In late May, while Matt Telsey was celebrating his recent graduation from CU Denver, he received a phone call that changed his summer plans. Instead of touring with his bluegrass ensemble, Telsey learned he had been awarded a paid internship from the Television Academy Foundation which would send him to NBCUniversal. “The timing couldn’t have been better,” he said. “When I got that phone call, I was excited and a little overwhelmed, but life suddenly felt very ‘real.’”
From musician to composer to editor
Telsey had a few weeks to spare before he began his internship in post-production audio, so he passed the time with his first love: playing piano. It was his desire to compose music that initially attracted him to the Recording Arts emphasis in the College of Arts & Media (CAM), and once enrolled, he became interested in composing for film and television. In the post-production classes taught by two of his mentors, Leslie Gaston-Bird and David Bondelevitch, he realized he could combine his love of music with his love of movies through sound editing.
Professor Bondelevitch told Telsey about the NBC internship, gave him guidance about applying, and encouraged him to be persistent and meet the deadlines. “Bondelevitch taught me how to break into the industry,” Telsey said. “Whereas from Professor Gaston, I learned how much fun editing could be. She inspired creativity in her students.”
The collaboration and excitement of his sound editing classes enticed him to consider editing as a career path. While working with students from the Digital Animation Center on a student film, Telsey had to respond to multiple animation edits and work against the clock down to the last minute, known as “picture lock” in the business. “The work was hard, but exciting,” Telsey said. “In those classes, I learned a new way to ‘compose.’ Editing is telling a story through sound.”
Inspiration from an alumnus
It was a trip to a television studio to visit another mentor, Tim Kimmel, on the set of Game of Thrones that finally convinced Telsey that sound editing, rather than composing, was his career path of choice. Kimmel, a CU Denver alumnus who graduated in 1998 from CAM, had previously visited one of Telsey’s post-production classes to discuss with the students his job as a supervising sound editor and his Emmy-award winning work. Telsey and Kimmel kept in touch via email, and during his senior-year spring break, Telsey flew to Los Angeles to visit the mixing stage of the show. “It was serious business,” Telsey said. “I had to sign a nondisclosure agreement in order to be on the stage, and it was a great networking opportunity.”
Internship at NBCUniversal
The combination of inspiration and perspiration that Telsey learned from his mentors came in handy in Los Angeles. A typical morning had him shadowing sound editors on the dubbing stage of the television show Mr. Robot, observing and asking questions as they mixed and added sounds. Afternoons were spent on a large-scale project; over the course of the internship, Telsey was responsible for recreating the complete set of sounds—dialogue, special effects and mixing—for a scene from the television show Grim, as well as presenting it to the department heads upon completion.
“Essentially, the animation films that I that I edited in Professor Bondelevitch’s class prepared me for my internship,” Telsey said. “But being at NBCUniversal took it to the next level. When adding ambient sounds into a scene, for example, I could knock on the foley artist’s door and ask questions about a decision they would make.”
Telsey is proud of the magnitude and professionalism of the projects he worked on during his internship, but he is also excited about the connections he made. “People went out of their way to include me and teach me,” he said. “I got a taste of what it felt like to be part of a team that is building small things to make one big thing.”
New summer plans
Although Telsey’s original summer plans to tour with his bluegrass ensemble were postponed indefinitely, it may have been a worthwhile trade-off. The contacts he made during his internship have led to multiple job interviews. “L.A. is where the work is,” he said. Although he’ll miss being in a band, Los Angeles offers opportunities for work in composing and sound editing, and Telsey knows that’s where he should be.