How Sound Team Made Jake Gyllenhaal’s Thriller The Guilty


In the new Netflix film “The Guilty”, Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Joe, a street agent who is demoted to his post following an accident. He’s at work in the middle of the last wildfire in California. Joe can only answer 9-1-1 calls. Joe takes action when he receives a call from Emily (Riley Keough), a kidnapped girl. With the action of the film played through Joe’s headphones, the sound design of the film is placed front and center, acting as the driving force behind the story.

Director Antoine Fuqua has entrusted his many long-time collaborators with the creation of his sound team. Mandell Winter and David Esparza, sound designer and re-recording mixer respectively, were to be his sound editors.

Winter explains, “It started with Jake and the cast on set, but all the callers were distant. It was designed that way because of the pandemic. We had a conference call that was broadcast live in the Jake’s headset so he can hear and play against the actors.

With Keough, Peter Sarsgaard, Ethan Hawke, and Paul Dano for the vocal work, sound designer David Esparza was tasked with creating the sound elements that surround the vocal performances so that audiences think the calls are coming from the streets of Los Angeles. rather than an actor’s house.

Actors working remotely meant that the audio production of the actors on set could not be recorded in the normal way. Esparza said there was no audio track, and only vocals, so everything had to be done from scratch. “The jostling motion of the phone, rocking it of the phone, moving it from hand to hand, even those subtle little movements or someone moving in bed, everything down to these little details has been painted. to help create the illusion that these people existed in these environments, and that the movement was actually happening on the other side of the phone.

The process of creating the familiar and unmistakable squeaky sound from an action performed via a phone required a lot of trial and error, multiple passes, and expert sound bandwidth manipulations.

“We had to walk between realistic sound on the phone and being visceral enough to tell this story on the other side of the phone in the necessary detail,” Esparza adds.

To create the film’s rich and textured sound design, every element present has been carefully considered. From a storytelling standpoint, the team sought to instill a tension of chaos between the obvious things like sirens ringing in the background and the wind. Esparza said these included subconscious details such as the low noise of the van giving an impression of fear and the hypnotic nature of the wipers.

A key element of sound design was also exploring Joe’s emotional state through the sounds around him.

“Antoine wanted to give the impression that the city was getting a little out of control. And that feeling kind of permeates the movie in general with what’s going on with the characters Joe is speaking with as well as Joe’s own psyche, ”Winter.

Joe becomes more and more obsessed with the mysterious caller as the story progresses. He becomes determined to save her. The tension builds – what started out as softer sounds become sharper, more visceral and more captivating, designed by Winter to reinforce emotion in performances.

“The sound gives us the opportunity to really get into Joe’s head. This is representative of the enormous pressure he is under. We used devices like ringing in the ears or lack of sound to give subtle and subjective weight to the moment, ”Esparza explains.

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