Tag Archives: Oscar-winner

The A-List: The Girl on the Train director Tate Taylor

By Iain Blair

Tate Taylor, a Mississippi native who began his career as an actor, had just one small comedy — 2008’s Pretty Ugly People — on his directing resume when that part of his career got turbo-charged thanks to his 2011 Oscar-winner The Help, which he also co-wrote and co-produced. Next he tackled another story dear to his heart and close to his roots: Get On Up, the warts-and-all biopic of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, which he co-produced with Mick Jagger and Brian Grazer.

Film Title: The Girl on the Train

Director Tate Taylor on set.

Now, for his fourth feature, Taylor has plunged headfirst and even deeper into the murky depths of twisted human behavior in the highly anticipated mystery-thriller The Girl on the Train. Starring a large ensemble cast (Emily Blunt, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Justin Theroux, Allison Janney, Lisa Kudrow), and based on the bestseller by Paula Hawkins, the Universal release explores obsession, revenge, sex, lying, desire, pain and addiction — it tells the story of a lonely woman (Blunt) who is unraveling after the breakup of her marriage and spiraling into alcoholism.

I spoke with Taylor about making the film and his process.

What do you look for in a project and what attracted you to this, as it’s a bit of a departure for you?
You’re right, as there’s nothing funny about this, and I like to have some comedy. I always look for story and lots of it, with lots of intertwining characters and character work, and I usually like stories that allow me to mix up drama and comedy.

I was a big fan of Robert Altman from a young age, and he’s been a big influence with me. I love it when comedy and drama and pathos are all mixed up together scene-wise, where you never see one or the other coming. I was thrilled about doing this because, although it’s a genre film, there’s so much character work and story to it.

Like The Help, this is a story of women and their intertwined lives. Fair to say that women-centric stories really appeal to you?
They do, but it’s funny because I can truly say I never think about the sex of characters. It just worked out that way.

Film Title: The Girl on the TrainDid you feel any trepidation about taking on the movie, making changes to the much-loved novel and upsetting its fans?
Not to sound arrogant, but I don’t worry about that one bit. If I make it truthful and well-done, then I’m doing my job. And I didn’t abandon the novel. I really respected it, and the changes we made I feel just worked better for the film.

What were the biggest technical challenges in making it?
One of the big ones was that quite a lot of the story in the novel takes place at dusk, and it’s just technically tricky to schedule that look on a shoot since you don’t get a nine-hour twilight. I also didn’t want my crew having to do weeks of night shoots in January in the freezing cold. The other big one was dealing with all the train footage. We shot some of it practically with the Metro North, up and down the Hudson, and then had a real car on stage in Yonkers and shot all that with greenscreen.

Tell us about the shoot. How long was it and how tough?
It wasn’t too bad. We had a three-month shoot, and the main thing was that we did a lot of prep. Everyone was prepared, which helped a lot, as it was a film that really needed extensive prep.

Can you talk about working with a woman DP, Charlotte Bruus Christensen?
I wish I could say that there was a political reason for using a woman DP, and helping the diversity cause, but I didn’t think about her gender when I hired her. We had a start date, she was on a list of available DPs, and after we met I just felt she was the right DP for this. As it turned out, I think having a woman shooting the more risqué scenes with the actresses was a big help. I think they were far more comfortable with her than some guy in a baseball cap (laughs).

Film Title: The Girl on the TrainYour editor was Mike McCusker, who cut Get On Up for you, Walk the Line and The Amazing Spider-Man. Tell us about the editing process. Was he on set?
He visited the set a little and we have a great relationship. He knows how I think, we have the same tastes, and he anticipates things. There was a lot of stuff with the tunnel scenes and some very trippy, acid-flashback kind of scenes, and I had him come out for all that, to make sure we had the right coverage.

Do you like the post process?
I love it, but then I love all parts of the process — from writing and casting to shooting and editing. Of course, post is crucial as it’s where you really make your film.

Where did you do the post?
It was all done — full offline editorial services — in New York at Harbor Picture Company.

How many VFX were there and what was involved?
There were several hundred shots, mainly to do with the train work and creating the whole world outside of the window. Then we had the three main houses that were supposed to be overlooking the Hudson, along the train tracks. But that doesn’t exist, so we found three perfect houses on the fairway of an abandoned golf course, and then used VFX backgrounds to give us the Hudson and so on. Technicolor and Phosphene did all the VFX.

