Behind the sounds of 'Blade Runner 2049' with Oscar-winning sound editor Mark Mangini - Silver Screen Beat
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Behind the sounds of ‘Blade Runner 2049’ with Oscar-winning sound editor Mark Mangini

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Mark Mangini
MARK MANGINI

Denis Villeneuve’s unforgettable Blade Runner 2049 is one of the greatest sci-fi films in recent memory, and I was thrilled to see it earn five, very well-deserved Academy Award nominations earlier this month, including Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. The film’s sound design is simply remarkable, and I was beyond excited to be able to chat with Oscar-winning supervising sound editor Mark Mangini this week about how he and his team created each and every sound in the film from scratch, all 2,850 of them, among other things. My conversation with Mark begins below:

First of all, congratulations on your fifth Oscar nomination! How did it feel to wake up on nominations morning and learn that you’ve been nominated for yet another Oscar?

There’s no such thing as “yet another Oscar!” Like each of my children, they are all special and loved. I went to bed with the same nerves and self-doubt I’ve felt with every one of my previous nominations. It always feels like it’s the first time, with an insane mix of excitement and fear. My wife Ann woke up at 5 a.m. and watched it live-streaming on her mobile phone in bed while I pretended to be sleeping and not caring. She screamed so loud when they announced my name that she woke up our son, Rio, who jumped into bed with us and we all had a huge family hug.

How exactly did you get involved with Blade Runner 2049?

The filmmakers had just watched Mad Max: Fury Road while they were shooting Blade Runner 2049 in Budapest, Hungary. They saw a style or approach in that film (which I won an Oscar for in 2016) that they felt suited their film. I got a call in London the next day and flew to Budapest to meet with Denis Villeneuve on the set while he was filming. I had to pitch my ideas in front of his entire crew…without ever having read the script! I guess he liked them.

With a film like Blade Runner 2049, I’m assuming that you and your team had to start from scratch when it came to building the sound design in that film. How did you know where to start?

We did, indeed, start from scratch. We wanted Blade Runner 2049 to occupy its own unique sonic universe. It is 30 years hence, and we felt it required a fresh approach while being “loyal” to the original. We listened to Ridley’s Blade Runner a great deal to deconstruct what made it tick. We then embarked on a nine month journey to create our own textures in the spirit of the first film, without ever copying or even using a single sound from it. “Starting from scratch” is, quite literally, what we did. There is very little in this film that was recorded on set. Every single sound from the smallest irradiated bee buzz to the biggest sonic boom was created, designed, and edited for this film. No library sound at all. 2,850 original compositions.

In that regard, I think good science fiction sound has a special challenge to do what we call “world building.” Nothing exists and it all has to be manufactured. Traditional and historical films have the benefit of living in a sonic universe we all understand and have heard before. They are familiar to our ears. Our film, and most good science fiction, have to go that extra mile to create a sonic “believability” to everything the audience hears it for the first time.

Did you use Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner as a reference while building the sound design for Blade Runner 2049?

Yes, but only as a reference. What Ridley and his sound team did so brilliantly was immerse the audience in these quasi-musical textures as atmosphere throughout the film. Almost anywhere you go in the original, you are surrounded by these ambient mood-textures that aren’t music and aren’t sound design. They work on a meta-level that displaces the audience to a very foreign or unknown place. We don’t know if these sounds are sculptural, architectural, or even musical. They work to create this other “world” that doesn’t exist except in the mind of the filmmakers.

Around awards season, I get a lot of people asking me to explain the difference between sound editing and sound mixing. As a sound designer, how would you explain the difference between the two?

I am so glad you asked this. The sound disciplines are not well understood outside the small circle of its practitioners. Here’s a couple of ways of looking at the differences using disciplines all filmmakers understand as an analogy:

The relationship between the sound editor and the sound mixer closely tracks the relationship between the cinematographer and the film editor. The sound editor creates the sound content for a film (the thousands of individual sounds one hears in a film) and the Sound Mixer organizes all that sound content (those thousands of pieces) by mixing it into a seamless and beautiful final soundtrack. So too does the director of photography create the visual content by filming thousands of individual pieces or shots that require the skills of the film editor to organize all those individual pieces into a seamless and cohesive whole, final film.

Another comparison might be illustrated by the relationship between writer and actor. The writer creates the content: the story, the words, the script. The writer creates what you will experience. But it is the actor that brings this content to life through his or her interpretation of that content. Remember, the words in and of themselves are not a performance. The actor takes the content provided by the writer and interprets them, arranges them for the screen, and creates living, breathing performances. The writer determines what the actor will perform, while the actor determines how that content will be interpreted for the screen.

2017 was a fantastic year for sound design in film. In addition to Blade Runner 2049, some of the other films that stick out in my mind are Phantom Thread, Call Me by Your Name, and mother! What were some of your personal favorites?

