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  • Writer's pictureApocalyptic Thanksgiving

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

Holly and I were so fortunate to have worked with James Morioka on our team as Supervising Sound Editor. How important is sound for a movie? It’s 50% of our experience in a theater. Watch a movie with bad sound. Oh wait! We already listen to tons of YouTube podcasts that are poorly mixed. Sounds Matters.

What is the final mix: Stereo, Dolby 5.1, or Dolby 7.1?

James would ask Holly and me except we didn’t know at the time. James shared with us that nowadays, 90% of video content is devoured on some sort of device. Most film festivals showcase their movies in stereo he let us know. So, it would be most likely you would end up in remixing it to stereo. In the end IF you’re showing it in a theater you need at least Dolby 5.1. Distributors will eventually dictate what they need. Our distributor was FreeStyle Media. They asked for a stereo mix AND a Dolby 5.1 mix.

At our cast and crew screening at Whitefire Theatre, our movie played in stereo and it sounded amazing.

My Apocalyptic Thanksgiving at Whitefire Theatre
My Apocalyptic Thanksgiving at Whitefire Theatre

Thank you, James!

James Morioka - Sound Editor at Sony
James Morioka - Sound Editor at Sony

Things that James taught Holly and me.

  • Filmmakers have to realize that they have to budget for sound. The sound budget should not be whatever is left over from the production budget.

  • There are many aspects to sound like Foley, ADR, conforming, and mixing that are not as familiar terms to people outside of the entertainment industry.

  • Sound Department needs time and effort.

  • James brought in sound other people such as Foley Artist,Colin Lechner and Foley Mixer Marinna Guzy here in Los Angeles. Doug Siebum worked remotely as our sound designer and sound editor.

  • Dialogue editing. I never knew how vital these things worked until James worked his magic of sound and dialogue editing.

Atmospheric sounds

We learned so much about the different aspects of the overall sound editing job along with more specifics. He was patient and a good teacher.

We would watch a scene where he would take apart the different sound layers. Each would create a completely different feel. An example is how can atmospheric sounds can get you think about a specific kind of neighbor. Ours would need the sounds of the 10 Freeway along sometime Los Angeles Police Department helicopters, Los Angeles Police Departments sirens and of course... California Highway Patrol. Ah, city life.

And people in Montana may hear things like birds chirping, dogs barking, and kids laughing.

Even if you knew what the scene took place, the atmospheric sounds always give more texture to scenes. Like in the prison scenes: things like buzzers, keys on a chain, footsteps in an empty cement hallways, and metal doors slamming shut add more authenticity. The hospital and school scenes needed people murmuring when the door opened and closed. Let’s also not forget the sound of someone’s heartbeat and the beeps from machines monitoring them in hospital scenes involving dying people.

It was pure joy listening to the sound mix on James’ studio in Dolby 5.1.

Dialogue and Mixing

A major part of the sound department is to clean up the sound and mix it all to the correct levels. This is specific to all the sound captured during the filming of the movie or other project. The dialogue must be brought to the forefront so that the music and sound don’t drown it out. Now that I am aware of this, I notice this on lots of podcasts.

Holly and I would watch a scene or sequence together. We were hyperfocused taking in every sound, score, dialogue and even silence. Then he’d pause and ask us if we wanted any changes? We’d defer to him because he’s a rockstar. But he would run things past us since it’s always good to get feedback no matter how much you’ve mastered your craft like in James’ case.

Two scenes that we struggled with were ones in a tennis court and the alley. The Tennis Court scenes were filmed right next to the freeway. As skilled as James was in cleaning the dialogue, we eventually cut out the dialogue. Cutting the dialogue out of the scene actually helped the film breathe since it would have been speeches from the same character for two scenes in a row. This would feel like the same beat. And the speech in the scene after the tennis court fit better with the story anyway. The alley scenes were a nightmare because we filmed underneath the airport landing path. James and his team ended up finding dynamic ways to clean up these scenes.

Sound EFX - James

We were very lucky that James continued to work hard even through the lock downs. He didn't quit.

Foley sounds. He makes it look so easy.

Zombie Toys handled Marcus & Marcus opening the safe.

We also helped to ascertain which phrases were important. “Your mother’s in Lompoc Prison” was a key piece of dialogue. As a result, it was important that it popped in the scene by cleaning up the sound. It was also key in the trailers which I cut.

Like our Composer David Glen Russell, James stressed silence. So, we don’t have music or anything beyond minimal atmospheric sounds in some scenes to let people really hear the scene’s dialogue. When Marcus is imprisoned, James wanted the atmospheric sounds and music to add dramatic effect.

What does it mean when James cleans up the dialogue? All our dialogue was from the set. It was not recorded later and added back into the movies Some actors tended to smack their lips or had ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’ in between words. Sometimes there was dialogue that was unintelligible. There is one line in particular line that Kim, Chris Wu delivers. I remember when I did the English subtitles, I couldn’t figure it out either and made something up. It wasn’t in the script which I wrote either. I was completely baffled. It’s an early scene when Kim is introduced and picks up the laundry from the group home. Marcus asks him if he could work for Kim. When you watch the movie, what do you hear?

23 years of hard labor is a ::mumble::

It sounds like

23 years of hard labor is the initiation fee to get into our family.

At his work, they were testing him multiple times a week. The whole pandemic was a blessing and a curse. It slowed post down, but James kept going. He had his entire studio setup at his house. It reminds me of some of the control centers on the different battleships in Star Wars movies. Totally cool!

James also gave some sound career advice: Read this book, Peter Grubert’s “Tell To Win.” It’s an amazing book about to pitch anything in your life like a job, a book, a movie, and even yourself. I asked him how he’s used it. During an interview, a hiring manager explained at length the position. James responded simply by saying, “I’m your man.” and then he was immediately hired.

