“Hot Rod” crashes into theaters August 3rd. Helping Rod and his friend’s stunt filled adventure is Sound Supervisor Sean Garnhart. The definition of a renaissance (sound) man, Garnhart was also the sound designer and effects mixer on the show. He has bounced from mixer to designer to editor as well as dabbling in music editorial during his career in NYC. At The Sound Lounge(where the film dubbed), VP of the New York City based sound house, Tony Volante, mixed music and dialog. An established NYC Re-Recording Mixer, Volante has mixed three academy award nominated documentary films in the last few years. Filmed last summer in Vancouver, Michael McGee shot production dialog. For the past decade, McGee shot sound on multiple TV movies and at least one theatrical release per year. Though the test screening I saw had a lot of 80’s songs filling the musical quota for the soundtrack, I have heard rumblings that the final score will pretty bombastic! Trevor Rabin composed for the film, tracking the score at the Todd-AO Scoring Stage. Trevor is currently working on “National Treasure 2” and is going to compose on next year’s “Get Smart”.
Thanks to Sean Garnhart for taking time to do this Q and A. This is my first New York based interview and I am excited to branch out beyond my Los Angeles confines.
Designing Sound: Rod’s cycle is a great extension of his character’s goofiness in the film. How did you go about achieving that aural representation?
Sean Garnhart: When I heard the moped in production I thought it sounded too good for such a goofy guy. It had a whine that made it sound too high-end. Believe it or not, the summer before I started working on this film, I had heard some kids riding a moped around my neighborhood. I remembered it having a great put-put sound. So, I decided to ask my neighbor if I could borrow his moped for this movie. My assistant Billy Orrico and I took it to a farm and spent a day recording it. It was perfect. Not only did it have a great pathetic sound, it was also spray painted purple and had a metal basket on the front. What’s not to like?
DS: The impacts in the film are great because they are over the top! They really add to the physical comedy. How did you decide to design them that way?
SG: That’s interesting you find them over the top. I am not sure the filmmakers would agree. I think we found a happy medium. There was a lot of discussion between Andy, Akiva, and me about how “big” to play things. I wanted to play things big because I thought they would be funnier that way. Andy and Akiva often wanted to use production with no additional sound fx help. They thought production was funny enough. I agreed that what they shot was hilarious but assured them that with a little aural help, the scenes could be even funnier. We examined each impact, exploring every element and found a good place for each sound I think.
DS: Rod’s spill goes on forever! How did you guys keep it interesting and funny?
SG: I’m psyched you asked about the BIG FALL. That was shot MOS. I had a blast with that scene because I approached it just like it was an animated movie. Even though I had finished building all the fx I quickly realized it still wasn’t working. It was missing the key funny element…Rod’s vocals. I didn’t have anything from Andy to work with so I opened up a mic myself and went nuts. As the scene progressed I made more over-the-top efforts. I thought it was hilarious but I had to run it by the film makers. This was the VERY first scene the pix department sent to me for sound. So, I wanted to make a good first impression. They loved it and played it the way I had designed it with my vocals for all seven of the preview screenings. As we got closer to the final, we all realized the challenge would be for Andy to keep the same insanity and silliness when he replaced my vocals. After a couple ADR sessions, Andy and my dialogue editor Fred Rosenberg spent a few hours finding just the right performances. It was an interesting process right from the beginning. The stick breaks and body falls made the fall down the hill real but the vocals took it to the funny place. Although it was hard getting there, Andy and Fred nailed that scene in the end.
DS: One of the things I love about sound mixing is solving problems on the stage. Were there any instances where problems with the film were solved with sound?
SG: One thing I loved about my experience with Akiva was how willing he was to always make his film better. Even after he got to the stage he didn’t want to be finished cutting if he saw a better way to do it once he heard the sound or music or both. One scene where sound really influenced the picture cut was the movie-within-the-movie scene. When Rod is listening to the crowd laughing at his stuntman movie we start going into his head. During one of the temp dubs, Akiva realized how that transition would work better if we played the sound a certain way. He asked us to mix the scene without paying any attention to the picture. He then recut the picture to match the sound.
DS: “The Host” is one of my favorite films of last year . How was working on it?
SG: It was fun…but weird. I never saw any of the movie except the shots that had the beast. I was hired with Coll Anderson to design the sound of the beast. Coll took it upon himself to do the vocals and run them by me, and I decided to do the body, feet, and whatever other sounds the beast made and run them by Coll. He and I spent a few days recording things from animal vocals to yogurt slurps to vegetable splats. Then we went our separate ways and worked with the visuals. Once we were happy with our individual parts we sent them to the other for feedback. After some adjustments we turned over the “sound of the beast” to the film makers (who I never got to meet) who had no notes. They dug it the first time they heard it. You gotta love that. So working on it was painless and fun.
DS: What was your first gig like?
SG: My first gig was as a transfer engineer on a movie called “Blank Check”. I basically copied the sound rolls from 1/4″ tape to DAT so the dialogue editors who were working on a digital workstation could have the production dialogue in a digital format. That part of the job wasn’t fun but sitting behind some FX editors was a blast. I got so excited when I saw how people were making films sound cool. I asked if I could take a stab at a chase scene and I haven’t looked back since. I still wake up in the morning excited to go to work and appreciating that I get paid to play!!