The credits of the recently released film “Lincoln” read like a who’s who of Hollywood-Daniel Day-Lewis, Steven Spielberg, Sally Fields, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, just to name a few.

There is one name listed under the Sound Department that puts Chattanooga one degree closer to the 16th president of the United States.

Cleveland native and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga graduate Dustin Cawood worked as the sound effects editor for the critically acclaimed drama. The professional works full time for George Lucas’ company Skywalker Sound, which is rustically headquartered on a ranch in Marin County, Calif.


At home visiting family for the holidays, Cawood spoke with about his career, working on “Lincoln” and creating the world through sound.

You are originally from Cleveland. How did you get from there to California?

I grew up in Cleveland area and went to Bradley Central High School. I then went to UTC and wound up in the Communication Department. From there, I did internships while I was still in school at Channel 9 doing audio. I worked for WRCB for a year and then came back to Channel 9. Then, I went to graduate school for film school at Florida State University.

One of my professors was Richard Portman. I guess you could say he was my sound guru. Between he and his father-they encompass film sound. His father, Clem Portman, worked on the original “King Kong.” Anyway, Richard thought highly enough of me to make a few phone calls, and right after graduation, I started working at Pixar.

I was doing story reel-type work. Before the animation work is done on a film, Pixar has a storyboard for each film, and they maintain a soundtrack for the board as if it was film. They can screen it every couple of months to see how the story is working.

“Cars” was the first film I worked on, and I wound up from that working on the early stages of “Up” and “WALL-E.” It was a great experience. From there, I would up at Skywalker [Sound] in 2004.

For someone who experiences sound in a movie only as an audience member, can you explain what you do to make what we eventually hear?


“WALL-E” from storyboard to post-production