James Morioka celebrating with tacos
James Morioka celebrating

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  • Writer's pictureApocalyptic Thanksgiving

Tammy Klein, Visual Effects Supervisor and Glenn Campell, Visual Effects Artist, were a delight to work with. Glenn gave Holly and I the tour of Asylum in Burbank. Glenn and Tammy were kind of enough to meet with us during the lockdowns and their hectic schedule.

Holly and I took our obligatory selfie with  SHARKNADO shark head.
Holly and I took our obligatory selfie with SHARKNADO shark head.

Glenn shared with us old war stories of some timeless movies he worked on since he was a young guy - everything from the original STAR TREK movie to JOHNNY MNEMONIC to the infamous Sharknado movies. They just finished directing THE SHARKSIDE OF THE MOON.

Glenn also directed the VFX of the shopping cart scene which was eventually cut down. It’s the scene where Marcus gets agitated from his conversation with Me Young. He ends up pushing her into a busy intersection. But he quickly realized his mistake and rescues her. Our consulting editor Florent ‘Danny’ Retz thought that Me Young wouldn’t have the heart to ever forgive Marcus. And we realized that Danny's note was a great one.

Zoombies, Zoombies 2 and Z Nation and Sharknado series
Zoombies, Zoombies 2 and Z Nation and Sharknado series

Tammy and Glenn also worked on Zoombies and Zoombies 2 as well as Z Nation my personal favorite.

Tammy and Glenn showed us a lot of what they can and can’t do in the time given. That’s the key words: They were able to produce results with their limited time.

They gave us the very fancy flaming zombie and house explosion. They explained that doing visual effects on moving objects is extremely challenging... Things to consider such as the light that is given off. Other challenges are the shadows that the fire makes. Another factor is our shots is how wind blows the fire while Joshua Griffin chases Lisa K. Crosato's character “Sharon”.

Their shot of the house exploding is super cool. Our Director of Photography Rachel Dunn added to this by making the camera shaky to add another layer to this shot. As Rachel also does visual effects, she brought along her smoke machine to add realistic elements to the shot. They all explained that things like smoke are very hard to do with visual effects. We thought that this was a cool bit of knowledge to learn since we have training wheels when it comes to visual effects.

And at ComicCon 2022, we all shared about loving the TV shows Star Trek: Next Generation and the Expanse. As the old saying goes... A fun time was had by all that day.

Glenn and Tammy speak on a panel at Comicon talking about VFX.
Glenn and Tammy speak on a panel at Comicon talking about VFX.

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  • Writer's pictureApocalyptic Thanksgiving

Our Director Charlie introduced us to David Glen Russell. He’s like a Southern, Teddy Bear who loves metal. We instantly bonded through our love for loud guitars. He had just been hired to provide additional music in the animated Star Wars Clone series. And we had both studied classical music for years. So, I could totally understand him when he'd nerd out about music.

Quiet Riot at the Whiskey. We all look like psychos searching for the right selfie angle.

I wasn't familiar with David's work. Since he was working on Star Wars score I always viewed it as militaristic and iconic.

He also provided additional music from Star Trek's What We Left Behind: Deep Space Nine.

It's amazing that that he can love head banging metal and compose such beautiful classical music. I admit that I wasn't sure if his voice was a good fit for MY APOCALYPTIC THANKSGIVING. Our big question: Would his music work for our film?

I was fortunate to see a screening of the Blessing Documentary, at the LA Skin Festival with David. That's where I discovered that David also had a unique tender voice. He was the man for the job.

Holly and I were very blessed to have David G. Russell as a musical composer. I described MAT, My Apocalyptic Thanksgiving, as having a motherly quality about it. I showed him similar movies like a Beautiful Boy, Precious, Pursuit of Happyness, and Little Miss Sunshine. But Short Term 12 really sparked an idea. He realized what it needed to be, small, intimate which required a few instruments.

Online music sample websites was a gold mine for ideas. I was able to edit some music into a few scenes to help me get a clearer idea.

When you're working through the pandemic, it tends to drive us a little...mad.

As for the B story, it was all '80s synth, a la John Carpenter style.

The first 10 minutes, were the hardest. He'd drill us with questions. We start with the B Story (Zombie story) and interwove the A story ( Marcus' story)

What musical score should we start with? A or B?
At what point should they be combined?

He first provided us with the Zombies themes. I choked up. MAT was coming alive. It's ALIVE! Yes, I choked up just watching the Zombie theme.

Next he provided us with the touching music after Frank tucks in Marcus. It's like this touching acoustic guitar then it picks up a nice rhythm.

To steal from AMADEUS, 'Just a pulse. It's like a rusty squeezebox and then suddenly...

He was doing such an amazing job with the musical score that we dared him to use the noise of from the rubber chicken! As Captain Hook would say from Breaking Bad would say, it's our secret spice!

I love the choice when Marcus unleashes his anger and fights the new client. Instead of

the obvious choice of angry music, he brought back the mother's theme. David asked, 'Why is he fighting?' The answer is provided in the music.

Holly and I had discussed different themes for the characters. He taught us about the importance of 'silence' as well and how powerful it can be. Like when Marcus exits the prison, there's no music. Just the sound of cars driving by to the sound of his toy zombie being tossed from the car, to the beeping of the microwave.

At the end of the film, Holly chose the family's theme. She knew exactly what order the musical scores had to be.

He is currently working on his own soundtrack that he'll be selling in the future. Stay tuned for that.

We're all a bunch of music, comic book, pop culture nerds at heart. Wondercon 2018.

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