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BAFTA honours re-recording mixer Ray Merrin with special award

Ray Merrin

Story by Jack Foley

THE British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has honoured legendary re-recording mixer Ray Merrin with a BAFTA Special Award for his outstanding contribution to sound design.

The Special Award was presented to Ray Merrin’s wife, Hazel, at a BAFTA Tribute event at BAFTA 195 Piccadilly in London on Sunday, January 28, 2018.

The event had been scheduled prior to Ray Merrin’s death on Monday, January 15, and continued as planned at the request of his family.

Marc Samuelson, Chair of BAFTA’s Film Committee, commented: “Ray Merrin’s contribution to film is truly outstanding. Through his unstinting dedication to his craft, he produced sound mixes for many of the finest and most memorable films from the past 50 years. We’re honoured to pay tribute to his career through this Special Award.”

At the event, hosted by film journalist and writer Ian Haydn Smith, the audience revisited some of Merrin’s most well-known work, and heard from a selection of his most esteemed collaborators including directors, producers and fellow crew members.

Amongst the industry figures who gave tribute to Merrin were: Sir Ridley Scott, Barbra Streisand, Sir Alan Parker, Lord David Puttnam and Walter Murch.

BAFTA hosts a small number of Tribute events each year to recognise major figures in the film, games and television industries who have made a significant contribution to the moving arts and demonstrated excellence in their field.

In recent years, BAFTA has paid tribute to writer-producer Henry Normal, editor Terry Rawlings, journalist and broadcaster Peter Taylor OBE, factual filmmaker Roger Graef, broadcaster Delia Smith, costume designer Phyllis Dalton, production designer Sir Ken Adam, producer Betty Willingale, cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, animator Ray Harryhausen and director Nicolas Roeg.

Merrin’s career in film spanned five decades, during which time he brought sound to many of the most celebrated films in cinema history.

In 1953, when he was 15 years old, Merrin started working as a lighting operator at a cinema and variety theatre in St. Leonards-on-Sea.

In 1959, Merrin secured a job in the re-recording room at Elstree Film Studios in Borehamwood, following his national service in the RAF, during which time he became the chief projectionist of the sole cinema at his base in Aden. After a five year apprenticeship at Elstree, he was appointed as re-recording mixer, working with Len Shilton and Eddie Haben, who had given Merrin his first job a decade earlier.

Merrin worked at Elstree for 25 years, and during this time he helped bring state-of-the art sound to countless box office successes and award-winning films, as well as popular TV series such as Danger Man, The Prisoner, The Saint and The Avengers.

It was on the latter two shows that Ray began his creative partnership with Bill Rowe. Amongst the many acclaimed films they worked on together were A Clockwork Orange (1971), Tommy (1975), Midnight Express (1978), The Killing Fields (1984), The Mission (1986), The Last Emperor (1987) and Memphis Belle (1990).

It was on Tommy (1975) and then Watership Down (1978) that Ray Merrin began working with Terry Rawlings, who had moved from sound to a successful career as an editor. Their collaboration resulted in a lifelong friendship, and in 2014 Merrin presented Rawlings with his own BAFTA Special Award.

From Elstree, Merrin was invited by Ridley Scott to become the re-recording mixer at Shepperton. His work there saw him receive four BAFTA nominations, for Hilary and Jackie and Little Voice (both 1998), Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002).

It was also during this time that he embarked on another creatively rich collaboration, with Danny Boyle. He remained at Shepperton until he retired in 2003.

Ray Merrin’s Special Award was agreed by BAFTA’s Film Committee in October 2017.

Selected Filmography:

2004 The Blue Butterfly
2003 Johnny English
2002 The Hours
2002 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
2002 28 Days Later…
2002 The Count of Monte Cristo
2001 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
2001 Strictly Sinatra
2001 Bridget Jones’s Diary
2000 Greenfingers
2000 The Beach
1999 Mansfield Park
1999 eXistenZ
1998 Hilary and Jackie
1998 Little Voice
1997 G.I. Jane
1996 Brassed Off
1996 When Saturday Comes
1996 Trainspotting
1995 The Neon Bible
1994 Shallow Grave
1994 Tom & Viv
1994 Being Human 
1993 The Baby of Mâcon 
1992 City of Joy 
1990 Memphis Belle
1990 Everybody Wins
1989 Batman 
1988 The Land Before Time
1988 The Lair of the White Worm 
1987 The Last Emperor 
1986 An American Tail
1986 The Mission 
1986 Clockwise
1986 F/X 
1985 Return to Oz 
1984 Birdy 
1984 The Killing Fields 
1983 Yentl 
1983 Never Say Never Again 
1983 Krull 
1983 The Hunger 
1983 Local Hero 
1982 The Dark Crystal 
1981 Chariots of Fire 
1981 The French Lieutenant’s Woman 
1981 The Great Muppet Caper 
1980 The Shining 
1979 Alien 
1979 Quadrophenia 
1978 Watership Down 
1978 Midnight Express 
1977 Cross of Iron 
1977 Jabberwocky 
1974 Stardust 
1974 Murder on the Orient Express
1975 Barry Lyndon 
1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show 
1975 Tommy 
1971 A Clockwork Orange 
1970 The Railway Children
1968 The Birthday Party 
1968 The Devil Rides Out 
1965 The Brigand of Kandahar (uncredited)