Tag Archives: The Hateful Eight

Wylie Stateman talks sound editing on ‘The Hateful Eight’

By Jennifer Walden

Quentin Tarantino’s go-to supervising sound editor Wylie Stateman, of Twenty Four Seven Sound, reveals the secret sauce of the director’s cinematic style: “He is truly an aural enthusiast and very much a sculptor of his cinema through the use of sound and music.”

That applies to dialogue as well, as Tarantino likes to cast actors with interesting voices. “Sound is a major contributor to Quentin’s films and often the secret sauce that makes the meal just gel and come together as a coherent recognizable work,” says the veteran audio pro, who has seven Oscar noms under his belt, including two for Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) and Inglourious Basterds (2008).

Wylie Stateman on the Telluride set for The Hateful Eight.

Stateman, who’s been working with Tarantino since Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003), feels it’s been a privilege having the opportunity to explore his vision as a filmmaker since his love for sound and music is such an integral part of his process. “Audio is very different from the other filmmaking aspects,” he explains. “You design a costume and you can hold it up, feel the material and see how it reacts to light. It’s real. Audio is very mysterious — a force that is just truly present in the moment. It’s just a vibration in the room. It’s something that the audience experiences but can’t see and can’t touch. It’s a different kind of art form, and as an audio artist I love working for Quentin because he is so particular and he values the contribution that sound makes to the experience of watching his film.”

In Tarantino’s latest film, The Hateful Eight, distributed by The Weinstein Company, eight ruthless killers become holed up in Minnie’s Haberdashery one fateful Wyoming winter’s day. Bounty hunter John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (Kurt Russel) arrives there with his captured outlaw Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and two other travelers — union soldier turned bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and the supposedly new sheriff of Red Rock Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who are trying to escape the encroaching blizzard. Instead of Minnie, they find in the Haberdashery a much shadier cast of characters. As the storm rages outside, the situation inside becomes equally intense.

The seeds for Tarantino’s western were sown during the final phase of post on Django Unchained. After the initial leaked script fiasco, a new shooting script for The Hateful Eight came together the summer of 2014, and around Christmas time that year Tarantino rounded up his troop of main department heads — costume, production design, photography and sound — and headed to Telluride, Colorado, to get geared up for the production process.

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“I was there for Christmas and New Year’s, mainly to participate in the celebration that Quentin creates around the production side of the process. He celebrates the tools, the process and the people,” Stateman says. Minnie’s Haberdashery was being built in the mountains above Telluride, and the finishing touches were being added to the sets.

“It’s an important part of his filming process. Lots of creative decisions are taking shape during those final weeks of pre-production,” says Stateman, who likens the process to the construction of the Rose Bowl parade floats. “People show up the month before the parade to participate in building the floats, and then there are the people who come out on New Year’s Day to watch. I enjoy the float building process.”

Challenges of Location Sound
In addition to shooting in Colorado where weather was often a challenge, Tarantino filmed interior shots at Red Studios in California, in a giant freezer to mimic the cold conditions. That environment added compressor hum to the production track. Also, considering the characters were wearing heavy clothing that obstructed the lav mics, Stateman says they did a substantial amount of work to make the dialogue tracks sound consistent.

“Quentin likes the performances that he works to acquire during production and he wants to use those in the final mix. He doesn’t like to replace the dialogue and so despite all the challenges that the production sound team faces, the post sound team has a mission and a mandate to basically work with and around any of the production issues.”

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Foley
All that dialogue cleaning and EQing didn’t just smooth things out. It resulted in pulling the life out of the track as well. Stateman used Foley to add it back in, spending roughly 200 hours recording Foley at Sony Studios with Foley artist Gary Hecker and his Foley mixer Nerses Gezalyan. “We want to really emphasize the micro details that Quentin goes after with his film editing style and his photography style,” explains Stateman. “In a Quentin Tarantino movie, when somebody flexes a muscle or puts a hand on a weapon, there’s a hyper-reality to the sound and that is acquired by having a really beautifully performed and recorded Foley track.”

