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I was just a kid when I started working as a projectionist at night at American Zoetrope in 1974. Zoetrope, of course, was Francis Coppola's San Francisco production studio, a place where he could work on his movies far from the interference of the Hollywood studios. Joining him in the venture was a motley crew of fellow-travelers: George Lucas, Carroll Ballard, John Milius, John Korty, along with many others. Nicholas Ray was working on a film there soon after I started, and was often to be found sleeping under the pool table in the morning.

American Zoetrope logo
Photo of early denizens of American Zoetrope

Todd Boekelheide started working in film in 1974 at American Zoetrope, Francis Ford Coppola’s production company in San Francisco.  He left Zoetrope in 1976 and over the next few years edited picture and sound, became interested in writing music for films, and began music studies at Mills College in Oakland.  As he developed his film scoring career, he also specialized as a rerecording mixer, and won an Oscar for mixing the music on "Amadeus" in 1984.  He has scored several feature films, including "Dim Sum" and "Nina Takes a Lover," and numerous documentaries, notably "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse" and "Ballets Russes."  In 1999 he won an Emmy for his score for the documentary "Kids of Survival: The Life and Art of Tim Rollins and the KOS."  In 2007 he was nominated for an Emmy for his score for "Boffo! Tinseltown's Bombs and Blockbusters," and in 2010 he was nominated for another Emmy, this time for the score for "Blessed is the Match." Recent scoring credits include “3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets” for Marc Silver and Participant Media, and “Paper Tigers” for Jamie Redford.  Up-to-date credits information can be found at

I had a day job elsewhere that I was desperate to quit, so I finally did and asked if there was anything else I could do at Zoetrope. Turns out they were unhappy with their janitor, so I quit my other job and began as janitor during the day. Soon I learned how to do sound transfers and maintain the editing rooms, and eventually another janitor was hired. When Walter Murch came in to mix The Godfather Part II, I was his machine room tech.

Naturally I became interested in mixing, and near the end of my time at Zoetrope I had learned enough to mix my first film: Glen Pearcy's Fighting For Our Lives, about Cesar Chavez and the struggle for justice for farmworkers in the California Central Valley. I believe that was my first screen credit.

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