In order to evolve, one needs to continually learn while utilizing the acquired skills and talent. For sound designer Xiao Hou, this unexpectedly occurred while working on the documentary series Behind the Spotlight. The production displays interviews with many prominent Americans (Behind the Spotlight is created primarily for the Chinese viewing audience), many of whom are iconic names from Hollywood. Serving as sound designer for any production requires great attention and detail to every sonic aspect. A benevolent by-product of working on the show was repeatedly hearing the wisdom conveyed by some of the most successful names in the industry who might not be household names to most of us. As someone who works behind the scenes himself, Hou heeded the words and career insight of these leaders in their fields. Simultaneously, his work delivered the same information to others in an expert fashion. Although Behind the Spotlight was primarily created for a Chinese viewing audience (airing on CCTV6, iQIYI and Tencent Video), anyone pursuing a vocation in the creative arts will find these interviews informative and inspiring. Each episode provides an in-depth profile of Hollywood's masters in a documentary style featuring one-on-one interviews.
Because the show is mostly interview based, you wouldn’t expect the process to be stressful…and you’d be incorrect in your assumption. Hollywood industry professionals such as producer Sidney Ganis (twice a Primetime Emmy Award Winner), Grammy Award Winning music producer Randy Spendlove, Oscar and Primetime Emmy Award winning producer Mark Johnson, and many others were featured. When their schedules finally allowed time for an interview, selecting the ideal microphone and its placement required immediate assessment and decisiveness by Hou. By the time he’d gotten to postproduction mixing, it’s too late to mask any major mistakes; meaning that a combination of experience and instinct is at the heart of this kind of work. As a sound mixer or sound designer on such productions as the Daytime Emmy Award Winning Larry King Now, the web- series SusaneLand (official selection of the New York TV Film Festival and appearing at Sundance 2018), Netflix’s Win It All, Lionsgate’s Compadres, and others, Xiao has more than a few acclaimed projects populating his professional resume. Behind the Spotlight allowed yet another chance to keep his skill set sharp in a different format.
Featured on the program were artists like composer Brian Tyler (known for his work on blockbusters like 2013’s Oscar nominated Iron Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron -WWG of nearly $1.5 Billion, and the twice Golden Globe Nominated Crazy Rich Asians), Hollywood makeup artist Thomas Nellen (seven time Oscar Nominated film Seabiscuit and True Grit-recipient of ten Oscar nominations). Of course, as a professional in the television and film industry, many of the episodes of Behind the Spotlight held a special point of interest for Hou; they featured Chinese talent who had found a receptive audience and peers in Hollywood. American born Chinese composer Nathan Wang’s career has included many US and Chinese films. When the 2008 Olympics were hosted in Beijing, it was Nathan who wrote the music for the epic opening ceremony.
It’s not always so that the story of a project resonates so loudly with the crew working on it but in this case, it was decidedly so. Xiao Hou confirms, “The people we interviewed are extremely successful in the film industry and I’m glad I could be part of this project to listen to their stories. Besides each person’s unique background, I think the element they have in common is that they are team players. This is an industry about skills and artistry but beyond having very exceptional technical skills, it’s a necessity to master human skills as well. Being humble and willing to learn from others, not speaking ill of others, being confident in front of others, being sociable, etc.; all these traits will help an individual to achieve more than the person who can only take care of his or her own craft.”