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March 22, 2010

Bill Wistrom, Winner of Six Emmys as a Sound Editor, Dies

The acclaimed veteran of numerous classic films and four Star Trek series garnered 17 Emmy noms during a career spanning five decades.

Bill Wistrom, a sound editor best known for his work on the Star Trek spin-off series, and the winner of six Primetime Emmys over the course of a career that spanned more than 50 years, died March 10, 2010, in Santa Clarita, California. He was 74.

Wistrom began his association with the iconic science-fiction franchise in 1987, with the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He then worked on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, followed by Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise. Four of his six Emmy wins came for CBS’s Star Trek: The Next Generation — consecutively from 1988 to 1991.

His other two wins came in 1979, for the ABC telefilm Friendly Fire, and in 1982 for the ABC miniseries Inside the Third Reich. All told, he garnered 17 Emmy nominations for his career.

Long before his television success, Wistrom had made his mark in feature films, working with such legendary directors as Alfred Hitchcock, on Vertigo and To Catch a Thief, and Howard Hawks, on Hatari! and El Dorado.

He was born in Los Angeles on December 20, 1935, and developed a love for movies at a young ago. He got his start in 1953, when he was hired in the mailroom at Paramount Studios.

In 1954, he transferred to a position in Paramount’s film shipping department. During slow periods, he would walk the studio lot, and took an interest in the editing process. The following year he became an apprentice on the Humphrey Bogart film The Desperate Hours, directed by William Wyler, and on Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner and Edward G. Robinson.

In 1955 he became a member of the Motion Picture Film Editors (now MPEG), and numerous movies followed, including The Rainmaker, Funny Face and The Nutty Professor.

In 1967 he segued into television with the popular western series The High Chaparral. He went onto work on numerous other series, including Bonanza and The Waltons, while continuing to keep a hand in features with productions such as Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and The Wind and the Lion.

In 1975 he joined Glen Glenn Sound, which was establishing the first all-electronic sound editing system and wanted to draw on his expertise. From that point onward, he worked primarily in television, with credits that included Westside Medical, Kojak, Columbo and Falcon Crest, as well as many other series, miniseries and made-for-TV movies. His Emmy for Friendly Fire made it the first electronically edited show to win the sound Emmy.

During that time, Wistrom returned to his first employer, Paramount, to do some temporary work on the feature films Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

While continuing to work for Glen Glenn, Wistrom was a key force in the creation of an all-digital sound editorial system at the renowned sound company. In 1984, he, Jim Wolvington and Bill Thiederman supervised director Chris Cain’s Where the River Runs Black, the first all-digital sound job. Dolby Labs still uses it to demonstrate its first stereo optical track taken from a digital source.

In 1987 he returned to Paramount yet again to join the team launching Star Trek: The Next Generation. The project led to a long association with the Star Trek franchise, and some of Wistrom’s most fulfilling years in the business.

In 2005, following the fourth and final season of Star Trek: Enterprise, he retired.

In addition to a long association with the Motion Picture Sound Editors, Wistrom was an active member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose involvement included eervice on the organization’s board of governors.

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