Given their pedigree, one might think that supervising sound editors Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers had pretty much experienced it all by the time they launched into Sam Mendes’ most recent James Bond adventure, Spectre, but in fact, at least one aspect of the work was particularly unique for both of them — the schedule.
The pair has been a team for 26 years, for much of that time at Soundelux, but they are now based at West Hollywood’s Formosa Group. Over that time, they have joined forces on dozens of major projects, and earned Academy Awards in 2008 for their work on The Bourne Ultimatum and in 2013 for their first foray into Bond’s world, on Mendes’ Skyfall.
For all their experience, however, neither sound editor has ever seen a schedule like Spectre’s, since production waited until Mendes revised the script, and later, was temporarily halted when star Daniel Craig suffered an injury. The result, Hallberg recently told Studio, is that the project’s sound post-production methodology became “very unorthodox” at the end of the day.
“This was probably the tightest [schedule] we have ever seen,” he says. “By the time it hit us, we knew the schedule was already laid out to the last possible day to be able to turn it around. I think we actually finished here in L.A. with a print master three days before the premiere in London. In other words, if you are that tight on the schedule, if anything goes wrong, there is not any wiggle room. So it was a very unorthodox schedule and way of doing it — kind of a little bit backwards, as in we had to cut our material while they were still filming. If we didn’t, we would run out of time. That meant we had to update a lot of stuff as we [went along]. Then, we started pre-dubbing in Los Angeles, before we flew to London to do the first temp dub, which is also unusual.”
And a huge challenge, because as Baker Landers points out, “to get something right creatively under that kind of time crunch is the hardest part of all — it’s got to sound great and work for the story.”
And yet, both of them are quite pleased with the end product, particularly since they had to create elements to the exacting specifications of a particularly involved director like Mendes, who participates far more in sound details than most directors. They point to one of the “quieter scenes,” in which Bond drunkenly reflects in a hotel room in Morocco until he notices a crucial clue. That’s the kind of place, Baker Landers says, where the sound team could really go to town “adding a little spice” that the audience will, if they did the job right, largely not even comprehend is there — subtle sounds of a distant city, mopeds going by, a call to prayer at a distant mosque, and so on.
Hallberg and Baker Landers discussed these kinds of challenges, and much more, in an interview with Studio for the most recent installment of the Podcasts from the Front Lines series. To enjoy the conversation, watch the video below or, to download an audio-only MP3 version, right-click here.
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