From the characters’ unique clothing and boots to their hats, holsters and guns, everything was represented in Foley. Stateman and his team acquired Foley props from far and wide, like hand-forged bits of old metal, old creaky wood, and cast iron pots and metal for the stove. “I’m a very committed Foley enthusiast. I really like to spend time and effort to produce sounds that blend entirely into the film. When Foley is done well, it’s invisible. It just adds this third dimension to the dialogue track. It adds depth and texture. We really beat up the dialogue track to get rid of all the noise and make each line match the line before and after. The Foley brought that three-dimensional feel back to the production dialogue.”

Pristine Foley allowed Stateman to go hyper-real with the soundtrack at any time without bringing in unwanted noise. He could add fine detail, like a sound to highlight an eye blink, without obstructing the dialogue. “And Quentin’s films really benefit from having the ability to just go hyper-real.”

Director Quentin Tarantino: He wanted to use the blizzard as one of the film's voices.The Blizzard
Seeing as how Tarantino likes to cast characters with interesting voices it’s only fitting that the ninth adversary in the film, the blizzard, should have an interesting voice too. Stateman and co-supervising sound editor Harry Cohen called on sound designer Sylvain Lasseur to help craft the storm sounds. “The wind and weather are a very important part of the background texture of the film. Weather plays a very important role, but it’s not always a role that you want to call attention to. It has a progression and it puts pressure on the actors because they can’t leave the Haberdashery,” explains Stateman.

Lasseur brought along his Kyma by Symbolic Sound, an independent sound design workstation that uses its own dedicated processor called a Pacarana. Using a continuum fingerboard to control the Kyma, Lasseur was able to manipulate and morph layers of wind sounds. “We created the weather literally one wind gust, wind whistle and wind wisp at a time. We built the wind to flatter the dialogue and the film edit in a very unique way with the Kyma sampler,” explains Stateman, who explains that the beauty of the Kyma is that it creates interesting instruments out of sound samples.IMG_1995IMG_2021_WS_Tellruide_recording

First they created a guide track around the dialogue, using the pitch and velocity features in Kyma. Then they could model other sounds in and around the guide track. “So let’s say we have a base sound of a blizzard, we could then, very selectively, model wind wisps or rumbles or anything else against it. The Kyma would shape the other samples in time relative to the control track. Once we have them all modeled against each other we can start to pull them apart a little bit so that each element can have its own dynamic moment. It becomes more like a parade and you hear the low, the mid and the high — not on top of each other but offset from each other. The artistry comes in turning samples into instruments.”

Lasseur spent four months creating wind instruments in Kyma and another four months hand shaping the wind around the dialogue and visual action. “We pushed really hard to crack this one particular problem of wind for the film.”

Stateman and his team worked out of the Twenty Four Seven Sound studio located in Topanga Canyon, California, which features a full Dolby Atmos design studio. The Hateful Eight’s 70mm version, known as “the roadshow version” was their primary focus, as that is how Tarantino intended audiences to experience the film.

“The multiplex version is a somewhat downscaled version of the film,” explains Stateman. The final 5.1 mix was handled at Sony Pictures Post in Culver City by re-recording mixers Mike Minkler and Christian Minkler in the Cary Grant Theater.

Jennifer Walden is a New Jersey-based writer and audio engineer.

The A-List: An interview with Quentin Tarantino about ‘The Hateful Eight’

By Iain Blair

For Quentin Tarantino fans it’s been three long years since the colorful writer/director/producer and sometime actor blasted and cursed his way across the screen with Django Unchained. Now he’s back with The Weinstein Company’s The Hateful Eight, an even more deliriously over-the-top, ultra-violent western — set in the same era — that makes Django look almost sweet and gentle by comparison.

It’s also a mash-up of horror and mystery genres, with enough fake blood and red herrings to keep every Tarantino fan in the world happy. With a large ensemble cast, including Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Channing Tatum, it tells a seemingly simple story: eight strangers get stranded in a mountainside stopover as a monster storm bears down on them. But nothing is quite what it seems.

All this is lovingly presented in the long-dormant Ultra Panavision 70mm format and shot by Tarantino’s long-time DP Robert Richardson, the three-time Oscar-winner who also shot Django, Inglourious Basterds and Kill Bill: Vol 1 and for the director. It was edited by Fred Raskin, another frequent collaborator.