I love that you chose very non-traditional movies for their deft use of sound. I, too, loved movies one would not expect. I really liked Three Billboards and All the Money in the World this year. Both used sound as an effective narrative tool: sound that told the story without bludgeoning or forcing itself on the audience. It’s a shame that nuance isn’t as appreciated in our discipline as it might be in others. All too often sound is judged but its density and loudness; two techniques which are often the hallmarks of filmmakers bereft of better storytelling ideas. Our awards are given for best sound. Not most sound. Billboards and All the Money both constantly engaged the audience with sound to create mood, geography, displacement, and engagement for the audience. They did it with beautiful subtlety as well as high craft, recording and choosing unique and memorable sounds while never bludgeoning or coercing the audience to react to them.

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Emma Watson shares candid behind the scenes photo of the all-star ‘Little Women’ cast

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Little Women
COLUMBIA PICTURES

With just a little more than a year to go until Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women opens in theaters, Emma Watson, just one of many stars a part of the film’s impressive ensemble, has taken to social media to share the first official image from the set of the film.

From left to right, the candid behind the scenes photo shows Watson’s Meg March, Gerwig, Saoirse Ronan’s Jo March, Florence Pugh’s Amy March, Eliza Scanlen’s Beth March, and Timothée Chalamet’s Theodore Laurence.

“I could never love anyone as I love my sisters,” reads the photo’s caption, a direct quote from Louisa May Alcott’s beloved 1868 novel of the same name, which the film is based on.

Written and directed by Gerwig, the film’s story is set in post-Civil War America and follows the lives of the four March sisters as they each navigate the journey from childhood to womanhood.

Little Women marks a reunion for Gerwig, Ronan, and Chalamet, who all previously collaborated on Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird last year, which earned several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director for Gerwig, and Best Actress for Ronan.

The film, which also stars the likes of Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, and Bob Odenkirk, will open in theaters next winter on December 25, 2019.

You can check out the Little Women first look image below.

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2019 SAG Awards nominations revealed: See the complete list of this year’s nominees

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A Star Is Born Shallow SAG Screen Actors Guild Awards
WARNER BROS.

Awkwafina and Laverne Cox were on hand to announce nominees for the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards for outstanding individual, cast, and ensemble performances in film and television of 2018 at the Pacific Design Center’s SilverScreen Theater in Hollywood on Tuesday morning.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s hit remake of A Star Is Born picked up the most film nominations with four nods, including Best Actor for Cooper, Best Actress for Gaga, Best Supporting Actor for Sam Elliott, and Best Ensemble.

The Favourite, BlackKklansman, and Vice also picked up a number of nominations on the film side, while The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Ozark, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story dominated the television side.

The 25th Annual SAG Awards ceremony, which does not yet have a confirmed host, will be simulcast live on TNT and TBS on Sunday, January 27 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

The complete list of nominees is below:

Theatrical Motion Picture nominees

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams, Vice
Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place
Margot Robbie, Mary, Queen of Scots
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
A Star Is Born
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
Crazy Rich Asians

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Avengers: Infinity War
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Black Panther
Mission: Impossible — Fallout

Television nominees

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie
Antonio Banderas, Genius
Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Hugh Grant, A Very English Scandal
Antony Hopkins, King Lear
Bill Pullman, The Sinner

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie
Amy Adams, Sharp Objects
Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannamora
Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects
Penelope Cruz, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Emma Stone, Maniac

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Jason Bateman, Ozark
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Joseph Feinnes, The Handmaid’s Tale
John Krasinski, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Julia Garner, Ozark
Laura Linney, Ozark
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Alison Brie, G.L.O.W.
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Jane Fonda, Grace & Frankie
Lily Tomlin, Grace & Frankie

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
Bill Hader, Barry
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Henry Winkler, Barry

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
The Americans
Better Call Saul
The Handmaid’s Tale
Ozark
This Is Us

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Atlanta
Barry
G.L.O.W.
The Kominsky Method
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series
Daredevil
G.L.O.W.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan
The Walking Dead
Westworld

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Scott Derrickson set to return to the director’s chair for Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’ sequel

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Doctor Strange Scott Derrickson
MARVEL STUDIOS

With Avengers: Endgame officially on the horizon, Marvel has quietly begun to put the pieces together for what’s to come after the eagerly awaited next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe hits theaters next April, which means finally getting plans for a Doctor Strange sequel on the drawing board.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Scott Derrickson, who co-wrote and directed the original Doctor Strange film in 2016, has finalized a deal to helm its sequel, which will see Benedict Cumberbatch reprise his role as the titular mystical superhero.

While no writers are attached to the Doctor Strange sequel quite yet, a source with insider knowledge tells Silver Screen Beat that Marvel is eyeing Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill, who co-wrote the original along with Derrickson, to begin working on a script.

THR also reports that Marvel isn’t expected to get production on the Doctor Strange sequel underway until at least early 2020, meaning the film likely won’t hit theaters until around mid-2021 or possibly even later in the year.

Also set to return for the sequel is Benedict Wong, who plays Wong, a master of the mystic arts and Stephen Strange’s right-hand man, and Rachel McAdams, who plays Christine Palmer, an emergency surgeon and Strange’s love interest.

Marvel had no comment on the news.

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