ARCTIC: A CINEMATIC SURVIVAL STORY TOLD THROUGH SOUND:
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen takes on mother nature in director Joe Penna’s debut feature film Arctic — in theaters now. Mikkelsen plays Overgård, a pilot who survives a plane crash in the Arctic. His situation intensifies when a rescue helicopter crashes during their mission to save him. Overgård must decide whether to stay in the relative safety of his camp or trek across the frozen expanse in search of help.
The film was shot on-location in Iceland — in real snow with real wind and you can bet it was really cold. This was no tropical holiday like Tom Hanks endured in Cast Away. Penna asked Mikkelsen to trudge through stretches of pristine snow (unmarred by the production crew’s activity), pulling a makeshift sled and carrying supplies on his back. “Honestly, the cold and deprivation and the physical trials Mads went through are a testament to his acting skills as well as his survival instincts,” says Oscar-winning sound designer Mark Mangini, who was the re-recording mixer on Arctic. He’s joined by Emmy-winning supervising sound editor/sound designer Odin Benitez at Formosa Group, where they handled Arctic’s post sound editing and final mix.
Director/writer Penna worked on the initial soundtrack at Melody Gun in Hollywood, CA with sound designers Thomas Ouziel and Hamed Hokamzadeh. This early track established a sonic groundwork that supported the story, because with minimal dialogue and music the film needed a solid base of environmental and practical sounds to emphasize Overgård’s struggles.
Here, Ouziel and Hokamzadeh discuss director Penna’s initial goals for sound. Then, Formosa’s Benitez and Mangini go into detail on how the final soundtrack was carefully crafted and mixed to immerse the audience in Overgård’s fight for survival. In addition to breaking down their approach to specific scenes, like the helicopter crash and the polar bear attack, Benitez and Mangini talk about the use of sound as a means to convey emotion, share thoughts on effectively selling ‘silence,’ and explore techniques for making a character sound alone.
Thomas and Hamed, when did you begin sound work on Arctic? What were your responsibilities on the film?
Thomas Ouziel (TO): We were brought in to work on the film while Joe [Penna] and Ryan Morrison (picture editor/executive producer/co-writer) were finishing the initial edit. They knew they needed to bring in a sound team early to bring the film to life and really capture the intended tone and experience they had in mind.
We went through a detailed spotting session to fully understand the journey they wanted the protagonist and the audience to experience. Once every ebb and flow of the film was explored, we then went to work on backgrounds, effects and Foley to make the film feel as cinematic as we could.
Hamed Hokamzadeh (HH): I’m a huge fan of MysteryGuitarMan (Penna’s YouTube persona) since his early days so when Joe called us I was thrilled to work with him. In the script there are so many moments dictated by sound — from the bear attacks that hadn’t been shot yet, to the helicopter at the end, to Mads falling into a cave, to long stretches of wide shots where you barely see Mads as he walks from one side of the frame to the other. Those shots can’t be dull; you still have to carry the story with sound.
What were director Penna’s initial goals for sound?
TO: We decided that to make this film work we’d have to lean into an incredibly natural aesthetic. In order for the audience to feel as cold and isolated as Overgård, we needed to viscerally be right there with him. The challenge was to give character to the atmosphere by distinguishing each area he travels through. His ‘home base’ in the valley felt calm and more or less serene, but still barren. There were no trees and not much wildlife to work with, so we used different winds to keep us grounded with a mixture of safety and desolation. As he ventures out to try to find some way out of this situation, the environment becomes harsher and essentially becomes one of the antagonists to his journey that he must overcome. The goal was to make him and the audience feel like, “Screw this, why not just turn around and go back to safety?”
Pretty much everything we learn about him comes non-verbally, so we knew how important it was to … give voice to the character through the way he moved.
Because there is very little dialogue in the film, it was crucial to have that initial Foley and effects work to tie the audience to every move he made, and it was something we discussed with Joe a lot. Pretty much everything we learn about him comes non-verbally, so we knew how important it was to feel the increasing weight of the adventure throughout, and give voice to the character through the way he moved. We wanted a mix of confidence and competence despite circumstance, so you believed he might have the ability to get through this but, even with his clear grit and determination, he still was most likely outmatched by the elements.
TO: The production sound for the film was really well done, especially considering the shooting circumstances, and we used it as much as we could as a “natural foundation” for the scenes. Even though there was so little dialogue there were many great production effects to use which we then sweetened to create the right cinematic feel.
How did your sound work mesh with the production sound?
HH: Because of the post schedule, we didn’t have the chance to get Mads in for ADR while we were working. So Dan (Xiaodan Li) dug into the production to find breaths for various moments that helped bring the scenes to life and keep us with Overgård. That also helped with timing too.
Can you tell me about your collaboration with Formosa’s sound team? What did you deliver to them?
