Originally from Jakarta, Indonesia, Zaini has won both audiences and critics over around the world with his innate talent and inherent skill in sound. Last year, he took audiences back in time with his work on the film The Ballerina, Her Shoemaker & His Apprentice. After premiering at the SHORT to the Point Film Festival in Romania where it won the award for Best Young Director, it then received nominations at LA Shorts Fest, Maryland International Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, and Ouchy Film Festival in Switzerland, winning The Grand Jury Award and Best College Film at The Next Generation Filmmaker Film Festival. It is to be shown at even more film festivals later this year.
“Very few things can be as satisfying as knowing that the work you’ve fully committed to gets so much affirming praise. I felt fortunate to be a part of this project,” said Zaini.
None of this would have been possible without Zaini, as he was responsible for both production and post-production sound aspects, meaning he not only recorded the sound on set, but also did the sound design, transporting audiences to another time and place. The film tells the story of George Arkwright in Hackney, England during 1936. George is a young man down on his luck, who must navigate the refined world of ballet pointe shoe making and redeem his value as the apprentice under the shadow of Mr. David Traynor, a talented but stuffy pointe shoemaker. George's imagination turns into a reality when he becomes smitten with the Ballerinas the shoes are built for, one named Sylvia particularly, and soon learns this magical and distant world is not beyond the reach of affliction.
“A lot of the design has to do with the humdrum life he originated from to this magical world of ballet. This means creating the contrasts between the enticing, glamorous world and the harsh reality behind that world. In addition to that, the story takes place in 1936 Hackney, England. During production process, I had to make sure to avoid any sounds that were not period appropriate, such as modern-day traffic, airplanes, and other environmental audio sources,” Zaini described.
According to Zaini, capturing the nuances of the ballerina was also crucial to get accurate representation and feel of professional ballet dancing. During the post-production stage, he focused largely on dialogue editing and foley. These two aspects constructed the feel of the character being from a period long ago. The texture of the costumes and props they used needed to feel authentic, and he recreated them in the recording studio. Adding those layers of audio cues helped sell the story’s believability that it took place in 1930s England.
“The story itself is unique. Instead of focusing on the ballet dancing, this movie delves into the mostly unknown world of pointe-shoemaking. How often do you see stories revolving around that? There is a certain undeniable charm and intrigue in this subject. A pointe-shoemaker is a true artist in his/her own right, overseeing the customizing of the pointe shoe to very detailed specifics according to the anatomy of each individual ballerina’s feet. Be it the shank or the vamp, they all matter in determining the effectiveness of the design for a seemingly effortless dance performance. I wanted to learn about this secret,” said Zaini.
The entire process felt very immersive for Zaini, and it was therefore very enjoyable. Getting to do the sound for both the production and post-production allowed him to make vital decisions throughout the entire process, capturing sound that he would later edit. This created a familiarity that allowed for him to achieve a flawless sound.
“Randolph is an extremely detail-oriented person. He is fast and can guarantee high quality of sound work, both on set and in post-production. His professionalism and talent really put me at ease as a director. He is extremely talented and intuitive when it comes to using sound effects and design to help tell a good story,” said Director Eva Ye. “Randolph was sensitive to sound at an early age. He likes to understand the world with his ear, and I happen to that know he usually listens to radio or music at a very low level to protect his hearing. Such great habits and instinct enable him to know more about how the world sounds than regular people.”
Zaini’s commitment to his craft is evident in everything he does. There was a time on the set of the film’s shooting location near the main street when cars were coming by every few minutes, which would have affected the recording of the dialogue. Zaini not only made smart and quick decisions on set to minimize such impact, but also methodically planned the dialogue and sound effects that could be picked up during the post-production process to save time. He also managed to finish the entire post sound editing and mixing process within a week, which is usually impossible for a production of this scale, as sound editing alone can take months. He single-handedly put together a small team to ensure everything was done in a timely manner with the highest quality guaranteed.
“Our film was received extremely well on premiere day and many occasions afterwards, and to say that Randolph’s work brought the audience to a 1930s London, where the story is set, is highly fitting. Randolph’s work has brought life to the meticulously choreographed shots of ballet shoemaking. The edited sound effects of hammering, sewing, gluing, etc. have given life to this prestigious process, which is the core of this film. Audiences can immerse themselves in this unfamiliar yet intriguing world of art and craftsmanship. He is professional, strong and a great collaborator. His work is precise and of very high quality,” Ye continued.
Ye approached Zaini to be a part of her film, knowing his talent through his other works, such as the films Paper Tiger and Mosquito: The Bite of Passage. She wanted the best for The Ballerina, Her Shoemaker & His Apprentice, and with Zaini, the best is what she got.
“Aside from the exciting learning process dealing with a period piece, it was a blast working with the incredibly talented team. Though the schedule could be grueling, with some overnight shoots, the atmosphere surrounding the production was always enjoyable and drama-free. It was a fun learning experience that lead to excellent results in sound,” Zaini concluded.