Interview with a post-production audio mixer

From left to right: Amy Iniguez and Nicole A. Fletcher

It’s Saturday evening and Nicole Fletcher is not quite finished yet. Just a bit more editing before she gives herself the rest of the night and Sunday off. Mind you, the 2009 Recording Arts alumna just put in a full week of sound editing and mixing work for Disney Television Animation. The self-professed audiophile admits that she can’t get enough of doing post-production audio work. Occasionally during the weekends, she also freelances on independent projects to expand her horizons and dabble in other aspects of post-audio. It’s that hunger to keep learning and her genuine joy of tinkering in audio that has made Fletcher an unquestioned alumna success story…complete with a Disney happy ending. But Fletcher’s journey wasn’t always so straightforward and storybook.

Inopportunely graduating just as the country was in the midst of the Great Recession, Fletcher found that job prospects in the audio industry were scant and took a calculated detour by leaving Los Angeles as well as the world of entertainment for a period to stabilize herself financially. All the while though, every action that Fletcher took was in service of an unalterable plan of returning to carve out a post-production audio career. Combining hard work with a natural talent for networking and a tiny sprinkle of good fortune, Nicole, who was four years removed from her previous stint in LA, deftly ninjaed her way back into the audio industry. She methodically built up her experience doing audio work mostly on reality shows and made-for-TV movies before landing the chance of a lifetime with Disney.

Fletcher has edited sound effects and dialogue for Disney’s hit animated series The Owl House, which has gained a lot of buzz for its groundbreaking LGBTQIA+ representation. Additionally, Fletcher sometimes freelances on the side as a re-recording mixer and sound editor for Christin Baker, director/producer and co-founder of Tello Films—a subscription streaming platform with a focus on queer women-themed content. The Career Development Department recently interviewed Fletcher to chronicle her unique journey and inspiring story.

Interview with Alumna Nicole Feltcher who works in Post-Audio for Disney

Can you tell us how you first decided to enroll at The Los Angeles Recording School? Did you have any previous background in audio?

Well, I grew up loving music and played piano, saxophone, and guitar. And I was really fascinated in scoring for film and how music can drive a movie. But I enjoyed the idea of production a lot more than playing and creating music, so I started looking into trade schools. Being an audio engineer was just my dream.

How did your interest start to shift from music to post-production audio?

Actually, it was a couple of classes that I took at school. I knew about post-production, but I thought about it more like video editing, so having those classes really opened my eyes to different aspects of audio post-production. In particular, there was this sound effects cutting class where we could replace the audio of this old TV show with any sound we wanted from the school sound library. I put the sound of a duck to a guy falling over and I just cracked up and was like “Well, this is it!”

Tell us about the period and how you made the hard decision to take a sabbatical from the industry.

Well, I began looking for work even before I graduated and actually got offered part-time work at an A/V company. But I wouldn’t have been able to afford to live in LA on that salary, so I moved to Las Vegas to get some experience bartending and lock in my associate degree. Once I had enough experience and knew I could get a bartending job out here to keep pursuing my dream, I moved back. I did have a rig at home, so I just kept trying to keep my audio skills sharp, but I mostly kept everything audio on hold which kind of broke my heart for a while. But you do what you have to. I was just trying to make rent at first.

That’s a lot of dedication and sacrifice to get back to your passion. Did you ever think about just giving up on audio during that period?

Not gonna lie—I don’t think I really had a plan B (laughs). But I knew what I wanted to do. And I was really lucky that I had really supportive parents.

So then how did you make the transition back to audio once you moved back to LA?

I was working as a bartender and luckily met a producer on the reality show Flipping Vegas who came into our restaurant, and we got to chatting.

That’s kind of ironic seeing as how you had just relocated from Vegas.

