By Daryl Paranada
The Amazon movie Sound of Metal is nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film tells the story of a heavy-metal drummer whose life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.
Alumni Michael Sagol ’96 and Daniel Sbrega ’99 are executive producers on the film. Sagol, an executive producer and managing partner at the award-winning production company Caviar, got involved when the folks behind Sound of Metal went in search of a producer and sought help with financing.
“It was an incredibly human story. It really resonated with everyone. The casting went left and right, but we never deviated from the story,” said Sagol, on what appealed to him about the film. “With these projects, they have to move you because that’s what’s going to get the movie done.”
Sagol’s journey to where he is today starts through Emerson. While interning at the now-defunct Propaganda Films during his time in the LA program, he learned how to be a production assistant. He freelanced for a while as a production assistant, and even worked as an internship coordinator at Emerson LA for a semester. After a few years, he and an old Emerson roommate started their own production company together, which eventually became Caviar.
“The view of the world that I got from Emerson has definitely benefited me. Doing the Kasteel Well program, the LA program, and having internships—without that, I don’t know where I’d be,” said Sagol. “We’ve hired a bunch of Emerson graduates and interns [at Caviar] as well. Emerson students tend to be very creative, smart, and driven hard workers.”
Sagol and Sbrega have worked together for more than a decade, starting off with commercials. A mutual friend introduced the two, who might not have even been aware of their Emerson connection at first. In separate interviews, both emphasize their strong working relationship and how much trust they have in each other.
“This summarizes Dan in the best way and it’s something I use all the time: Trust is the new bullsh*t. Honestly, it resonates so much. I think Dan is so honest, so good at his job,” said Sagol. “We’ve developed this bond over the years where we just have a short-hand, and he knows I have his back and he’s got mine.”
Sbrega, together with Daniel “Dickey” Abedon, founded Uncle Lefty, a New York–based management company representing directors, editors, and composers, in the mid-2000s. Caviar helped bring Uncle Lefty into the feature film world.
“I’ve been doing this a very long time. To have a long-term relationship like this [with Sagol] is rare in the world because it’s a very stressful industry. It’s a tribute to Michael,” said Sbrega, whose wife, Melissa Dallon ’00, is also an Emersonian.
“Let him say it’s a tribute to me,” he added, jokingly.
Sbrega said reading the script for Sound of Metal made him feel something, a rarity having flipped through so many scripts over the years. Getting involved in the film was a no-brainer, though he is quick to point out that Uncle Lefty had a small role to play in Sound of Metal compared to Caviar. Still, he is proud to be associated with the film and affiliated with Sagol.
“Michael is a brilliant, caring, immensely talented, warm, funny, charming human being. All the superlatives,” said Sbrega. “Work hard and be nice; those are words he lives by. That’s an oversimplified quote and Michael is far from simple, but anyone in his circle would tell you the same.”
Sagol and Sbrega will find out if Sound of Metal wins any of its Academy Award nominations on April 25.