Had the college television course West Potomac High School graduate Missy Cohen signed up for not been canceled, things might have turned out differently. As it was, she took a required film course and fell in love with film.
“I took the required film theory course and loved every second of it,” Cohen said. “I loved the department and the teachers.”
Although she had gone to Hofstra University thinking she would major in television, this one course altered her thinking and she graduated with a degree in communication arts with an emphasis on film.
Plans changed again when she graduated. Cohen thought she would come back to the Washington, D.C. area and work for The Discovery Channel where she had interned. A chance to be an apprentice sound editor for “The Silence of the Lambs” was too good to turn down and so she headed back to New York. Her aunt, Hope Geller, worked for Columbia Records and found Cohen a nice place on W. 85th Street.
Again, she thought that she would be there a short period of time before returning back home, but when she finished her apprentice job, she found another job. That job led to another and she hasn’t left yet.
Cohen didn’t realize that she would be credited for her first job and was thrilled when she was credited.
“I went and saw my name and it blew me right over,” Cohen said. “I still get excited when I see my name, but I always tell people — don’t blink. A credit is a way to get thanked.”
OVER THE YEARS, Cohen has worked on such productions as “Mad Dog and Glory;” “Money Train;” “The Jackal;’ “The Big Lebowski” and “The Deep End.” More recent credits are associated with “A Beautiful Mind;” “The Laramie Project;” and “Chicago.” Most of Cohen’s work has been as a sound editor or music editor.
For “Cinderella Man,” she was the Foley Editor. She explained that her role as Foley Editor was to “put things in that you would notice if they were missing, but don’t want to notice that they’re there.”
One example she gave was the sound of a spatula scraping the bowl. It’s not unlike the sound effects used for radio productions years ago. That’s where Jack Foley got his start, translating his talents for television.
Most of her jobs are done after the film is shot, but her current job as sound effects editor for “The Producers” had her on the set for the filming.
“We normally come on after the show is shot, but they needed to have the music recorded before they started filming,” Cohen said. “It was a tremendous thrill to be on the set.”
She worked with stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. She also worked with fellow Mount Vernon resident, Gary Beach. He starred in the Broadway production and now is appearing in the movie version.
“I just love Gary — every time he’s on stage, he’s wonderful,” Cohen said.
Shooting for the film has wrapped up, but Cohen will be working on “The Producers” through October.
“We’ll hit the ground running now — mixing the music and fixing lip-syncs,” Cohen said. “Hopefully we won’t need to do reshoots.”
She has no idea what she will do after, but is hoping to take a long vacation.
“I can’t even think about it [what I’m going to do next]. I’m so engulfed in the film,” she said.
When asked if it’s a letdown when a job is over, Cohen said, “If it’s a good film and a good crew and we’re having a good time like with ‘The Producers,’ it stinks [when it’s over]. Other jobs you’re ready for it to end.”
COHEN GREW UP in Mount Vernon, attending Waynewood Elementary School and Stephen Foster Intermediate School. She was the first class — 1986 — to graduate from West Potomac after Groveton and Fort Hunt schools were combined.
“It was a difficult time,” Cohen said. “They tried to make the transition easier, but it was very hard. It was rough looking forward to senior year and then having it swiped from under us.”
Cohen was involved in the theater department — mostly as an extra or behind the scene work. She also dabbled in photography.
“I just wanted to be a part of something,” she said. “They were a great group of [theater] people.”
Her love of music started at a young girl. She played the violin from fourth through seventh grade, but switched to chorus after being discouraged by her violin teacher.
“My dad played violin too, so I used to play with him,” Cohen said. “I really loved it.”
She has since switched to guitar, and said that she found a teacher who is “everything this other teacher wasn’t.”
Cohen’s aunt had a tremendous influence on her. Working for Columbia Records, Geller had access to the latest records and CDs. Cohen figures she probably had the biggest collection of anybody her age.
Looking back, Cohen said, “I regret nothing, except maybe not being a little looser and letting things happen in high school. Everything I’ve done has led to the next thing I’ve done. I’m so lucky and so excited. I’ve hit my stride and am working on films that are really, really good.”