The Motion Picture Editors’ Guild — a body that covers not just editors, but other post-production professionals too — will present veteran sound re-recording mixer Donald O. Mitchell with its Fellowship and Service Award on October 5 in Los Angeles. The award acknowledges not just the recipient’s screen work but their spirit of collaboration and peer support within the industry.
If you think you don’t know Mitchell’s work, you’ve certainly heard it. Beginning at Fox as the draughtsman in 1955, he moved into sound work in the following decades, going on to mix over 110 features, including some of the biggest blockbusters of the 1980s and 1990s. His very first film as a re-recording mixer, 1973’s “The Paper Chase,” garnered him an Oscar nomination — clearly, he’d made the right move.
It would be his first of 14 nominations in the Best Sound (now dubbed Best Sound Mixing) category, as he also notched up citations for “Silver Streak” (1976), “Raging Bull” (1980), “Terms of Endearment” (1983), “Silverado” (1985), “A Chorus Line” (1985), “Top Gun” (1986), “Black Rain” (1989), “Glory” (1989), “Days of Thunder” (1990), “Under Siege” (1992), “The Fugitive” (1993), “Clear and Present Danger” (1994) and “Batman Forever” (1995). He converted only one of them to Oscar gold: Ed Zwick’s Civil War epic “Glory.”
He retired from film work in 1997, with the little-remembered action film “Steel” (remember the brief period when Hollywood tried to make Shaquille O’Neal a movie star?) his last screen credit. I’m pretty sure the sound was better than the movie.
MPEG president John Trask explained the decision as follows: “Don Mitchell’s career as a re-recording mixer spans more than 40 years. During this time he has consistently exemplified the qualities that this award has been created to recognize. By his example he has inspired present and future sound personnel, contributing a legacy to our craft that will last well into the future.”
Past winners of the Fellowship and Service Award include editors Dede Allen (“Bonnie and Clyde”), Carol Littleton (“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”), Donn Cambern (“Easy Rider”), BAFTA and Emmy-winning sound editor Don Hall (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) and IATSE president Thomas C. Short.