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Canuck sound mixer David Giammarco goes from tire factory to Oscar red carpet

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TORONTO - David Giammarco has come a long way from working at a rubber tire factory.

This weekend, the Welland, Ont.-native will walk the red carpet at the Academy Awards, where the 49-year-old father of two is up for a sound mixing Oscar for his work on the baseball movie "Moneyball."

Giammarco says it's a surreal experience for a small-town Canuck, noting he was mixing rubber at a tire factory some 25 years ago when he decided to move to Toronto.

At the time he was "young and hungry" but had no designs on a movie job. Giammarco says he hoped to land a gig in the music business or possibly return to school.

"I was trying to get my career going. A career. Something," Giammarco recalls in a recent interview from Los Angeles, where he lives with his playwright wife Sheila Sawhny and their two boys.

"And then through some people I knew who knew I was looking for work, this sound editor named Wayne Griffin gave me a job."

That job was as an assistant sound editor on "Joshua Then and Now," a Canadian production based on the Mordecai Richler book that would go on to collect five Genie Awards.

The film also kicked off a steady career for the unassuming Giammarco, who says he's been "very lucky" to go from job to job to job, landing in Los Angeles in 1989.

"If you got with a crew that was working you can sort of keep going with them," he says, noting how insular the sound community is.

Over the course of more than 25 years in the business, Giammarco built a lengthy resume that reads like the broadcast lineup of an all-hits movie channel: there's the sci-fi horror "The Fly," the comic classic "Groundhog Day," the gangster tragedy "Boyz n the Hood," the star-packed "As Good as It Gets," the Tom Cruise action film "Mission: Impossible II," Ben Stiller's wild adventure "Night At the Museum" and the recent eye-popping reboot "Star Trek."

Giammarco was nominated for best sound mixing in 2008 for "3:10 to Yuma," which also gave him a taste of Hollywood glitz that he rarely sees behind the scenes.

"Just that film alone was fantastic because I really like westerns and it's a treat to work on a western," says Giammarco, whose team lost that year to "The Bourne Ultimatum."

"And going to the awards, it's pretty surreal.... Just walking down the red carpet, I didn't even know I could walk down the red carpet."

This year, Giammarco shares the spotlight with co-nominees Deb Adair, Ron Bochar and Ed Novick.

It's a surprise nomination in a category that typically favours explosive action films such as previous winners "Inception," "The Hurt Locker," "The Dark Knight" and "The Bourne Ultimatum."

"Moneyball" is relatively staid by comparison, centring on the front office machinations of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane and his controversial use of statistical analysis.

It faces more bombastic and stylish rivals in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," "War Horse," "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and "Hugo."

"For this one to be recognized for the sound work was very surprising," says Giammarco, whose sister Joan and brother-in-law Greg Orloff are also sound editors.

"The spectrum of what's (nominated) is great. They aren't all big effects movies and they aren't all sound effects movies. There's a good cross section of work there, which is really nice to see."

Giammarco says "Moneyball," which stars Brad Pitt as Beane, features "a lot of subtle work" that includes narration, voiceovers and escalating crowd sounds.

"It was atmospheric and moody and I think it was very effective," he says of the end result. He picked a collection of scenes detailing an Oakland A's winning streak as his favourite to work on.

Giammarco is proud of "Moneyball," but admitted he'll also be cheering for another film he worked on, "The Help," at Sunday's bash.

Although it's not up for best sound mixing, "The Help" collected nominations for best picture, best actress and two for best supporting actress.

"It's great to see that film do so well," he says.

Giammarco's career continues to unfold in typically varied directions.

He says he just finished work on the ensemble comedy "Think Like a Man," a relationship farce due in April featuring Gabrielle Union, Chris Brown, Regina Hall, Morris Chestnut, J.B. Smoove and Kelly Rowland.

His next project is "The Amazing Spider-Man," starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans.

"I'm excited to work on it," he says of the hotly anticipated reboot.

"It should be a lot of fun and from a sound effects, mixing standpoint there'll be a lot of great things to try to do and work with."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Giammarco was nominated for sound editing. He is nominated for sound mixing.

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