For Quentin Tarantino, sound is extremely important. He has stated that even before he starts writing, he selects an opening credit theme song, and that starts the writing process. According to Wylie Stateman, supervising sound editor on Tarantino’s new picture Django Unchained, “Quentin has a very holistic view about filmmaking. That begins with his writing, and in terms of sound, it begins with his written words, his musical thoughts, and then his relationship with his production sound mixer Mark Ulano, with myself, Mike Minkler and Tony Lamberti. We’re involved in preproduction, and we’re already discussing some of the challenges that we are going to face in terms of trying to maximize the shooting period for sound. Also to minimize the need for ADR or other solutions that would be unacceptable to Quentin. He really has a big view of his films before he begins production, and we’re part of that. We’re in touch with one another, we discus the script, we discuss the shooting process, and of course the editing with Fred Raskin. We try and problem solve ahead of time, so issues and opportunities are fully explored.”
Stateman explained the style of the picture as, “Django is a classic styled Spaghetti Western with a genuine Southern flair. Quentin’s marching orders were that he wanted it to feel analog, and he wanted it to feel spirited. Analog we can accomplish with both conventional and modern techniques, because there are modern ways of making things sound analog, and analog is a style guide. Spirited, in my mind, evokes the highly emotional, racially charged adventure that was our story. Spirited also affects the pace and the acoustical pallet, or the acoustical fingerprint, that isn’t everywhere, but is where we needed it. For example, for the gunshots, we wanted to have a huge, analog outdoor feel, and not be generated by some reverb program, or device. So to facilitate that, we went to Death Valley,ZionNational Park, and then toMonumentValley, recording just echoes in these deep canyons and up against the natural stone walls. We recorded a variety of things, a signal cannon, gunshots, bullwhips, even chains, and some voices, because that was part of making it spirited and analog, to me.”
Stateman credited Harry Cohen (sound effects designer) and Dror Mohar (sound editor) as going way above and beyond the job description to get these sounds with him in these remote locations and for many other things, like getting proper horse sounds. Stateman said that both Cohen and Mohar, in fact all of his crew, are musicians or very musically inclined, so that is why the horses’ footsteps and even the wagon creaking are in sync with the music. “We spent quite a bit of time working with the rhythm to get everything in sync, in fact we spent a year to the day on this picture.”
From any early stage, the team provided Tarantino with sound design elements that were cut into the picture edit, so there were no temp sounds as the cut progressed. The rough cuts had the final sound so that the director could better judge what he actually had and not fall in love with temp tracks.
Any sound person would have to love working with Tarantino, but Stateman believes it is more that a job. “Quentin loves cinema in its entirety, and I love every aspect of sound, so over time we have developed a love and respect for each other,” he said.