which leaves little room for creativity on the sound design.
For his part, Kimmel says working with “Lovecraft Country’s” showrunner, Misha Green (“Underground”, “Helix”), was “fantastic.” In a September 2020 interview with A Sound Effect, Kimmel said Green “has an amazing ear for details and sound and a great vision.” Green offered feedback Kimmel and sound designer Paula Fairfield used to really level up the viewer’s experience of the show.
The Emmy judges certainly felt Kimmel’s work had done just that.
CU Denver Gave Kimmel Foundation for Success
Looking forward, Kimmel says he hopes to be able to help more students interested in the field of sound design and editing. The industry is constantly being disrupted by breakthroughs in technology, but some things stay the same. Kimmel attributes a class he took at CU Denver (audio sweetening taught by the late Rich Sanders) to being a major catalyst for his career in Hollywood. “CU Denver really gave me the technical education on what makes the gear work, how to use it, and the basics of the music and film industry,” Kimmel explains.
Another thing that stays the same, whether in sound design or other industries, is the power of a good connection. Kimmel’s time in CAM led to an internship which led to a job which has led (so far) to three Emmys. Connections like these are the ones Kimmel hopes to pay forward in the future.