Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sharing My Sonic Madness: My Favorites from 2010

Despite the serious dip in today's economy, I have been fortunate enough over the last two years to have remained relatively busy as a sound editor.  Many of the films I've worked on have been moderate to meager in terms of budget, but as someone who appreciates the work, I remained diligent in presenting the clients with a solid and creative soundscape.  In EVERY case, I've pushed my inventive limits and, together with the input of the clients and the members of my team, have been able to deliver great sounding tracks to our mixers for the final mix.

Though I've blogged to some extent about some of our more recently completed projects, I feel compelled to mention a handful of the other interesting films that have given me a sonic and mental workout over the last two years.

The Bad Penny 

Things heat up for ex St. Louis boxer-turned-Bangkok-bar-owner Jack "The Ripper" Stemmons when a mysterious boxing fan unexpectedly walks in and starts to bring up Jack's chaotic final fight.  Filmed almost entirely on location in Thailand, the gritty and tense camera work truly personifies the utter loneliness and hell our hero has been through.  Loaded with high-adrenaline fight scenes, gruesome flashbacks, and lots of payback and revenge, this film was definitely great fun for our FX, design and foley teams.

I had the privilege of working with a team of great creative minds on The Bad Penny:  Director Todd Bellanca, writer/producer Sasha Levinson, and picture editor Giacomo Ambrosini.  These three truly embody the collaborative spirit of filmmaking, allowing for great ideas (both in the picture cut and sonically) to grow and take form.  Our creative discussions helped elevate the film to another interesting level, as we figured out how to balance an intricate fabric of dark and melancholic design with a crisp minutia of tiny details to really enhance the experience.

I got a similar sonic workout from writer/director Aaron Rottinghaus on his mind-bending drama,
Apart.  Beautifully shot and really well written and directed, Apart is the journey of the tragically star-crossed Noah and Emily who, linked by an unusual mental illness, delve into the dark and twisted, catastrophic events of their pasts in order to make sense of their lives.  They uncover so much more than a tangled web of deceit!

I myself had to delve into my dark recesses for this one, as I created layer upon layer of twisted sound design to convey the madness behind the eyes of both Noah and Emily.  Again though, as it was imperative to keep the storytelling at the forefront, tragic themes for the two main characters were created to support the action and interwoven during Noah's and Emily's moments of madness.

Aaron's background as a picture editor is quite evident as he skillfully conveys the complex tale of love and loss through a tapestry of beautifully  images.  Extremely talented, I am sure Aaron's career will skyrocket as soon as Apart hits the general market.  Congrats to you Aaron on such an intriguing and genuine film!

Lost Boys 3: The Thirst 

When I tell people that I cut sound effects and backgrounds on the third installment to a very popular vampire film series, their reactions are always the same:  "WOW!  You worked on 'Eclipse'?"  Uh, no.  Sorry.  Though that would have been a nice gig, I explain that I didn't work on Twilight, but rather on Lost Boys 3: The Thirst (LB3).  Their reactions to my revelation is equally priceless, yet no less predictable:  "Lost Boys THREE?  I didn't know there was a TWO!"

The second sequel to the iconic 80s vampire flick The Lost Boys, LB3 brings us up to speed with the down-and-out Edgar Frog (Corey Feldman), now living in a dilapidated trailer in the fictional town of San Cazador, CA.  He is sought out and hired by pop-culture vampire novelist Gwen Lieber (Tanit Phoenix) to track down and find her missing brother (who has presumably been abducted by vampires after attending a rave).  Edgar learns that these vampires, who are actually hi-profile underground DJs, have been holding illegal raves around the world and generously handing out a new designer drug to all the lost boys and girls who attend... only the drug is not a drug, but the blood of the Alpha vampire.

That sets the stage for
LB3.  Needless to say, there was a lot of work to do in terms sound design, sound effects, foley, dialogue and ADR, and in the end, we delivered some hefty sessions to our mixers.

Though I've done quite a number of horror films as part of the sound effects team at Monkeyland, I try not to minimize these films as typical genre pieces.  I approach every film individually (despite budget, genre, content or timeline), identify recurring themes and scenarios, and then strategize with the foley and FX team as to what we'd like to accomplish.  Yes, LB3 required lots of guts and gore, vampire vocal design, ambient spookiness and a no-holds-barred Phantom Menace-like sword fight, but at the end of the day, it's the story that needs to shine through.  It ain't the stingers or giant scares that make it scary!

On a sad note, we were well into the post production process when news broke that Corey Haim had passed away.  Though he wasn't part of this film, his character is referred to regularly, and without revealing too much about the plot, I can safely say that LB3 serves as a nice tribute to both Corey's memory and to his on-screen character.
Space Chimps 2:  Zartog Strikes Back (SC2)
Evil alien Zartog escapes from his deep freeze and steals a NASA prototype "departicalizer", which he intends to use against the chimps who ended his reign of terror back on Malgor.  Hi-jinks ensue as the chimps try to steal back the ray gun while simultaneously trying to help navigate the youngest member of their team through a dangerous wormhole and back to Earth.

Lots of fun on this one!  Zipping space ships, boomin' circus cannons, sleek rocket jet-packs, a playful and friendly alien planet, musical Globhoppers, bouncy Jump 'shrooms and manta-like Fluvians set the bar for the sonic task at hand.  Definitely a film for the kids, but a serious full-fledged sound job nonetheless.  Director/producer John Williams is a fan of detailed and fully-realized sound design, and he was absolutely appreciative of all the attention that went into building the sonic landscape on SC2.  

A hearty thank you goes out to the producers, writers, directors, post supers, picture editors and friends that allowed me a chance to expressing my sonic madness on their films.  I love working on movies, and hope to never miss an opportunity as a sound editor to bring the noise!


1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful post about The Bad Penny! We absolutely adored working with you. I'll still never forget coming in and hearing the sound design for the very first time. Totally inspiring.


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