72nd Emmy Nominee Flip Borrero
In late July the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced its list of nominations for the 72nd Emmy Awards. In a repeat of last year, Local 479 Production Sound Mixer Felipe “Flip” Borrero was honored with a nomination for the category Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour) for his work on the critically-acclaimed Netflix series Ozark, starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney.
This is Flip’s third Emmy nomination and his 5th award nomination altogether.
Flip on the Emmys
While the cancellation of the live event may pose a disappointment to many first time nominees, this isn’t Flip’s first Emmy nomination and it wouldn’t be his first win.
In 1999 he won the category Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie, for the HBO film “The Rat Pack” – the funny part is that he almost didn’t attend the ceremony. He only changed his mind after his wife insisted that he go, saying “You’re going to win!”.
In those days, awards shows for the crafts were much simpler.
“It’s all a lot bigger now, more glitzy. There wasn’t any swag at the little theatre back in the 90s – you just sat in your seat for the four and half hours of the ceremony. At one awards ceremony I remember getting stuck sitting behind a post!”
Working on Ozark
With a career spanning nearly half a century and two coasts, Flip brings a phenomenal degree of experience to his role on the shooting crew. In Atlanta, Flip has found himself working on more television projects than any point in his past – and he has found that he enjoys it.
“Once I got into TV it was interesting, because I’ve rarely worked with a crew longer than a 40 to 60 day shoot,” explains Flip.
Of Jason Bateman, Ozark’s producer/director and main star, Flip says “Jason sets the tone. He doesn’t particularly like being around grumpy people – so I try to stay off the set because I can be grumpy.”
“The first shows I did here in Atlanta were low budget. It was hard to stay calm and enjoy my work, but I never gave up. I am always pushing the limits with the crew, Production, and Post about what I can do. It’s like I always say: I’m only as good as you’ll let me be.”
Fortunately, Bateman invests trust in his crew, allowing Flip to deliver high quality mixes to post-production. Bateman and his fellow actors do what they can to help ensure the sound department captures good audio, thus avoiding the drag of spending hours in a studio looping dialogue.
“Jason has stopped shots because of sound issues, just so he doesn’t have to go back and loop them. He will tell people to be quiet and he will consult with me if it’s something we can fix.”
Despite his claims of introversion and grouchiness, Flip is a softie and enjoys working as the shop steward because “…it gives me a great reason to talk to the other departments on set. To see how everyone is doing. I try to treat every department with care, to make sure they are heard.”
“On the set of Ozark everyone gets along. Everybody helps each other. I am constantly getting help from the key grip, the gaffer, people on the crew.”
The Production Sound Crew
Flip works with the same sound crew who helped him net last year’s Emmy nomination.
Boom operator Jared Watt has been working in the sound department for more than 15 years, beginning Ozark with the show’s original sound mixer, Steve Aaron. Jared is very attentive on set and his affable nature provides a good contrast to Flip’s more serious demeanor.
Akira Fukasawa joined the industry fresh out of college, apprenticing first under Michael Clark on The Walking Dead prior to joining the crew of Ozark as the Sound Utility. In addition to the technical skills that make him so indispensible to the sound department on Ozark, Akira is also a mixer.
The Post Sound Crew
Flip never fails to mention the post-production sound team when discussing his craft.
“Now, the people I’m up against are all very good mixers – they all have the ‘magic’ necessary to deliver great audio, but every good mixer needs a talented post team, because while Post can take a mediocre mix and make it good, they can take a good mix and make it ‘right’ – and I have had a very good post team for the past 4 years.”
The Art of Mixing
Mixers who began in the era of analog equipment learned a lesson that you often hear from masters of a craft: technology is no replacement for skill.
“The latest and greatest equipment doesn’t really make a difference, it’s what you do with it. I went to Africa for a shoot once and most of my gear was confiscated. All I had left was a shotgun mic and a mini-disc recorder. You could get maybe 4 or 5 minutes on a mini-disc before the time began to drift. But it worked for what we were doing. I recorded that entire project on mini-discs, and it sounded good.”
With nearly 50 years of sound mixing on his resume, Flip has a deep appreciation of the old joke about a customer asking for an itemization of a handyman’s bill – the punchline being that the cost of the tools and materials was minimal, the real expense was the handyman’s expertise – a lifetime of experience which allowed him to know “where to aim the hammer”.
If Flip had to boil his approach down it would be: “Don’t push it, work easy. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.
“[In the days before digital] you only had 1 or 2 tracks with a Nagra (a reel to reel tape recorder). You had to know how to mix back then. I come from that old school method of mixing, which means that Post likes what I give them because it means they don’t have to manipulate the tracks as much. As I mentioned earlier, Post can make poor recordings sound better. I know of mixers whose tracks have been saved by Post.
The people in Post have more and better instruments for correcting sound than a mixer out in the field. We don’t need to be out there tweaking or trying ‘fix’ each take – our goal is to match the quality of sound from take to take, throughout a scene, otherwise viewers are going to notice when the audio doesn’t match. If I am watching a movie and notice that the sound from the boom and the sound from a wireless mic are different it can really knock me out of the story – [in the case of Ozark] I give Post clean dialogue tracks and they embellish them.”
The Changing Face of Atlanta Crews
As a native New Yorker, Flip brings a different perspective to Atlanta’s filmmaking culture and the people who make up our crews.
“Yes, there has been more diversity in the business in Los Angeles, partly because of how much longer the industry has been there. Atlanta crews have become more diverse since I first arrived 6 years ago. I’m Latino, and I grew up in the Bronx, so my experience is somewhat different from the dynamic here in Atlanta. On set I deal with people simply as people, and while I may occasionally be perceived as ‘brusque’, that’s just me staying focused on the job.“
“There is a Latin attitude you have to understand – that attitude is that how you are on set is just as important as the job you do. When I worked on a show in Puerto Rico we weren’t just there for the job, not just the money – we were there for the people – it was about working together. There’s a creative spirit involved, and the reward you get from that is just as important as getting paid.”
Flip points out the importance of knowing when a project is a bad fit.
“Your attitude reflects the job you do. If you’re not enjoying it, don’t do it. When one person has a bad time, we all have a bad time. I’ve left projects that weren’t a good fit for me and my crew. At this point in my life I am able to say that I can choose the type of projects I take.”
Flip sums it all up with a wink, “I’m experienced enough to know where to aim the hammer.”