Vale Craig Carter, consummate sound designer

Craig Carter.

Craig Carter. 

One of Australia’s most respected sound designers, Craig Carter, has died in Melbourne.

The multiple AFI award winner had a heart attack last Friday, aged 60. The sound designer, editor, and recordist worked on more than 100 productions in a career spanning 34 years. 

He was working with producer Tait Brady on Clayton Jacobson’s film Sibling Rivalry, now three weeks into production. 

Brady, who first collaborated with Carter on Craig Monahan’s Healing, told IF: “It’s incredibly sad.  Craig was such a great guy, gentle, thoughtful, so good natured and generous. A perfectionist who always went the extra mile and a very smart, sensitive sound designer who was also a musician and had a great musical ear, which fed into his work.”

One of his last projects, PACmen, Luke Walker’s documentary on the inside workings of the controversial Political Action Committees which raise millions to support US political candidates and causes, will have its Australian premiere at the Sydney Film Festival.

Carter started in the sound business at the ABC, working on evening current affairs shows. Among his earliest credits was sound effects editor on George Miller’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, dialogue editor on Peter Faiman’s Crocodile Dundee, sound editor on Nadia Tass’ Malcolm and Rikky and Pete and supervising sound editor on Fred Schepisi’s A Cry in the Dark

He won AFI awards for best sound (shared with co-collaborators) for Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Lighthorsemen, Ground Zero and Malcolm.

“Craig, like so many of his generation, travelled a technological path starting on mono 16mm, moving up to 35mm mono, then 35mm stereo, the introduction of 24 track 2 inch machines, the arrival of Digital DAT recordings from set, the first generation of digital multi-tracks on videotape formats and then the arrival of the various digital samplers and digital workstations,” said his long-time friend and colleague, Music and Effects founder Doron Kipen.

“As the technological opportunities arrived Craig's creativity was ready to fill every potential that the new ways of working offered.  He recorded his own sound for whatever he needed for a project but I think his trip to record the apes in Rwanda was a job that was really dear to him.

“Craig just wanted to work. With the evolution of new work practices and people working often in isolation at home he did sometimes feel things were not boding well for the industry long term. I regret that we have not had the chance to bottle a little bit of the essence of CC to drip into the ears of would- be sound workers of the future to instil in them the understanding of the unique nature of sound for film.

“I think Craig's passing, way too soon, should be a wake up to everybody in the industry that there is a break in continuity coming and story might just get badly scrambled in the process.”

Director-producer Robert Connolly, who worked with Carter on Barracuda and The Slap, told IF: “He had an exceptional talent as a sound designer and always shared with great enthusiasm the adventure each project presented us. But my fondest conversations with Craig were actually about a million other things, literature particularly, travel, politics, being a father.”

Connolly, who is in Casablanca directing Deep State,  Fox Networks Group’s eight-part espionage thriller starring Mark Strong, added, “He brought a renaissance man philosophy to his work, making it fun to be in his company on each project.”

Director Matthew Saville collaborated with Carter on the miniseries Cloudstreet.  “I will always remember those 3am ADR sessions Skyping London-based cast during post on Cloudstreet,” he posted on Facebook.

He recalled Carter being silly, tired and adolescent and quoting lines of dialogue from the 1987 British black comedy classic Withnail and I between takes, much to the confusion and chagrin of all those at the other end.

Saville ended his tribute with a quote from Richard E Grant’s Montague Withnail: "The sky is beginning to bruise, and we shall be forced… to CAMP.”

Nadia Tass told IF: “We were very young when we began on Malcolm in 1986. Craig’s creativity and talent in sound design was like a beacon of light, supported by his profound knowledge of literature, history and music. 

“I will miss him terribly, both as my wonderful close friend and the brilliant sound designer that he was.”

Tony Ayres, who worked with Carter on the feature Cut Snake and the series Glitch, said from London: "Craig was a dear friend, and incredible talent but most of all, a good man. I'm still reeling from the news of his death.  He leaves an incredible legacy of both work and work ethic. More than anyone I knew, he was a perfectionist who went above and beyond to make the work as good as it could be.  We are all poorer for him leaving this world.”

Film Victoria CEO Jenni Tosi spoke for many when she said, “Craig's passing is a huge loss to our industry. He was a brilliant sound designer, as his extensive credits show, and who had so much more to give. He will be very much missed by our film and TV community. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this very sad time.”

Carter is survived by his wife Fiona, daughters Elisa and Charlotte and son Matthew.

  1. My sincerest love and thoughts to Fiona, Elisa, Charlotte, Matthew and all of Craig’s Family.
    I can only imagine how deep your grief. I don’t think Craig ever new how many lives he touched and I’m blessed to have met and known him. Craig was a beautiful soul and now the world seems a little darker, a little sadder for his passing. Always loved, always remembered.
    X sar

  2. I helped Craig transition from his legacy Fairlight system sound design library to a new protocols rig.

    In doing so I had the chance to closely examine the work of a master craftsman.
    Out of the context of the film and away from the pressures of deadline.
    The soundscapes he could evoke were truly remarkable and his sources were wonderful.

