“I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” – Exclusive Interview with Co-Sound Supervisor Elmo Weber
“I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” gets carried over theater thresholds July 20th. Veteran Happy Madison Co-Sound Supervisor’s Elmo Weber and David Bach promised to have and hold the sound editorial. Weber and Bach have been working together since 1995 and Happy Madison, ever the loyal prod. company, have utilized them consistently since 2001. Re-Recording Mixers Jeffrey J. Haboush and Bill W. Benton helped marry the sound to picture, with the majority of the mixing taking place on Sony’s Kim Novak dub stage. The two are fixtures on the Novak and are fresh off this April’s horror film “Vacancy”. Production mixing was handled by Thomas Causey. Causey has also been in a long term relationship with Happy Madison, shooting the production sound on five of their last nine films. The film took Rupert Gregson-Williams hand in composing. Tracking took place on Sony’s Scoring Stage. A great little article on the sessions can be found HERE Currently, Williams has been pollinating this fall’s “Bee Movie” with score.
Thanks to Co-Sound Supervisor Elmo Weber for taking time for this Q and A!
Designing Sound: With so many physical comedies under your belt, how hard is it to find the perfect sound that complements the wackiness?
Elmo Weber: When working on comedies, no matter what your job is, it’s important to have a good sense of humor. Every project is different. Your success depends on not only understanding the humor of each film, but also knowing your place in the “big picture”. Most of the time I find myself playing the “straight man” when it comes to comedy sound design. Don’t over-do it. The comedy is mostly in the hands of the writers, actors, and directors, so create realistic sounds that support and don’t distract. Then when your sound moment comes, make it count. The most important rule is to never make a moment un-funny. Then it’s back to the old sci-fi action and academy awards for you.
DS: The public understands sound effects editing and mixing in movies like Transformers because the visuals demand heavy editorial and mixing to work. Every film needs sound, so what can be said about sound’s role in comedies?
EW: I don’t think the public will every fully understand the true function of post-production sound. Regarding sound for comedies, if we really do our job well, then no one will notice. We’re like the airline mechanics that don’t generally cross people’s minds unless the engine catches on fire. In my view, every picture is unique and the true art of sound lies in the details, whether those details create an exploding robot or a quiet moment where the ADR matches the dialogue from three different takes.
DS: Re-recording mixers/supervisors impress me, though the majority of you guys also have gigs like this one, where you only do one or the other. What prompts you to mix and cut verses just cut?
EW: I love sound editing and I love mixing. When I get the chance to do both on the same project, it’s always the most fun and the most rewarding experience. I respect both as separate arts; not every editor would make a great mixer and visa-versa. As a supervising sound editor I’ve had the privilege of working with some fantastic mixers and I’ve learned a great deal from them. I began mixing FX early in my sound career and I know that it has made me a better editor. I started mixing dialogue and music in 1998 when I opened my small facility in Burbank. It was great building my dialogue mixing chops on documentaries and independent films, which seem to have the most challenging dialogue and schedules. I sold my facility a couple of years ago, but I’m very excited to be mixing around town at the major studios such as Sony and Warners.
DS: What’s your favorite sound moment in the film?
EW: The big fire scene in which Sandler and Kevin James save a 400-pound man. That sequence has some great sound opportunities. Sound FX Supervisor Derek Vanderhorst did an incredible job designing a threatening environment engulfed by flames with creaking and crashing all around. The foley team of Catherine Harper and Chris Moriana brought wonderful detail into the soundscape with the firemen gear, boot steps on debris, and chopping through walls with axes. The mixing team of Jeff Haboush and Bill Benton very skillfully brought it all together. I’d also like to acknowledge my co-supervisor Dave Bach, ADR Super Russell Farmarco, Dialogue Editors Cameron Steenhagen and Hugo Weng, FX Editors: Marc Glassman, Paul Berolzheimer, and Piero Mura, and my illustrious Assistant Editor: Matt Hanson. Without me they’d be nothing…uh, I meant that the other way around. Freudian slip.
DS: I’m not sure why I haven’t asked this question yet in all my interviews, but you can break this one in: What was your first gig like?
EW: My first sound-editing gig was on “The Lawnmower Man”. I was working as a composer for Frank Serafine when one morning in 1991 he came in and asked me if I wanted to do some sound design for a sci-fi film. I replied, “I don’t think so. I don’t know anything about sound editing.” Frank then says, “I’ve got a scene with a monkey driving a virtual tank and battling laser-firing robots. The director will be here after lunch to check it out, so get busy.” That job was an incredible experience for me. An experience I hope to never repeat.