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Riveting Detail-Oriented Sound in 'Mindhunter'

"David [Fincher] wants to paint a picture of every location we go to and use the sound to help give characteristics to that particular place."

Story by Mun Kang | June 19, 2018

Jeremy Molod, Supervising Sound Editor of Mindhunter

'Mindhunter' is a crime drama set in 1977, which revolves around two FBI agents in Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) as they investigate and probe the minds of serial killers, rapists, and child molesters with the assistance of psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), to further understand how these criminals deliberate, operate, and act the way they do, in the hope to apply beneficial knowledge to future cases. The series is headed up by the incomparable executive producer, David Fincher, known for his distinctive work on 'Panic Room', 'Fight Club', 'Zodiac', and 'Gone Girl'. Fincher is known for generating thought-provoking masterpieces with his singular sense of style.

Longtime collaborator of Fincher's and supervising sound editor, Jeremy Molod ('House of Cards') relates to the director's unique thought process and appreciates his constructive feedback. Molod elaborated, "We certainly get a lot of direction from David Fincher himself. He comes up with a lot of these ideas of the sounds he wants to hear and how they should sound such as in jails, on phones, typewriters, and obviously the music, because this is a period piece. Ren Klyce is one of our sound designers and he used 'Zodiac' as an inspiration and for research, because took place during the same time period. We also looked towards 'The Conversation' for things like recording devices. We tried to get all the authentic props to record, in order to make those specific sounds."

Scene from Mindhunter. Courtesy of Netflix.

As the FBI agents are sent all over the U.S. to interview a variety of serial killers, their locations often changed multiple times in one episode. With a different location, also comes a variation of sound to distinguish the venues and cities from one another. "David wants to paint a picture of every location we go to and use the sound to help give characteristics to that particular place. We need to think about where they are and what the actual story is of that scene - what the point is that they're trying to get across. One case in point is Holden and Tench go to visit an Iowa Police Station. Since this is in the 1970s, we made it sound like an old, wooden police station with creaky floors, creaky chairs, the rat tat-tat of an old fan going in the background, off camera cigars and cigarettes lighting, and big boots for the policemen to wear. All those little characteristics help paint that exact location of where they were," expanded the sound editor.

Scene from Mindhunter. Courtesy of Netflix.

Each scene was broken down to the subtleties of each sound. When the agents visit an alleged murderer, they question the subject piercingly, so he becomes more and more nervous. To create this feeling of immense pressure, subtle toe tapping sounds were added in to enhance the uneasy nervousness. Those tapping sounds become louder and louder throughout the scene as Holden and Tench escalate the stakes through this brutal interrogation.

After the details are mapped out, these sonic elements are implanted for a desired emotional effect. Molod explained, "In episode 2, when it's Holden's first time walking down the penitentiary, David wanted to make it a really petrifying prison. To get Holden and the audience scared, we used a combination of jail sounds that were library effects and new recordings, with a few voice actors as the screaming prisoners in the background. We had Holden's shoes be very nice and pristine, clip-clop, clip-clop to help show the contrast between the innocent Holden walking into this frightening prison. We made that build up as Holden was walking in there, to get scarier and scarier. The Ed Kemper character was supposed to be this massive, terrifying serial killer. The actor who portrayed him, although he was big framed, wasn't huge and as scary as the character was believed to be. We used sound a lot to help that, made him really heavy, and made many of his chains dangling from him clinking. When he sat in chairs, we made the chairs strain, so when the chairs would strain to stay intact, the audience would feel intimidated by this large man."

Scene from Mindhunter. Courtesy of Netflix.

David Fincher's superior pinpoint exactness, masterful direction, vast understanding about sound, and holding onto the truth of the period is all woven within 'Mindhunter'. The precise, idiosyncratic vision was conveyed by Jeremy Molod and his team as they meticulously executed Fincher's ideas. This riveting crime drama implemented realistic sounds from numerous states and locales, to embody the authenticity of the 1970s era with the recordings of multiple devices, to the tiniest details of each sound, leaving a lasting emotional resonance.

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