Technicolor at Paramount sound mixer Anna Behlmer and re-recording mixer Terry Porter were part of the audio post production team on Adam McKay’s Oscar-nominated film The Big Short. McKay himself was nominated in the Best Director category for the film.
In our recent interview with the director he gave a shout-out to Behlmer and Porter: “Mixers Anna Behlmer and Terry Porter just killed it,” he said. “I’ve never done a mix quite like it, where it was shot about 80 percent verite, but the rest is framed more traditionally and we go into montages. The sound had to be ambient and real, but then sometimes it wasn’t. So it had to be moment-by-moment.”
We recently reached out to the duo to find out how they got involved and their work on the film.
Behlmer, who had worked with McKay on Anchor Man 2, did a one-day temp for The Big Short in early September. “I started effects predubs on September 17, and Terry started dial predubs the same day. We started the final mix on September 28 and our last day was October 16.”
Porter handled dialogue and the music, while Behlmer took on all the sound effects. The audio team was up against it schedule-wise, which led to some long days. “We worked six days a week, close to 12 hours a day,” says Behlmer. “It was a very short schedule and we needed to work fast.
” What could have been a very stressful turnaround was made easy because of McKay’s nature, says Behlmer. “He’s very easygoing and collaborative. Terry and I would final a reel and Adam and the picture editor Hank Corwin (nominated for his work on this film) would come in for playback. They would give notes and we would execute them and move on to another reel.”
Porter, who hadn’t worked with McKay or Corwin before, echoed Behlmer’s sentiment, “Adam and Hank Corwin had a blueprint for what they wanted to hear, but Adam was very open to any creative ideas and new concepts.”
“It was a very efficient way to work,” says Behlmer. “Adam and Hank knew what they wanted, but they were also open to our input.”
One challenge on the film was that it had pieces of non-traditional storytelling. “There are scenes where an actor would turn to the camera and speak to the audience and then go back in to the scene,” she explains. “These were opportunities for us; we would suspend the sounds of reality for those moments and then suddenly slam the sound back in when the actor returned to the scene. There were no rules as far as the soundscape; the picture editing was non-traditional and the sound had to follow suit.”
She also points to the effective use of stock footage in the film. “In some cases we would add sound design or music, and other cases it would be silent. There were several creative uses of silence in the film. There were also scenes that sped up and the sound effects reflected that.”
What Porter found challenging was that the soundscape used all of the production recorded dialogue. “Most movies can have between 10 percent and 50 percent of the production recorded dialog replaced after the filming of the movie. They wanted the feel of a documentary-type dialog track, even if the dialog wasn’t perfectly recorded. This kept it very real. Only a few lines were re-recorded.”
In the end that real feeling worked for the film, as evidenced by its Oscar noms. “The story of the housing market crash is one that has effected us all in one way or another. The film will entertain you, make you laugh, educate you and, finally, make you very angry,” concludes Behlmer.