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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Adventures in Filmmaking: The Sounds of Music

We locked picture on my short film, Bunker, last week, and I spent most of my waking hours over this past weekend in the studio with my composer, Ken Stringfellow, getting the score done. Although this was Ken’s first time scoring a film, he’s quite an accomplished musician and composer, from his years of working with the Posies, Big Star, REM, The Disciplines, and on his many solo projects, and also from working a great deal on producing and engineering music for other bands. He works regularly in ProTools already, so really, the learning curve he needed to get up wasn’t all that steep, and because I’m already very familiar both with his work and the way he likes to work collaboratively, I wasn’t much worried about it.

We’d already had a brief sit-down a few weeks ago when Ken was in town for a Posies show, so we had an idea already the direction that we wanted to take; all we had to do, then, was take those ideas, fine-tune them, record and mix. Easy enough, right? And for the most part, I have to say, it was pretty smooth sailing. We’re using a song from my brother’s band, Hypatia Lake, over the opening montage, so we had a fair amount of work to do on making the transition from that opening song into the light scoring under the beginning of the next scene. This sounds pretty easy, but it actually required quite a bit of meticulous work on Ken’s part to make it all sound seamless and organic.

We were using an excerpt from a song from Ken’s second solo album, Touched, over the closing scene, but we wanted different music over the closing credits, which meant Ken needed to compose something original that would also flow well with the rest of the music. Much of our second day of work was spent on figuring that out, and he ended up using this funky instrument called a guitaret both in helping to smooth out the transition from the opening song into the score, and again in the closing credits piece. We just kept working it, layering and layering, until we had exactly what we wanted with the closing song. We spent a little time during day two playing around with some ideas for the scoring of the film itself, figuring out where the transitions were that needed bits of music to play up certain emotions and such.

Day three we both felt a little under the gun, because we although we’d planned for a fourth day if we really needed it, we were hoping to get done by Sunday. The direction we’d started taking with the scoring wasn’t quite where either of us wanted to be with it, so we had to figure that out. We talked it over, and decided to try exploring pulling in some of the chords and specific guitar sounds from the opening song and weaving them into the score. To make this happen, though, we needed to be able to match as closely as possible to the guitar sounds from that song. A quick consultation with my brother, Lance, about the technical specs for the recording of that song gave Ken the info he needed to figure that out, and fortunately the studio in which we were working happened to have a Fender Jaguar guitar that was almost exactly the same as the guitar my brother had used when the song was recorded. Talk about luck. We didn’t have exactly the same amp, but we were able to get pretty close, and Ken was able to very quickly figure it all out and get it going.

A few hours later, we were ready for my crack sound guy, Vinny Smith, to sit down with us to fine-tune the mix. Vinny is a composer in addition to being an awesome sound guy, so I wanted his expert ear in helping us smooth out some fades and transitions, as well as making sure our final mix on the music was exactly what he needed to be able to get the post work done. We’d started out the day thinking we’d have to return to the studio after dinner and probably work late to get it all done, but Vinny and Ken worked so smoothly in the collaboration on the mix, that it actually went incredibly quickly. We were even done in time to stop and grab a few bottles of wine to go with our celebratory dinner. And it sounds just great.

The entire post process has been as collaborative as the shoot itself. I’ve learned so much by working side-by-side with my terrific editor, Joe Shapiro, on meticulously tweaking to get the flow just right and as tight as possible (not actually as easy a process as I thought it would be, and pretty mentally exhausting, but we got it done and where we wanted it, on deadline), and then this weekend working on score. This week, I’ll be sitting in on the color grading with our colorist, John Davidson, and then with Vinny as we fine-tune the post sound and then sit down at Bad Animals to finalize the 5.1 mix. Working with professionals of the level I’ve been privileged to have on this crew has been an amazing experience, kind of a very condescended film school where you’re actually working hand-in-hand with people who really know what they’re doing and are at the top of their game. The whole process is simultaneously draining and exhilarating, challenging and incredibly fulfilling.

At the end of a long weekend, I think Ken and I were both happy with how the score work came out, and that we both felt great about how we worked together. Which is a good thing, because we have other projects on which we plan to work in the future, so figuring out how we’d collaborate on this one was part of a bigger process as well. We’ll be completely done with the film by the end of this week, and then shipping it off to the first fests on our list, with fingers crossed that others like our little film as well as we do. I’ll keep you posted on how all that goes.

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2 Responses to “Adventures in Filmmaking: The Sounds of Music”

  1. Don R. Lewis says:

    Glad to see you’re kicking ass on your film, Kim! It’s an extremely weird feeling being on “the other side” as you’re about to discover but also so awesome and rewarding. And sad and frustrating and annoying. Definitely changes the way you look at films as well. Can’t wait to see “Bunker!”

  2. Thelma Adams says:

    I am so impressed with how you draw creative people to you and collaborate. You go girl! Can’t wait to see the finished product…..festivals?

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon