In Highlight Reel, Awards Insider speaks with some of this year’s most notable Emmy nominees about their entire body of nominated work. In this entry, we speak with Lucasfilm sound editor Matthew Wood, an Emmy winner up for two more action-packed efforts this year.
Before he was an Emmy nominee—let alone an Emmy winner, as he is now—Matthew Wood was already a multi-Oscar-nominated sound editor: for a haunting character study in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, for an animated classic in Pixar’s WALL-E, and most famously, for helping resurrect the Star Wars cinematic franchise with The Force Awakens. That latter recognition felt especially appropriate, as Wood has helmed sound teams under the Skywalker Sound banner for over two decades now—building on the iconic cues and clangs of past classics while also introducing new ones.
But as TV has expanded, so too has Wood’s résumé—he and frequent sound-design partner David Acord have worked on everything from animated Star Wars series to Disney+’s Lucasfilm blockbusters to the streamer’s flagship MCU hits. Chances are, if you’ve got a preferred small-screen blockbuster right now, he’s the guy behind its epic soundscape.
Star Wars: Rebels (2018, Outstanding Sound Editing for a Half-Hour Comedy or Drama Series and Animation, nomination)
Wood had been working on Star Wars projects for several years by the time this animated series hit in 2014. But Lucasfilm’s sale to Disney shifted the landscape— and kickstarted Wood’s run of Emmy nominations.
Our crew had just done six or so seasons of Clone Wars with George Lucas, and then when we sold the company [to Disney], we switched gears and we were going to attempt a new show in a different timeline called Rebels—it was going to be with Dave Filoni, and we grabbed Bonnie Wild to be our editor/mixer on that show. It was her first larger project at Skywalker. We started forging a relationship with Bonnie, myself, and David Acord, my co-supervisor/designer on that show; it was just the right kind of crew. My team and I have worked on the Star Wars video games and on the VR experiences, the movies and the live action series—and now animated as well..
Animation is always that thing where anything can happen. Rebels was interesting for us because it was a sort of reboot: a new story, new characters, and a new arc set between before New Hope and after the Clone War. It was a place that had been unexplored at that point. You’re always creating droids and creatures and various new ships and environments and ambiances, and different locations. Star Wars is known for all those things, and it really is showcased in animation. You can jump from different places really quickly and it doesn’t take an enormous budget to show the wide variety of places and experiences to go.
Whenever there are characters that need to have some sort of droid component or something that’s creature-related, myself and David Acord, and sometimes Bonnie, would voice a lot of those things for the show. We’re all trained actors, and so that’s part of the fun experience for us—but it’s working that part of your brain in sound design, where the tech that I’m using to use sound to do sound design is the same I’ll use to record myself. You’ll use your own voice as a template for creating a new creature or droid.
The Mandalorian (2020, Outstanding Sound Editing for a Half-Hour Comedy or Drama Series and Animation, Win; 2021, Outstanding Sound Editing for a One-Hour Comedy or Drama Series, Nomination)
Enter the Disney+ Star Wars universe: Wood teamed up with creator Jon Favreau and a hugely motivated team to make a blockbuster episodic series on the scale of the iconic films. Wood and his team won the Emmy for the series pilot, and were nominated again for a season 2 episode written and directed by Rebels’ Filoni.