The sound of Rotherham defeats Oppenheimer and scoops an Oscars success

WHEN it comes to movie sound there’s no-one better than Kimberworth’s Tarn Willers who has scooped an Oscar for his work.
OSCARS SUCCESS Johnnie Burn and Tarn Willers. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)OSCARS SUCCESS Johnnie Burn and Tarn Willers. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)
OSCARS SUCCESS Johnnie Burn and Tarn Willers. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)

The international sound production engineer had already won two awards including a joint BAFTA, and he made it a hat-trick at the 96th Academy Awards when his work on The Zone of Interest caused a surprise by defeating Oppenheimer in the Best Sound category.

Former Thomas Rotherham College student Tarn, who lives in Warsaw but grew up in Kimberworth, had also already taken the title for Best Sound Design with Johnnie Burn in the European Film Awards for their work on the historical drama, before Sunday’s Los Angeles success

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The Zone of Interest, which also won an Oscar for Best International Feature Film, was written and directed by Jonathan Glazer. It is loosely based on the 2014 novel by Martin Amis and stars Christian Friedel as the German Nazi commandant Rudolf Höss and Sandra Hüller as wife Hedwig as they build a dream life for their family – in a home next to the horrors of Auschwitz concentration camp, which are never seen but heard.

Accepting the award, in a category which also included The Creator, Maestro and Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One, Tarn and Johnnie said it would bring more exposure to the message behind it, particularly given the current situation in Palestine.

Tarn (51) said: “It’s a recording of everything we see in the movie, which was basically a family story; in the house, people in the garden, the dad taking the children up the river in his canoe, filming actual sounds of an actual family living that actual lifestyle.

"We knew exactly where we were - we were filming right next to the camp and we were all there to do our jobs. We all knew what was right there over the wall. We could see it every single day.

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"We choose to build walls and sometimes we choose not to look over them and I think that is a crucial part of what we have in this film.”

Johnnie added: “This film doesn’t say ‘look at these people… how abhorrent that was’, it says ‘they were so like me, this was humans doing this to other humans’.”

Tarn – whose previous credits include 2014's war drama Fury with Brad Pitt and BBC TV series W1A – told the Advertiser he and Johnnie had not expected to win major awards for their “European art-house outlier”, and said the director had chillingly described the shooting process as being “like Big Brother in a Nazi house.”

“We were up against big-budget Hollywood movies like Oppenheimer,” he said, “Great-sounding movies made by multiple award-winning and nominated sound crews at the top of their craft.”

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After studying at Old Hall – now Winterhill School – and Thomas Rotherham, Tarn went to University of Sunderland before attending the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield.

He said his success was “surreal” when he was “just a kid from Kimberworth”.