Actually, that’s what started the conversation because I was like “Oh, I lived out there!”  He mentioned this post house called Wild Woods that his crew worked with and said he could get me in touch with one of the sound supervisors there. Wild Woods hired me on as a night receptionist, and I worked my way up into their machine room. Being a night receptionist also meant that I had days free, and the editors were so nice and just let me watch them work and ask questions. And they had a bunch of old shows that I could practice editing on. Ideally, I wanted to get into mixing eventually and hopefully audio for animation because I had loved animation forever. The machine room experience from Wild Woods helped me get a job at a company called The Voice Co. that recorded foreign language dubs, and while I was there, I got to work on my first animated feature. But it was a small company and the work wasn’t super steady, so I worked for a while as a dialogue and effects editor for another company called Media City Sound before going back to Wild Woods, this time as a dialogue and effects editor.

Did going back to Wild Woods ever feel like kind of taking a step backwards because you had already worked at the company before?

Actually, if anything it felt like they let me take a leap forward because I told them that I had all these new skills and so they said “Great! Why don’t you show us what you can do?” and that let me skip over starting at an assistant editing position and begin working as a full-on editor.

How did you eventually make the full transition to post-audio for animation? That sounds like a tough leap to make.

It was because it’s even more of a niche field, and I hardly knew anybody who worked in animation. I wanted to learn as much as I could, so I did a lot of work for free – a lot of independent films and shorts – just to get more skills in other areas of audio that I didn’t get to work in full time. So, I did some sound effects and dialogue work for an independent film with a friend’s brother-in-law. Years later, he actually messaged me and told me that he was working for Disney and that a position opened up in their Television Animation division and asked if I wanted to apply for it. Of course, I said yes! I thought it would take me another ten years to even get to apply for anything there, so I just really lucked out. This is my dream job!

Even though Disney is your dream job, you also continue to freelance on the side—in particular, with the audio work that you have done for Christin Baker. How did you get involved with her and her projects?

It definitely wasn’t a straight line. A friend of mine mentioned a convention called Clexacon that was inspired by fans of this show called The 100. Since it was in Vegas and I still had friends out there, I bought tickets and started to realize that I had been thinking of doing a passion project for a minute, just because I’ve been so lucky to be stable with my work and wanted to work on a project that was LGBTQIA+ that didn’t necessarily have to have a budget for sound. I just got to networking at this convention and met some great people and did end up doing a passion project. I worked with the editor of that project a couple of times, and she got me in touch with Christin Baker, the co-founder of Tello, who gave me a post audio job on one of her films and actually asked me to be on another film that’s coming up. So, kind of a roundabout way of getting in touch with such a great company. Just a great, nerdy convention that I had so much fun at, that ended up turning into some amazing work that I am so proud to be on.

As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, did you feel a bit of a calling to become involved with a project that promoted inclusiveness and diversity specific to that community?

Yeah, I definitely was hoping to work on LGBTQIA+ projects because even though it’s so amazing that we are starting to get that kind content in general, along with actors, writers, producers, and directors from that community, sometimes these other departments such as production sound or the post-production team are all men or cisgender straight. It was such a nice experience to be able to work on something that represented something that I felt a part of.

In terms of your side projects, is there one that kind of stands out that you’re really excited about?

I did post audio for this short called The Bra Mitzvah with writer/director Stacy Jill Calvert and To-Enfro Productions about this sweet Jewish family where a young girl goes to get fitted for her first bra for her Bat Mitzvah and she’s accompanied by her lesbian mothers. It’s a cute, little family moment where the daughter does end up purchasing a bra, but at the bat mitzvah, she wears it under a suit instead of a dress. I thought it was such a wonderful piece to work on.

Speaking of family, I know that you just got engaged last year.

I did! January 11, 2020 – the day after Owl House’s first episode premiered, my fiancé asked me to marry her. It was a pretty great weekend!

Thank you so much for sharing your time and story for our Pride Month alumna spotlight!

I honestly just appreciate that The Los Angeles Film School is recognizing Pride Month and open to doing an article about an LGBTQIA+ individual. You know, it feels like Pride has been kind of on hold for the last couple of years. In my own personal experience, so much about Pride Month was being able to gather amongst like-minded individuals and celebrate being different in a place that you felt safe, and we haven’t been able to do that. And obviously, safety comes first, but I am really excited for that to come back when things open up. In the meantime, I’m just really flattered to be interviewed and it just means a lot that the school is involved in celebrating Pride in general.