Catonsville native Dennis Towns left his home state last week to spend three months in New York City working as a sound mixer on the new Cinemax cable television network series, "The Knick."
The show, directed by Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh, is set in 1900 and will focus on the lives of doctors and nurses at Knickerbocker Hospital in downtown New York and the challenges they faced during the turn of the century.
This won't be Towns' first time working for a big-time Hollywood production or with Soderbergh. The two have worked on a laundry list of popular films together, including "Contagion," "Magic Mike" and most recently HBO's "Behind the Candelabra."
"I've done like six or seven movies with him now," said Towns, who lives in Baltimore City when he's not traveling for work.
"I'm responsible for recording all the dialogue for those scenes," he said. "I've got two guys who work with me who move the microphones around, the boom operators.
"I got the script and I just had to mix a good track for the editors," Towns said. "It was fun, but a little stressful. You don't get a lot of chances to get it right, you don't want to mess up anything."
The film chronicles the famed affair between Liberace and Scott Thorson — played by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, respectively — and was nominated for 15 Emmys in 2013 andwon 11.
Towns was among the winners, receiving an Emmy for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie.
"One of my boom guys had been keeping tabs on the Emmys and told me that we had been nominated," Towns said. "And then HBO sent a letter saying 'Congratulations.' "
Movie fans would not have seen Towns receiving the award during the nationally televised broadcast earlier this month. His award was presented in Los Angeles a week before on Sept. 15 for the Creative Arts Emmys, which recognize behind the scenes work.
Though Towns had won an Emmy before, being recognized for his sound mixing work in the documentary, "Avalanche: The White Death," in 1999, the experience was still uncomfortable.
"I was nervous," Towns said. "It seemed like 'Behind the Candelabra' was winning every award it was nominated for and I didn't want the sound department to not get one."
Once the winner was announced, Towns said he was thrilled.
"It was great," he said. "It was a great cast and just an honor to work with those two stars."
His brother, Keith Towns, is happy to see his brother honored for doing what he loves.
"We're pretty proud of him," the 55-year-old Catonsville resident said. "We don't see a whole lot of him cause he's always gone, but we're pretty proud of him.
"Every once in a while you see on TV, you'll be able to see his name go across the screen," he said. "He's worked with [George] Clooney. He's worked with all kinds of people."
Keith Towns said his brother's work provides him with opportunities to travel all over the world.
"He's been everywhere you could think of," he said. "I wish I was his assistant. It's a great adventure."
For Dennis Towns, the first steps on that adventure began many years ago, in music class at Catonsville High School.
"Catonsville High School had an electronic music class, which I kind of excelled at," Towns said. "They had multi-track tape recorders and stuff like that.
"It was self-taught really," he said of sound mixing. "It was just something I took to naturally, I guess."
After graduating from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, with a degree in fine arts, Towns started his career as a freelance sound mixer for a kids show on PBS called "Power House."
"After freelancing, I just kept going with it," he said.
He has worked for National Geographic and Discovery Channel and been to more than 40 different countries, he said.
"And I do commercials and corporate work and all kinds of stuff in Baltimore," he said.
He admitted he has not had time to fully enjoy his latest award.
He said he is proud of his newest Emmy and glad to be working on another challenging project.
"I've got one on display," he said of his first Emmy. "The newest one is in a box still. "I haven't put it on a shelf yet 'cause I was busy getting ready for this next project."
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