Sound Designer Bin Lin captures heart and soul of Southern Chicago in ‘Growing Pains
When Bin Lin recalls a distinctive moment in his past, it is a sound that can take him there. The crashing of waves takes him back to his childhood on the Southern Chinese island of Xiamen; a song transports him back to his teenage years; a score brings up visions of his favorite film. These sounds allow him to picture these scenes so vividly they are like memories themselves, filling his mind with the richness of emotions that come with them. This natural instinct for the power of what one hears has always interested Lin, and why he wanted to explore a career dedicated to it. Through patience, hard work, and that innate passion, Lin now finds himself as a renowned Sound Designer in his home country and abroad, creating that sense of profound catharsis through sound on a daily basis.
“Sound design is like magic to me. A good magic trick is a smooth and immersive experience for the audience. Much like a film with very delicate sound design, the audience can become so engrossed in the film that they are unaware of its subtleties. When it comes to sound design, we need to be technically meticulous and creative. To do this requires not only extensive knowledge of acoustics, but also imagination and creativity,” said Lin.
Sound Design is an intricate art form, and Lin is a true artist. His work on many films, including Clean, This Will Destroy You, and The World I See, to name a few, have impressed audiences around the world and many leading film festivals. These accolades are secondary to Lin, however, who simply enjoys using his craft to tell impactful stories, and one of his films, Growing Pains, he feels is immensely important, especially considering current events.
“In light of the recent BLM movement, I find it extra comforting to have done my part to tell the Black community's stories in Growing Pains. Also, as an Asian, I actually, in a way, particularly understand the many oppressions and frustrations that Black teenagers encounter growing up. My hope is that the success of this film will bring more reflection to the audience, and that these efforts will lead to a better understanding of the Black community's situation in American society. That way, we can truly make a fundamental difference for a better future for all,” he said.
Growing Pains is a story about June, a 13-year-old hormonal adolescent forced to navigate his crime riddled surroundings while maintaining his childhood. He takes a major blow when he finds out his mom has been lying to him about what she does for a living. Since his mom is too far-gone, he takes it upon himself to save a less than wholesome girl in the neighborhood from going down the same path. Lin was immediately struck by the story, and wanted to be a part in telling it.
“During each person's adolescence, they will probably go through a period of getting back in touch with their family and reshaping their family relationship, and during this time there will inevitably be many misunderstandings about family members, especially parents. I went through a very difficult period of getting back in touch with my parents myself. When I read this story, I saw a part of myself in June back then. But June's upbringing was a lot tougher compared to mine,” said Lin. “I don't think anyone should have the ability to judge complex rights and wrongs at the age of 13. Most 13-year-olds should live in a relatively simple and safe environment. But such a life is a luxury for many children who are in Black communities like June. “
When deciding how to structure the sound for the film, Lin worked with Writer/Director Derek D. Dow to establish a plan for post-production. From Dow’s point of view, he wanted to bring June's changing emotions into sharper and stronger focus, but at the same time, avoid being too deliberate and clichéd. Lin therefore asked Dow about what his life was like in Southern Chicago, as he had never been there. Lin discovered it had many elements that can be heard in everyday life, such as the loud subway noises that run through many neighborhoods and the loud music played by neighborhood gangs. His initial intention was to enhance the audience's empathy for the protagonist by restoring and amplifying some of the signs of life in the sound. To achieve this goal, he had to dig deep into Dow’s memories of that childhood neighborhood through detailed conversations with him.
“In the end, such long conversations proved to be very meaningful. Not only did it evoke more of Derek's passion for storytelling, but it also provided a lot of inspiration for my subsequent sound design. Together, a South Chicago Black neighborhood, as Derek remembers it, is gradually coming to life,” said Lin.
That dedicated approach to the sound design proved fruitful. Growing Pains received much affirmation from Chicago natives after its premiere as an Official Selection at the 25th Anniversary Black Harvest Film Festival on August 3rd, 2019. Almost a year later, it is just as relevant as ever.