Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sushi Girl – A Beautifully Mad Sonic Landscape

Sushi Girl is one of those films that sound editors and designers can really go nuts over, given that the film is rich with well nuanced performances and has lots of room for creative design. The film oozes with tasty allusions to exploitation and grindhouse cinema, pulp literature, film noir and the revenge genre, yet the stylish production design and the refined cinematography provide Sushi Girl with a polished and elegant edge.  This is great for us, as “gritty and grimy with a touch of class” production values present a perfect visual canvas on which to mix “brutally real” sounds with “lyrical and poetic” design.

Cortney Palm as "Sushi Girl"

After a very productive spotting session with director Kern Saxton, producer Suren Seron, sound effects editor Steven Avila and supervising sound editor Trip Brock (on Monkeyland's A Stage), I was able to generate a very detailed road map which our sound effects and Foley crews have been utilizing on the sonic journey into the dark world of sushi.

Tony Todd as "Duke"
As a point of reference, Kern noted several films which contain elements that really sing to him when it comes to environmental feel, explosive action and eerie design.  Among these films were Seven, Fight Club and THX-1138.  Yep, for effects editors and designers, the slight mention of any one of these films can get the wheels spinning.


Mark Hamill as "Crow"
Apart from my duties supervising the sound effects on Sushi Girl, it is also my job to design the ambiences, backgrounds, tone and overall mood of the piece.  In reflecting on the notes and after reviewing the film several times, it became apparent that a realistic approach to the backgrounds, while blending in a more allegorical or interpretive slant would be necessary to effectively establish the piece’s dire tone and reflect the inner turmoil and hopelessness of our characters. 

Noah Hathaway as "Fish"
Everything was there for me to begin cutting, but I needed an extra boost of inspiration.  A shot of adrenaline, if you will.  To match wits with the lush and unsettling imagery of Sushi Girl, I revisited a classic film in order to anchor my motivation (see my earlier blog on motivation).

Rashomon Gate
I found what I needed in Rashomon.  Kurosawa’s masterpiece opens in the devastated ruins of a temple amidst a fierce and ravenous rainstorm.  The visuals are haunting, the setting helpless.  Strangely similar, Sushi Girl’s main action takes place in a dilapidated and derelict, one-time glorious sushi restaurant in the midst of a torrential rainstorm.  It was that literal and symbolic rainstorm in Rashomon that had me hooked, and the parallels between the forlorn settings of both films was gravy on top.  Those first few minutes of Rashomon were the catalyst that fueled my mindset and allowed me to breathe appropriately beautiful madness into the sonic landscape of Sushi Girl.

James Duval as "Francis" and Andy Mackenzie as "Max"
On the Foley front, Greg Mauer and Jim Bailey are tearing it up.  There’s great dynamic range in Jim’s performances and the recordings have awesome depth and definition.  Lots of “heavy,” lots of detail.  Clinical and clean.  Down and dirty.  Graceful.  Elegant.  Disturbing.  Raw.  Soothing.  Painful.


Steven Avila, Alexander Pugh and I are tag-teaming on sound effects, harmonizing to the material our Foley team has been dishing out and adding tasteful layers of dissonance and cacophony.

David Dastmalchian as "Nelson"
We’ve got lots of fun elements already shot and cut, and as we speak, I’m comping, prepping, smoothing, tweaking and enhancing a whole bunch of new sounds in an effort to blow away our fearless leader, Kern.  We’re having a great time on this project, and I would like to extend a warm “thank you” to Kern, Suren, Destin, Neal and Carrie for trusting us with their project.

Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest sushi updates.  Oh, one final question:  Who’s bringing the sake to the final mix?

Blessings!

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