Chris Moriana's Super Sonic Sounds
To create sounds for TV, an inspired Foley artist turns to paper clips, pasta and produce.
If you see a character on TV using a pen to jot something down on paper, chances are that pen sound was actually made with a paper clip.
That is, if Chris Moriana was the Foley artist, tasked with reproducing sounds in postproduction that were not provided by the sound editor. If the mixer can't hear the actual pen, Moriana explains, "I may unfold a paper clip and write with the end, because it scratches the paper. That way, you get something rubbing against the paper."
Other simulations might involve a fluttering feather for moth wings, ice cream cones for cracking eggs, dried lasagna for breaking objects and fruits and vegetables for squishy noises.
"We do all of the footsteps and then do props — anything from a train wreck, a car crash and blowing stuff up, to fine dining, where they're clinking silver goblets or champagne flutes," says Moriana, describing how he works with sonic partner Alyson Dee Moore. "As time has gone on, we find ourselves doing more and more detailed work that an editor can't cut. And everything that we do is tailor made."
As part of the team for HBO's Barry, Moriana has won two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Sound Editing, last year and in 2019. He's been nominated nine times, for such shows as Paramount+'s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds last year and for the franchise's Discovery and Picard.
Sounds for Star Trek are more subtle than for shows set in the present day, Moriana says. "Things are designed in a way that they're there and they're functional, but they're not going to be squeaky because that represents something old."
When it comes to footsteps, Moriana and Moore each take a character throughout an entire episode or film, adjusting for any deviations from humans' normal heel-toe stride. Experienced actors are easier to mimic, Moriana explains. "They tend not to have little nervous twitches, and they usually hit their mark. Newer actors tend to move around a lot. They're unpredictable."
Moriana comes by his sound affinity naturally; his late father was music supervisor Rocky Moriana, who launched his own company at the suggestion of longtime client Aaron Spelling. All three of Chris's brothers (he also has a sister) went into some aspect of industry sound or music; their late sibling, Jimmy, won two Emmys as a Foley artist.
With his other two brothers now retired or out of the business, "I'm the last one," Moriana says, "who's still pounding away."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #2, 2023.