Film Title: The Girl on the Train

Tate Taylor

Tell us about the audio and music.
They’re always crucial and I never want the music to sound too traditional or predictable, and with this so much is inside all the three women’s heads, and there’s a lot of second-guessing and claustrophobia. Everyone’s unreliable, and I knew a traditional lush score would just stick out, so Danny Elfman was a perfect match as composer. He told me he’d never done anything like this in his whole career.

Where did you do the DI? Are you a big DI fan?
We did it at Technicolor Postworks in New York (with Mike Hatzer who used Lustre), and I was pretty involved with it and working on the look together with the DP, and it was pretty great. I really wanted the film to be totally dark, and there’s a lot of jumping around and flashbacks, and we were able to do some very subtle things to enhance various scenes. And Universal really embraced the palette we chose which really pleased me, as this doesn’t look like your normal studio movie. People have told me it looks ‘European,’ which is a very big compliment. (Laughs)

Did the film turn out the way you first envisioned?
It actually did. It’s such a long, arduous process to get to that point, but it is how I first envisioned it. I’m thrilled.

What’s next?
I’ve got a lot of different projects in development, including Versailles ’73, and I’m still writing and developing a film called Tupperware, which is basically about the woman who started the Tupperware party but who in reality began the feminist movement. It’s a fascinating tale and she was way ahead of her time. I’m also working with MGM on a project titled In the Heat of the Night for a contemporary TV series, so I’ve got a lot happening right now and some great options. You never know which one will take off. Until I’m on the set, at craft services, I never believe it.

Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

ILM welcomes Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Eric Barba

ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) has brought Academy Award-winning visual effects supervisor Eric Barba to its Vancouver-based studio as creative director. In addition to supervising effects work, Barba will also provide creative oversight across all of the studio’s projects. He will work closely with ILM Vancouver’s executive in charge, Randal Shore, and collaborate with ILM’s global talent base.

For the past two years, Barba was chief creative officer of Digital Domain. A visual effects supervisor since 1999, he supervised the visual effects on David Fincher’s Zodiac, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for which he was honored with an Oscar and a BAFTA Film Award for Outstanding Visual Effects.

Barba often collaborates with Joseph Kosinski, having supervised work on his films Tron: Legacy and Oblivion. Most recently Barba has been consulting on a number of feature projects.

Outside of his feature work, Barba has supervised effects work on dozens of commercials for brands such as Nike, Heineken and Microsoft Xbox/Epic Games. He has directed ad campaigns for American Express, Cingular, Honda, Jaguar and Nike. He has received eight AICP Awards, and three gold and two bronze Clio Awards for his spot work.

Barba began his career as a digital artist on sci-fi programs from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Imaging. He is a graduate of Art Center College of Design and is a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

ILM Vancouver is currently in production on Warcraft for Duncan Jones, Luc Besson’s Valerian and David Green’s Teenage Mutant Turtles 2.

‘Fury’ Part I: The Sounds of War

By Jennifer Walden

Having three job titles on a film may seem like a huge undertaking, but it’s actually quite a natural flow — taking the reins at the starting gate and steering a film’s sound from the pre-production phase through the final mix of the sound effects. That’s just what Paul N.J. Ottosson (sound designer, sound re-recording mixer and sound supervisor) has done for every film he’s worked on since 2008’s The Hurt Locker, for which he won two Oscars (Best Sound Editing, Sound Mixing), including 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty, for which he won a Best Sound Editing Oscar.

As the supervising sound editor, sound designer and re-recording mixer for the sound effects on director David Ayer’s Fury, Ottosson was able to take concepts from early conversations with Ayer and maintain those through the final mix. “It’s a good linear process. I Continue reading

Quick Chat: Oscar-winning re-recording mixer Steve Maslow

Burbank — Motion picture sound re-recording mixer Steve Maslow got his start in the entertainment industry in late 1969 as a roadie for a local LA band called Strawberry Alarm Clock.

From there he entered the recording industry, becoming a recording engineer, for acts including Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and A Taste of Honey. Maslow earned a Gold record, a Platinum record and a Platinum album, for “Oh What A Night (December 1963)” and “Boogie Oogie Oogie.”

By late 1978, Maslow moved into the film audio industry, working on such films as The Last Waltz, Ten, Hair, More American Graffiti, Star Trek and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

He received the first of his three Academy Awards in 1980 for Best Achievement in Sound for Raiders of The Lost Ark, and again in 1981 for The Empire Strikes Back. He was nominated again in 1984 for Dune. Then came another Oscar in 1995 for Speed, which also gave him his first British Academy Award. More Oscar nods came, for 1996’s Waterworld, 1997’s Twister and 2000’s U-571.

