Feature Interview

Jonas Thaler
SrVP Post Production, Anschutz Film Group/Walden Media 2004-2013

Jonas Thaler is a post production supervisor with a career in film and TV starting with VFX editorial on “Empire Strikes Back” and music editorial on “Amadeus”. After four years in New Zealand as New Line Cinema’s post production supervisor on the “Lord of The Rings” trilogy, he joined Walden Media as post supervisor on “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”.  He then became SrVP Post Production for the Anschutz Film Group/Walden Media. In addition, he served as post production supervisor on “The Book of Life” for Fox, “Jungle Book” for Disney and “Ghost in the Shell” for Paramount.

Couch Critic: Hi Jonas it’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to chat. How are things?

Jonas: It’s all good in the hood, although every time I turn around it’s a bit of a new hood.

CC:  I’m so happy to be able to do this interview with you for the Couch Critic Newsletter. We’ve been featuring articles and interviews with some of the top TV and Film folks around the country. The range of projects you’ve worked on is truly amazing. I remember back when we were roommates you were involved in visual effects editing on “Empire Strikes Back” for Lucas. Next thing I know you’re on the music editorial team on “Amadeus”, then it’s off to New Zealand for 3 years as Post Production Supervisor for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. You must have some amazing stories to tell. If we can I would like to focus today on the time you spent in New Zealand. How does one prepare for such a monumental task? It seems overwhelming.

Jonas:  I love focusing on that period of my life!  It was bittersweet, getting to work with that team on that seminal set of projects, being away from home for four years, which took in 9/11.   I had five days to get ready to move to New Zealand.  The way I prepared was by having rush-job flight cases made for my accordions, and reading the Cliff Notes for Lord of the Rings on the plane.  It was an adventure, and I knew what I was doing in the world of film finishing.  What nobody told me, because nobody knew, is that the people were soon going to be making films entirely on powerful computers.  That was basically the adventure for me and everyone else as we paved the way for Hollywood.

CC: That’s interesting. Do you think one of the reasons the studio asked you to come in on this project was the work you did as music supervisor on the brilliant “Amadeus”? The musical score of LOTR is so crucial to the film. Observing how Howard Shore put together the thematic content of the sound track must have been fascinating. Was there ever a time when keeping track of the thousands of music cues, edits, mixes, re-writes, etc. just seemed impossible.

Jonas:  I was (and am still) completely in awe of Mark Willsher and his colleague Nigel Scott.  At the time Mark was like an über-music editor, and a composer in his own right.  Interestingly, at least to me, I used to love hearing Howard Shore’s really avant-garde electronic music (to use the closest descriptor) on the experimental show that used to air on NPR late at night.  He used samples of human voices as musical instruments.  I think he pioneered that and it was so beautiful.  I was overjoyed that he was the choice for the trilogy.  The scoring was done in London, and I only went to one session, but I did get to experience Mr. Shore recording amazing temp cues with the NZ Symphony.  And the powerful NZ Maori Choir (of Wellington I think) was such an important element in the film.  But having said all of that, I was only tangentially involved in the music. 

CC: When you think back on your incredible body of work, can you think of one thing that you would say you’re the most proud of?  Either personally or professionally.

Jonas:  My proudest achievement, which of course was only fractionally mine, was being head of post at Walden.  It happened at a time when everything was changing from film to digital, from video recording to file-based image capture, the explosion of metadata, increases in data loads and resolutions, etc.  My visionary boss, Douglas Jones, allowed and encouraged us to strive to be the first ones to figure out a whole slew of solutions, many of which are the basis of how movies are made today.  We were the customer, spending the budget of our films wisely and innovatively, and people with new ideas were constantly beating a path to our door.  And because we were small, we were able to make quick decisions without a whole studio hierarchy to worry about.

CC: Thank you so much for enlightening our readers about what it’s like to work on some the most iconic movies in modern film history. Good luck with your next project.

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