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Writer Iain Blair and Quentin Tarantino having some fun during their interview session.

I spoke with Tarantino about making the film, just as the first screenings rolled out.

This isn’t just a western, so what film did you set out to make?
That’s a great question, because it’s always interesting, especially after you’ve gotten to this point and you’re finally showing it for the first time — thinking back to what actually made you sit down with a pen and blank paper and start writing. And on this, more than with most of my scripts, I didn’t really know where I was going 100 percent; I just needed to get the ball rolling.

The starting point was the idea of taking eight characters that you cannot trust at all — you cannot take anything they say at face value. Whatever they say they are, you can’t trust that. Who they even think they are, or present themselves to be, you can’t trust that.Then during the course of the movie, everyone — to one degree or another — has something about their past revealed, but you can’t even trust that!

The director and his cast on set.

The director and his cast on set.

So there’s no hero?
Exactly. There’s no moral center. There’s no Django or Little Joe Cartwright. There’s no one you can gravitate towards, or anyone you know is really who they say they are. All these characters are trapped together in a chamber-room situation because of the storm.

The blizzard almost seems like some kind of monster.
Yeah, from a monster movie, and that’s waiting to devour them if they ever leave. So everyone’s trapped, and it all develops from that premise. So it’s also a mystery drama.

There was also a lot of drama and mystery a while back when the script was leaked and you got mad and pulled the plug on the whole movie.
That didn’t actually change the film I set out to make that much. I didn’t suddenly radically change direction because of the leak. The reason I reacted so much was that I had planned to do this film in a different way than I’d ever done before. I’m used to writing one big long piece, and when I get to the end, that’s the end. But in this instance — and I’d never written a script like this before — I wanted to spend time with the material and not just get to the end, but write it three different times.

In the course of telling the story in three different drafts, I wanted to see where it took me, since I spent a long time on it. So I wrote the end of the first draft — not “the end,” but just “an end” — and then the first draft got leaked. I felt very violated and I did get mad, and said, “That’s it, it’s never getting made now!” I was going to punish the world, I was so mad (laughs). But eventually I got over it and I calmed down, and then pressed on with it.

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How tough was the shoot?
It wasn’t that bad. We shot all the location stuff in Telluride, Colorado, in the real snow, and then we did all the stage work at Red Studios in LA.

How long was post, and where did you do it?
It was about seven months. We just rented a house in LA near where I live and converted it into an editing facility.

Do you like the post part of the process?
I love post. People say, “Shooting’s the most important part,” and you can make that case, because if you didn’t get the coverage you don’t have a film. You could write a terrific script and then bum-rush it because you either don’t have the talent or ability or time to do it correctly. I feel that editing and writing are mirror images of each other. It’s a similar discipline, and I’ve always felt that the final script draft is the first cut of the movie, and the final cut of the movie is the last draft of the script… or at least the story.

When I’m writing, I love it, and am very invigorated, but by the time I’m ready to finish it I’m done with that process and ready to move on to the next one. Then I’m shooting and digging that, but then again I hit a point and I’m done. Life just stops while I’m making a film, and I get it back again after post.

The director and his cast on set.

The director taking a look a a shot..

The thing about post is that your gas tank is getting closer and closer to empty as you go, but what I’ve always loved about post is that after the whole hysterical carnival party atmosphere of the shoot is over, you’re suddenly all alone with your editor in a room and it’s all very serene, and what works works and what doesn’t doesn’t. Post is very much like the start of the whole process when you’re writing the script. It’s not hysterical then, it’s just very creative. What’s also interesting about post is that just about the time I’m getting sick of the whole process, you finish and you move on to the next one, and start the whole process all over again.

This is your third film with editor Fred Raskin. How does that relationship work?
He visited the set now and again — he does an assembly while we shoot, but I’m not necessarily going to watch it that much. It’s him getting familiar with the material and experimenting with stuff on his own. When I finish shooting, it’s not like I sit down and work through the assembly as a movie.

