“The Kingdom” explodes into theaters September 28th. Sound supervisors Gregory and Darren King rallied their troops including sound designer Yann Delpuech, for an all-out editorial assault. A part of “Sounddogs,” they have currently been working on the next season of “Friday Night Lights” after tackling sound for the feature film that goes by the same name. Mixing for “The Kingdom” took place at Sony’s Burt Landcaster Theater. Re-recording mixer Rick Kline mowed down the dialog and music while Greg King hurled himself from sound editorial into the effects mixing chair. Kline, an established sound mixer, finished this summer’s “Hairspray” earlier in the year. Willie D. Burton handled production sound for the film. A busy sound mixer in his own right, Burton wrapped on Denzel Washington’s next directorial effort, “The Great Debater’s” earlier in the summer. Danny Elfman composed for the film, tracking the score at Warner Bros. Eastwood scoring stage. There is a great little photo essay on the sessions HERE. Elfman will lend his talents to next year’s “Hell Boy 2: The Golden Army”.
I found the opening title sequence for “The Kingdom” HERE today. I don’t think I have ever seen a production tease it’s release with a credit sequence but, I was very intrigued with what I saw. Either way, if the reviews contain valid descriptions of what the third act has in store for audiences this weekend, there must have been a big bucket of earplugs on the final stage. Thanks to sound supervisor and re-recording mixer Gregory King for taking time out to do this Q and A!
DS: How important was realism to director Peter Berg (or yourselves) in terms of the weapon effects?
GK: For myself, sounding real and using the real sounds are two different things. I like things to sound real in the context of what I’m seeing on screen. I work from an emotional perspective, not from an authentic one. It’s my job to add to the director’s story telling, and unless the director is making a documentary, I will use the sounds that best convey what is happening on-screen. For “The Kingdom,” the weapons at the climax of the film had to be intense and claustrophobic. I made my sound and mix choices based on those emotions; whether or not we used an AK-47 sound for an AK-47 on-screen was of secondary importance.
FSD: Assuming you guys had some field session time during post, what were some of your favorite recordings for the film?
GK: Yann Delpuech who has been designing effects with me forever, flew to the Middle East to record Arabic crowds, voices and calls to prayer. The tracks he recorded are beautiful. The characters in the film find themselves in a strange and foreign land, so it was very important to convey that uneasiness through sound. Darren King did a great job of getting an awesome sounding Arabic loop group, but the more environmental and gritty voices that you hear are from Yann’s recordings. This is an example where “authentic” really works well. The sounds of the Arabic voices and environments are so foreign to us as Westerners that they hit that “uneasy” emotional chord really well. We couldn’t have created anything better than the real thing.
FSD: With the tag line “trust no one”, were there opportunities to convey, even subconsciously, a lack of integrity among the characters?
GK: In this film, the lack of trust is more between two cultures than it is between characters. So it kind of hearkens back to the last question a bit. And that is in creating a foreign and uneasy environment. It also has to do with how the dialogue and music are mixed. My mixing partner Rick Kline has a fantastic sense on how to play dialogue and music within a scene; he understands how to draw an audience in, when to distract them and how to keep them off balance. And keeping an audience off balance is one of the techniques you use to help keep the anxiety level up a bit, which is what this film is about.
FSD: Michael Mann produced the film; did he have input on the sound? What has he been like to work with in the past?
GK: Michael did have input on the sound. He came to playbacks for the temp dubs, and we played back the final mix for him. I love Michael’s sound notes – he really understands and respects what sound can bring to a movie, and he knows how to use it to its full advantage as a filmmaker. I did “The Insider” and “Ali” for him. Working for Michael Mann is very intense; his demands and expectations are very high. My experience working so closely with Michael on “The Insider” made me at least twice the sound designer and re-recording mixer that I was before. I learned a lot from him. “The Insider” did not have a single gunshot, explosion or spaceship and it still received an Oscar nomination for best sound. The credit for that goes to Michael and his willingness to try things with sound that other filmmakers might shy away from.
FSD: A recent review described the action set pieces in the film as “a loud and violent catharsis!’” What makes the “loud parts” in action films satisfying and entertaining on an aural level without overwhelming and/or confusing the audience?
GK: Hopefully, in the same way a single punch between the eyes would have. In and out quick, shockingly sudden, and don’t dwell on it. From a technical point of view “The Kingdom” is not mixed loud; Rick and I are very conscious of that. It is however, mixed very dynamically, which gives the impression of being loud where you want it to be without it being loud in pure volume. I try to dish out intensity, or anxiety, or chaos. I try to do this with dynamics, rhythms and frequencies. But I never want an audience to wince or be uncomfortable by sound levels.
DS: What was your first gig like?
GK: Great. It was in Toronto in 1985 and I was hired by Alban Streeter and Nolan Roberts, two Brits who had immigrated to Canada several years earlier. They had worked on films by such directors as Polanski and Kubrick while in England. They worked on mag (film with sprockets for you young ones), but I was into samplers and sequencers. I brought them into the digital age while they taught me film editing.