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Jason Bateman as Marty in 'Ozark'. Photo credit Jackson Davis/Netflix.


Authentic Midwest Soundscapes in 'Ozark'

"Overall the whole series is all about tension. No matter what happens in any scene, something is going to lead to something good or bad. The sound really must support whatever is happening. We find ways to build environmental tension from landscape itself."

Story by Mun Kang | June 21, 2018

Nick Forshager, Supervising Sound Editor of Ozark

When Chicago financial advisor Martin 'Marty' Byrde (Jason Bateman) is caught in a money laundering deal gone south between his business partner Sam Dermody (Kevin L. Johnson), and the Mexican cartel associate Del (Esai Morales), Marty is unexpectedly forced to relocate his family, including wife Wendy (Laura Linney), 15-year-old daughter Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz), and 13-year-old son Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), to the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.

People from all over the state of Missouri flock to the Lake of the Ozarks every major holiday and especially during the summer months. With the breadth of water surrounding the land and the incoming abundance of people, Marty envisioned the Ozarks as a potential cash producing opportunity to make amends to the Mexican drug lord by repaying all the debt. To make matters worse, after the Byrde family gets situated in Missouri, they have run-ins with the criminally convicted Langmore family, as Marty oversteps boundaries with long-time local powerhouse drug dealers, the Snells. This Midwest crime drama series highlighting the lake known as 'Ozark' is created by the collaborators of 'The Accountant', Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams. To create a sense of authenticity and believability for the viewers of the show and specifically for Missouri natives, sounds were recorded from the actual Lake of the Ozarks with the guidance of seasoned drama supervising sound editor, Nick Forshager ('Breaking Bad' and 'Fargo').

Skylar Gaertner as Jonah (left) and Sofia Hublitz as Charlotte (right). Photo credit Jackson Davis/Netflix.

Much of the inspiration and research to achieve that Lake of the Ozarks authenticity came from having an actual recordist visit the tourist destination. Forshager shared, "When we came out onto Season 1, my sound recordist friend went down to Lake of the Ozarks and did a bunch of recordings for us of forests, lakes, highways, and birds. We were able to get a lot of the sounds that were authentic to the area. We were to be wrapped inside of Missouri. That was the basis of where we started getting these original recordings, so we could really capture that specific sound, and then we built it from there, trying to create a sense of authenticity for the show."

The series is set in a variety of locations as those become their own distinct character. "It's a perfect contrast with Marty's house compared to the Langmore's trailer. We always wanted to fill in all the locations, especially the house locations that were near the water to constantly have a sense of it. The lake is a character in the show and we wanted to make sure there was always the lake presence, so the locations all have that central theme with different personalities. For Marty's house, we try to make it serene, where the family has their own space. With the Langmore's area, we felt it's more like a trailer park where we would add in the dogs, lake, beefier boats, motorcycles, and mechanical based sounds. The Blue Cat Lodge had contrasts right when we first started the series as it was decrepit, rundown, and empty. We played a lot with the docks being very creaky and the building both rickety and isolated. When Marty starts funneling money into the Blue Cat, the place starts taking on a new shape, being sturdier and more vibrant, with people and activity surrounding it. I try to look at locations as characters and how that character can help the story," the supervisor expanded.

Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell (left) and Peter Mullan as Jacob Snell (right). Photo credit Jackson Davis/Netflix.

Tension is often escalated throughout scenes to lead to a maximum climax. The supervisor explained, "Overall the whole series is all about tension. No matter what happens in any scene, something is going to lead to something good or bad. The sound really must support whatever is happening. We find ways to build environmental tension from landscape itself, so it will help push some of that taught, desperate feeling, whether it's winds, isolation, rumbles, or hums; to inform a scene to give it more drama and intensity. Sometimes, we downplayed things tension wise so that when something big happened, it was much more dramatic emotionally."

'Ozark' produces the authenticity of the Lake of the Ozarks by recording actual real sounds resonating from that area, presenting each location as a character itself, and scientifically placing each element to create a certain tension. Forshager concluded, "We spent a lot of time on authenticity on this show."

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