The mix works like this: big dark room, the film projected on what I’d imagine to be a 12-foot screen. There are a few chairs right down in front of the screen, but I never use them, unless I’m pacing, wandering, restless.
Matt sits one step up, behind the mixing consol. He’s surrounded by levers and knobs, and of course a computer keyboard, and I haven’t much of a clue as to what any of them does. I watch the monitor at times. It looks a little like a Final Cut timeline, but different. Because I trust in Matt, I believe in his abilities, I know it’s nothing I need to know. He’s in control.
I sit behind a large desk of sorts one step up from and behind Matt. I have my laptop open to keep track of and check other film business while Matt does his thing. I’ll read emails, look up film festivals, things like that.
And we begin. I arrive on the 9th floor of DuArt at 9 AM on that Tuesday morning. Hot coffee in hand for me. I give Matt a present. A gift from the last film, Friends (With Benefits). It’s a Willoughby’s “Serious Coffee Drinker” t-shirt like Alex Brown and Rooney Mara wore in the film. When he realizes what it is, he smiles and tells me that since I sent him some Willoughby’s beans after the last mix he’s been addicted to the coffee, and orders it via their mail order site. Not only is the guy a brilliant mixer…he knows his coffee!
COLOR ME OBSESSED was a completely different beast from my last two film. A set of talking heads, over a hundred-twenty appear in the film, all with their own specific set of sound issues. An air conditioning unit we couldn’t shut off, LA street sounds, NYC street sounds, MPLS street sounds (I fucking hate street sounds), refrigerators, hums, buzzing, other bands playing loudly in the arena upstairs, dog tags jingling, interns turning log pages loudly, and one part-time uncredited B-camera person who moved so clunkily, Matt asked if someone was “bouncing golf balls off the window.”
We began, as always, at the first frame and worked forward. Tweaking, no so much those many voices, but those many distracting sounds behind them. Matt would, as he had for both You Are Alone and Friends (With Benefits) make everything sound perfect, all the levels even, etc and so forth.
The sound was halfway decent at best. And I’m not sharing the blame here. I take full responsibility for the sound in the film. And I even apologize in the end credits. But I didn’t want to shoot everyone in a sterile studio setting. That might work for Errol Morris, but it wouldn’t work for me. I wanted backgrounds organic (fuck, I hate that word) to the people being interviewed. If they owned a record shop, they’d be interviewed in their shop. To hell with the trucks zooming past outside on Lyndale. Or Grant Hart from Husker Du being interviewed in the basement dressing room at the 7th Street entry. I mean, could any setting be more perfect? Plus, we didn’t have a sound man. Our trusty mic stand stood in nicely. And many of the musicians we filmed seemed impressed by the quality of our shotgun mic.
And honestly, I might be overstating this a bit. When you see the film you’ll be thinking there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the sound.
And you’re right.
It sounds great!
Thanks to Matt Gundy.
In 2009, different film, FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS), much better sound, but a new set of problems (music, music, more music, creating crowds sounds out of nothing, and leveling out the rapid fire dialog of six characters talking over each other in a bar). But still, the outcome was the same. Four days of mixing. Brilliant results.
I went home on that Monday after dropping off the drive. Took many deep breaths. Tried to relax. This was it. There were no more changes. No more interviews. No graphics, title cards. This was the final version of the film I would present to the world.
I felt sad, in a way. The people in the film become your friends, your playmates, during the editing process. And they are just like friends, they can make us laugh, cry. They can annoy the piss out of you. Or give you goosebumps when they hand you exactly what you need, often times when you didn’t even know you needed it. That’s a great friend.
But that was over. On Tuesday very early morning, I’d make another trek to NYC, this time staying through to the end of the week. Four days. And now we’d get all technical. The editing was over. The mix was about to begin.