Christopher Newman

Sound in films: the invisible craft

Christopher Newman is a respected American sound mixer. He has been nominated for  Oscar eight times with three wins - for The Exorcist (1973), Amadeus (1984), and The English Patient (1996). He also received eight BAFTA Awards nominations and he won the award two times, for Fame (1980) and Amadeus. He teaches sound production at the School of Visual Arts in New York. VFF 2015 will host his special all-day lecture. 

„My philosophy is to learn by doing…by making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes…to learn to problem solve. I don’t believe in enabling students…when students graduate, their teachers will not be around to help solve problems. Students must be prepared to do their own problem solving, to be on their own and to grow. “

Christopher Newman studied at  MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), but very soon he realized that it was not a good choice. When he was twenty he made a bold decision that to become a sound mixer.  He started his carrier in the 1960’s – at first, he worked on industrials, commercials and documentaries. He also worked for NBC during the war in Southeast Asia and Vietnam in 1966.

„Always be thinking. Always be conceptualizing. Trust no one myself included. Assume nothing. Double check the equipment endlessly. Always have fresh batteries as well as fresh underwear.”



Christopher Newman did his first feature Medium Cool in 1968. After that, he made sound for more than 85 feature films including The French Connection (1971), Godfather (1972), Wall Street (1987), Silence of the Lambs (1991),or Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007).

His first Academy Award was for the Exorcist in 1973. His work as a sound recordist with audio expert Ken Nordine began six months before the shooting itself in order to find the perfect „demon voice“  for  the possessed child Regan.  After  millions of hours of trying,  director William Friedkin himself found his „demon voice“ – it belongs to Mercedes McCambridge, radio and film actress. 

Newman has been doing sound on films for more than 50 years. During all these years he has worked with many different types of sound recording and mixing. The first film in which he solely used hard drive recording was Jonathan Demme’s remake of The Manchurian Candidate (2004). The last film he has worked on was What Happens in Vegas (2008). After some problems during the shooting of this film Newmann said:  “I don’t know what happened, but it was probably God telling me time to stop working.”

“Look, all this business about making movies, working on movies, all of it boils down to problem solving. We are constantly problem solving. One of the big differences I notice between movie making now and earlier on is that we had a hell of a lot more fun back then!”

In 2013, Cinema Audio Society honored Christopher Newman with its highest accolade Career Achievement Award at the 49th Annual CAS Awards.


VFF 2015 will also provide an exclusive three-day workshop with Christopher Newman Sound in films: the invisible craft, only for students from partner schools.