Academy Award winner Tom Curley, BA ’01, knew coming to the University at Buffalo was the right choice for him shortly after transferring from a community college in upstate New York. Curley loves movies and he says he found the demanding, yet rewarding program he was looking for at UB.
“It was the passion of the professors and their dedication to the art of film that was so special,” says Curley, who with Craig Mann and Ben Wilkins won this year’s Academy Award for sound mixing in the film “Whiplash” starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. “Right away, I learned this was a place of serious academia and that helped me focus my career ambitions.”
Curley runs through his UB experiences with the enthusiasm of a presenter reading the nominees’ names on Oscar night, but like the eventual award winner, the name Tony Conrad — SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Media Study — stands out.
“He was definitely one of my favorite professors,” Curley says. “He’s whacky but in the best possible way. Tony made everything interesting and fun. He allowed us to explore the weird side of film and taught me so much more than I ever would have learned by watching more mainstream stuff.”
If Curley knew right away that UB was the right choice for him, he knew just as quickly that “Whiplash” was going to be something special.
As a production sound mixer, Curley is responsible for capturing all the audio on set, from the actors’ voices to ambient sound. But his association on this picture with Mann and Wilkins, who had post-production roles, was unique.
“Many times, post-production sound people haven’t even been hired while a film is being shot,” Curley says. “The foresight to have them there for pre-production was great.”