Randy Thom on the Sound Design of “Standard Operating Procedure” [DS Exclusive]
“Standard Operating Procedure” continues Errol Morris’s line of great documentaries May 9th. John Nutt operated as the film’s sound supervisor while Randy Thom proceeded as the films sound designer. Nutt worked on Coppola’s latest directorial effort, “Youth Without Youth” while Thom continues to contribute to the sound of animated films with, “Bolt” this fall. Re-recording mixers Lee Dichter and Pete Horner dubbed the film at Sound One in NYC. Horner is another “Youth without Youth” alum while Dichter is working on Woody Allen’s Cannes Film Festival entry, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona“. “S.O.P” featured a somewhat standard operating procedure for documentary production sound with multiple sound mixers lending their talents to the film. All coming from TV and film production sound pedigrees, production sound mixers John Garrett, Albee Gordon, and Steve Bores share credit on the film. Composing orders on “S.O.P.” were issued to Danny Elfman. Elfman, is currently helping “Hellboy” take on the golden army this July.
THANKS TO RANDY THOM FOR BLURBBING IT UP ABOUT THE SOUND WORK FOR THE FILM!
When Errol Morris asked me to do sound design for his film “Standard Operating Procedure” I jumped at the chance. Errol is an old friend, a brilliant filmmaker, and the issues raised by this film runs deep into so many aspects of our culture. I also relished the chance to work on a live action film again. Animated features have been my preoccupation for the last several years, and though I love them, I’ve been missing live action a bit. Errol’s approach to live action in this film is highly stylized, and he clearly designed the re-creations with sound in mind. In a way it’s all like a terrifying dream, and anything dream-like is a playground for sound design. It swings the door wide open to sound effects being used in an essentially musical way, do you know what I mean?… very evocative and emotional.
The imagery Errol used has lots of mystery in it, slow motion photography, lots of darkness around the edges of the frame, inviting sound to give clues to what we don’t see. Coming up with a sound for a slow motion shot of water spraying from a shower head was quite a challenge. The sound of pressurized gas escaping from a pipe turned out to be a key element in that sound. I guess, because that shower is basically part of a torture chamber, our historical association between shower heads and poisonous gas strikes a chord. Still, when you watch the scene you know that stuff coming out of the shower head is water, but the underlying message that something evil is going on gets through. I worked on “S.O.P.” at Skywalker Sound with John Nutt, an old friend who goes back to “Apocalypse Now,” and Pete Horner, an up-and-coming mixer/sound designer. Lee Dichter and Pete did the final mix at Sound One in New York. Danny Elfman composed the unusual and beautiful score.