    The bone chill evoked by his recordings of Shepherds Bush housing commission flats stairwell; the sussurus of voices from a marble mortuary in Italy; relentless heat expressed through sighing wind and singing telephone wires, Craig sitting in a tinny a kilometer off from the Geelong refinery with 4 schoeps on a rig water distant machinery and fire; two men stand near an idling tank in the mountains of Pakistan the wind pulling at their clothes – their mouths move but there is only the evocative silences of Craig’s atmos – the dialog stems not part of the library.

    Craig was a delight and an inspiration.

  3. Craig in his beautiful backyard sound studio, with floor to ceiling books, was always quick to lend a inspiration from his library, or a transcendent riff on his guitar, or a plate of warming pasta, or a poetic flash of brilliance in the late late hours we worked together. A generous host, a beautiful father, a kind and gentle friend, a visionary collaborator. He allowed lunacy to be valid and welcomed outliers into his world, a place of horizons far broader than our little films. He treated our work as a stepping stone to the infinite possibilities of ideas and stories and heart. Deep-felt condolences and love to Fiona, Elisa, Charlotte and Matthew.

  4. My fondest memory of Craig was him sitting down on a swampy track deep in the Congo Jungle, applying gaffa tape to his boots to keep them from totally disintegrating. We had spent weeks in Africa and would later spend weeks in Indonesia amongst all the great apes, with nothing between him and them other than his sennheiser microphone. But the great apes are even gentler than Craig and that is saying a lot, and none of us ever felt threatened.
    The project we were working on has disappeared without trace but I cherish this one and only chance I had to work with him. And understand how devastating his loss must be to those who have known him far longer.

  5. Craig was a friend of my youth, maybe the only firm and constant friend I’ve ever had, although we followed different paths.

    I knew him and his family in their home in Carrum, when I think he was still in high school. So far back there are only flashes of memory. We were both guitar players, and even though I had been playing for years I could not keep up with him. He was a butterfly, a hummingbird on his guitar, precise and fluent, and I felt like a lumbering elephant.

    He was there in the good times and the bad, and even the very worst times. I didn’t see enough of him through the years, and now I’ll see no more. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This was not in my script. There’s a big, aching hole in the world. I really miss him.

    My deepest sympathies to Fiona, Matty, Elisa and Charlotte.

  6. Vale Craig – I think that when you came to the ABC to work with me as my assistant I was the introduction to this stupid bloody business. It has been my privilege to have worked with you, to be your friend, and your integrity, honesty, creativity, passion and compassion show up so many as being so much less than you. You will be so missed, by your family more than any – but I find the loss beyond words. Travel safely onwards to somewhere – somewhere where the music never ends

  7. Craig and I were classmates and close friends for many of our younger years We coincidentally both started work in the blossoming film industry of the early 1980’s and then later discovered that our children were at school together and even more weirdly, we lived around the corner from each other. Our paths were similar and yet totally different. I work in production and Craig worked on the post side of many of the same films. We occasionally would cross paths in Brighton or Elsternwick and discuss the two extreme sides of our industry. We would always end our conversation with “Good to see ya mate, we should do a proper catch up sometime!”
    Sorry Craig…… I missed the opportunity.
    Rest easy

  8. I am deeply saddened by this terrible news and my heart goes out to Fiona and the Children.
    The last time I heard from Craig he sent me a picture of the incredible view from the front window of his new bush home and studio. I was so happy for him that he had found such a wonderful balance in his life.
    I knew and admired Craig for the whole span of my sound career. He was the master of an invisible complexity which can only come from the late night dedication of a perfectionist. His intelligence and musical knowledge made his work deeply beautiful. The symphonies of natural sound he designed for “Rabbit Proof Fence” would have held the film without further musical embellishment and were sent to Peter Gabriel as inspiration before a note was written – or sampled.
    The world has lost a true, gentle spirit; when we need people like him more that ever. Rest In Peace Craig Carter.

  9. A part of the fabric of our industry has unraveled with the sad loss of such a great sound man.I was always glad to know that my location recordings were going into his good hands and that he would extract the best from them.

    My condolences to Fiona,Elisa, Charlotte and Matthew. You have lost a dad but we have lost a legend. Goodbye mate.

  10. Watching “Glitch” here in Arlington Virginia USA. I was brought here via the memorial remarks at the end of the Season two episode.

    True – just last week I remarked to my wife how interesting (hood) the soundscape was with this series.

    And we deeply appreciated “rabbit proof fence”. Thus a thank you to Craig and his work. I am sorry for you our loss.

  11. I first met Craig at Mentone Boys Grammar I’ll never forget the addlib speech he gave on the various species of beetles that lived in our carpets he had the whole class convinced that his composition was fact not fiction an assignment we had been given two weeks to compose by our English master John Waite , when he started to describe the wars between the different species we realised it was an addlib story he had made up on the spot.
    Craig was a very interesting and creative person we never caught up after school years however my brother worked in the same industry as him and I would hear stories from time to time.
    Andrew Brett (MGS.aka.skull)

  12. Im terribly mortified that this horrific event that i missed…. i was a lover of the thunderdome and dundee too
    how can i visit this poor mans grave to pay my respects?
    yours faithjful
    Keiran alexander archibald….
    email me @ any of the following emails….

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