Recent films include The Town, The Conjuring and The Great Gatsby. Maslow can often be found working at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank.

Maslow has been using the new plug-in, Penteo 4 Pro, which converts stereo to 5.1. In this Q&A, he talks about what led him to sound for picture, his workflow and using this new plug-in.

What led you to a career in sound for film?
I started off in records. My last big hit was with Taste of Honey and The Four Seasons. Then it started getting tougher to make a living in the music industry. It became garage band sound and people recording out of their home studios, so things didn’t look as rosy as they used to be. I transitioned into the film business when the door opened for me, and I started mixing music and eventually went into dialogue and music.

Let’s talk about turning stereo into 5.1 surround. What was your process?
I would take the left and right track of a 2-track and run them through a couple of panners, fold it in a little so the left and right contributed to the center just a little bit. Then I would take a boom box, take a bass feed from the left and the right and return it to a fader to get the bottom end. That would give me left, center, right, and the bass for the subwoofer. For left surround, right surround I would try to get a very short reverb to feed to the surrounds. That was the problem; it would always put some sort of echo into the track.

You currently use Penteo. How did you discover the product?
One of the engineers or mixers told me about a device that would take a 2-track and make a 5.1 out of it.

What type of music do you use Penteo on? Does it perform better for rock, pop, symphonic, sound effects?
I’ll use it on any 2-track mix that I get. Sometimes, like for the film I am working on now, I will get maybe 10 stereo tracks. It’s kind of retro to think that some people are still giving you 2-track scores, its 2, 2, and 2. I’ll get 2-track strings, 2-track brass, 2-track percussion, and then I have to think about how I’m going to work with them. I can’t just put them all left-right. Sometimes I’ll take the percussion and put it in the center, but with Penteo, I just feed all the 2-channel stereo mixes in and it comes out as a great sounding 5.1 surround score.

Can you then manipulate it from there and adjust where you want things to be?
Yes, typically I don’t go straight across on the outputs. I pull the surround up or down using the Penteo fader. There are a lot of parameters inside the Penteo process, in terms of preferences. But I generally just use the default settings, because I’m usually under a lot of pressure to get going and Penteo is a real time saver. I’ll just use a default setting and pull back on the left surround, right surround and sprinkle the bottom in to “taste.”


Warner Bros. Tammy.

What are some recent stereo-to-surround projects you have worked on?
I just finished a film called Tammy. Everything was 2-track. Every cue in that movie from source needle drops to score was all 2-track. I used Penteo from reel 1 to reel 6. The last film I used it on before that was the Bruce Willis film Red 2. I had to work with a lot of 2-track music.

How valuable is Penteo to your workflow?
For me now, it’s an essential workflow tool. I wouldn’t do another film without it if 2-track music came in. Penteo makes you sound good, and it definitely expands and turns a 2-track mix into a great 5-channel mix.

Photo Caption:  Steve Maslow using Penteo 4 Pro at Warner Bros. Studios.

Oscar-winner Lon Bender joins Formosa Group

West Hollywood – Academy Award-winning supervising sound editor and sound designer Lon Bender has joined Formosa Group (www.formosagroup.com), a sound post company working with film and interactive clients.

“I am delighted to join my friends and some of the motion picture sound industry’s most respected veterans at Formosa Group,” said Bender, one of the founders of Soundelux, where he worked for more than 30 years. “It was a difficult decision to leave the company I founded and built over three decades, and the friends working there, but the community which is Formosa is a great support to my creative endeavors.”

Bender won an Oscar, BAFTA and two MPSE Golden Reel Awards for the Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart (shared with Formosa Group’s Per Hallberg). He won Golden Reel Awards for The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pochahontas. Bender was also nominated for an Oscar for Drive and Blood Diamond, and a BAFTA for Shrek and The Last of the Mohicans.

He won a scientific and technical award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Advanced Data Encoding System. He has received a total of 26 Golden Reel Award nominations spanning 23 films over the past three decades.

His credits include more than 125 movies. He was supervising sound editor and/or sound designer on films including August: Osage County, The Hunger Games, Drive, Shrek, Prince of Egypt, Mulan, Pochahontas, Braveheart, Legends of the Fall, Glory, Bull Durham, The Princess Bride, Stand By Me, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.