I feel the real editing only starts when I get in the room. I need to do all my homework — watching all the takes — and do that alone at home. I make notes and figure out where I want to go and how I can get there. Then armed with those notes, I come in and we start cutting together. At that point I’ll say, “Let me see what you did with the scene,” and we’ll compare versions. And on this there was a lot of great stuff he did that maybe I liked better than my ideas, so it’s back and forth like that.

There seem to be relatively few visual effects shots in this film.THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Right, not that many. The most VFX shots come into play once the storm and night hits, so we have all the storm effects outside, but even all that wasn’t just CGI. We ended up using movie effects snow blowing outside the window, and we then augmented it as needed. John Dykstra, our VFX designer, filmed more versions of that snow so we could add onto what we already had. Method Studios did all the VFX work, but we used a lot of practical stuff wherever we could, like squibs for the bullet wounds and so on.

How important is sound and music in your films?
It’s huge, and I actually figure out a lot of the music before I start writing, let alone shooting. They’re arrows that point me in the right direction, when I get cool bits of music. I’ll play stuff while I write and think, “That might be perfect for this scene.” Music’s a big part of the hook and inspiration for me when I’m writing. When I take a writing break, I’ll go upstairs and listen to the songs and I can actually see the movie in my head. I’m sitting in a theatre, with people watching the movie and hearing it, and I love it. It’s me projecting myself into the future and the finished film. There’s the White Stripes song I used, “Apple Blossom,” and I think it’s very effective. I can’t wait to see it with an audience.

Musically, this is the first original score you’ve used, and it’s the first western score in decades by the legendary Ennio Morricone. It seems like a perfect fit with your film.
He’s the maestro and a wonderful artist; it was a privilege to work with him. I had wanted to for a long time, but I felt this was the right movie for him. I don’t think the others were. I had this little voice whispering in my ear on this, saying, ‘It needs an original score.’ I never had that voice before.

THE HATEFUL EIGHTBut it’s not your typical “western” score.
Exactly. It’s more like a horror film score, and I think that’s how he saw it. That’s a good take on it.

It’s also like a stage play and an Agatha Christie mystery.
Yes, I definitely think you’re right there. The second half introduces the mystery element, and I’d never done that before. That was a lot of fun for me, and hopefully I pulled it off.

Where did you mix?
At the Cary Grant theater, on the lot at Sony. I have this great team — supervising sound editor Wylie Stateman and mixers Chris and Mike Minkler — and I’m very hands-on, but those guys know much more about sound than I do. I think they’re the best in the business, so I give them a lot of latitude to do what they want, and then we watch it and I give notes if needed. I also remember the sound on the day, so that factors in too. [Editor’s Note: Keep an eye out for our upcoming interview with Stateman.]

I assume the DI had nothing to do with the film print?
Right. We only did a DI for the DCP, so there would be like a film element that the DCP had to deal with as opposed to taking it straight off the negative. I usually do a DI but this was the first time I didn’t do one for the film print. I went the Chris Nolan way.

Where do you keep your Oscars?
I used to keep them in my writing room, but last year I changed that. I have a big video room with old videocassettes, and I keep them on the top shelf in the drama section.

Quentin Tarantino: “I’m not a director for hire.”

You’ve only directed eight films, including your 1992 debut Reservoir Dogs. Why so few?
The real answer is, I’m not a director for hire. I’m not combing through novels and reading piles of scripts so I can make more movies. I make a movie, I give it my all, and when it’s over I need some time by myself to figure out what’s next. When I do figure it out, I have to write it, and that takes almost a year. So it’s basically a three-year process on each film.

There’ve been a lot of rumors that you might retire soon. Say it ain’t so!
Well, at least from directing. The business has changed a lot since I began, and that doesn’t help. It’s not the only thing, but it’s a thing. And if shooting on film ever stopped being an option, I wouldn’t reach 10. I’d write novels or plays and direct those, since that’s where I’m coming from. I want all my movies to be made with a deep sense of passion for what I’m doing. I don’t want to just continue doing it because it’s all I know how to do. There is an umbilical cord from Reservoir Dogs to this, and I do like the idea of leaving you wanting just a little bit more.

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.