What is a Foley Artist? Before we can even attempt to describe what a “Foley Artist” is, one must first understand why it is indeed called, a “Foley Artist”. The term actually comes from a man’s name. Jack Foley was born in 1891, in Yorkville, N.Y., which is near the infamous Coney Island. He attended school with students who later became famous, such as Arthur Murray, James Cagney, and even met Cary Grant, when he worked as a “stilt walker“.
Foley got tired of the fierce cold Northern winters, and headed West, where he became a “stunt person, and double“, for silent movies. While there, he was exposed to the Sierra Mountains, and moved to Bishop. He worked in a hardware store for awhile, then, the Bishop township was about to face certain failure, as farmers started selling off their land, to Los Angeles, for water rights. Jack used his connections with “Hollywood” to convince studio giants that Bishop was a perfect place to “shoot” Western movie scenes. Store keepers in Bishop, rejoiced at the news,when the studios agreed.
Mr. Foley started to dabble in a little screenwriting himself, as well as writing articles, scene settings, background props, and sketching. He believed, that you as the director, had to behave like one of the actors, in order to show them how you wanted them to do their parts. By and by, sound came to be added to pictures. However, it was not readily available for everyone. Western Electric could only meet so many demands. There was only one one Fox-Case portable unit, to go around, and people had to be trained how to use it. To make a long story short, Jack and his buddies became experts in adding “sound effects”, to the movies. These include, sounds of punches, doors slamming, glass breaking, footsteps and more.
Jack was the most sought after man in the “sound effects” business. Thus, the term Foley art was born. He made all kinds of sounds with all sorts of items.He would seek out whatever he could find, that would master that “sound”, that he wanted. So now you know where it came from.
A Foley artist is one who makes all the sounds that you take for granted. Music and words are already there, but sometimes the sound effects for certain items, or expressions cannot be heard, unless they are mimicked. Cartoons can be used as an example. All those crazy sounds, which most people now affiliate with certain things, they have seen on cartoons. Sometimes, as evidenced in the early Disney cartoons, instruments were used as certain sound effects. To become a master at sound effects, is now known as being a “Foley Artist”.