TO: When we heard that Formosa was going to finish the sound for this movie, we were pretty excited to get to work with such a talented group on such a nuanced film. We delivered them our working sessions from the mix we’d done and then met up with Odin [Benitez] to discuss the film and the various subtleties we’d developed with Joe and Ryan previously.
HH: We’ve done several projects now like this, collaborating with other post houses. I think it saves time, money and creatively it’s a win-win.
Odin and Mark, how did director Penna want to evolve the temp soundtrack into what we hear in the final mix?
Odin Benitez (OB): The first time I heard the temp track I thought, “Wow. This is fantastic.” It sounded so natural, like complete production. The crew at Melody Gun did a very good job of enhancing the production sounds and the resulting track was very natural. It was a stereo mix though, and the final track was to be done in 7.1. There were some great sounds in the temp and we did preserve some of those in our design.
There was a lot of work done on two sequences in particular — the helicopter crash and the polar bear attack. Joe and Ryan were struggling with those scenes, trying to find the right balance of being impactful but not over-the-top action like a Bruckheimer-style helicopter crash.
Mark Mangini (MM): This wasn’t Die Hard.
OB: We had to come up with something that was subtle and real. The same was true with the polar bear sequence. Those were two major scenes they were concerned with, plus the different storms that Overgård encounters.
Later on, we had to struggle with a cave scene. Overgård ends up in a cavern and the interesting thing about this location was that the weather was warming up and the snow was starting to melt. You could see and hear the drips of water in the cave. The question was: do we want to highlight the drips or just pretend they aren’t there? It’s supposed to be cold. In the end, we decided to play them so I had to cut all these little drips. The drips were so present on-screen and so it made sense to hear them. It also added a nice texture to the scene.
Since there is only minimal music and dialogue in the film, how did you use sound effects to convey/evoke emotion, to sell the struggle, frustration, desperation, and determination of this character?
MM: What little music there is — by composer Joseph Trapanese — is extraordinary. What’s really beautiful about Joe’s score is how seamlessly it fits into the movie. The audience kind of forgets that it is there. But, it does some important heavy lifting when it is there.
That left a great deal of the dramatic heavy-lifting to be done by Odin with the design of the sound effects and environments — to establish that grit and struggle of Overgård.
OB: I agree with Mark that the score was very subtle. At one point, Joe and Ryan were contemplating not using score at all and just trying to use ambient noises. Joseph Trapanese composed the score with that idea in mind, so it is very subtly understated and beautifully written. Some of those themes really stay with you. Joe Trapenaze was very helpful in providing me with mock-ups of his compositions for me to work against. I even got to attend the scoring session. At one point, Joe recorded 12 double basses to try to capture Overgård’s emotion during the fish scene. It was incredible.
This film was about isolation and loneliness. So my approach was to create an environment that was hyper-real. When you’re home alone, and all the traffic goes away and there’s no one playing a radio, you start to hear the creaks in a house, and you hear the wind and the environment. It lets you know that you are alone and that there are no other people around you. That was my first goal — to have the audience hear the environment and hear every little sound, all the Foley, and Overgård’s breathing and his cloth rustles because there was no other activity around. Hearing those sounds clearly enhanced the feeling of his loneliness.
On top of that, the environment echoes his internal state. If he felt lonely, then we tried to make the wind sound lonely. We went for a cold wind, a howling wind, but not something too broad.
When the environment wasn’t oppressive in its loneliness, it could become downright adversarial as it hit Overgård with storms. It became a beast or monster, but we never resorted to using any monster noises. We only used natural sound to convey that.
One thing we did was build the internal environments — like the plane’s fuselage or the small dug-out cave — with the sounds playing in Left-Center-Right. Then, when we got into the larger environments outdoors, the sound was built into the 7.1 surround field, so you get this feeling of space. It created this feeling of claustrophobia while inside and a feeling of spaciousness and vastness while outside. When Overgård finds himself in the cavern, however, it is a large interior space; it’s the one time that I’ll go wide with the environmental sounds on an interior location. I’ll break my rule in that case.
MM: Because it was such an intelligent approach to the film, my intent was to simply enhance that by taking the sounds that Odin designed and edited, and amping up the feeling of claustrophobia for the inside spaces. By keeping the sound narrow and tight, you don’t feel surrounded by sound. I used reverbs and delays that amplified the feeling of being in a confined space.
I then contrasted that sound approach outside so that the audience feels this huge immersion, being in an incredibly expansive environment where sound is everywhere around you.
The way to actually convey silence is to interrupt it occasionally with those very delicate sounds
One of Joe’s creative goals was to enhance Mads’ (and , hence, the audience’s) feeling of isolation using sound. One would assume the key component to isolation is silence (and to some extent that’s true) but the best way to play silence is to interrupt it. You can’t take all the sound out of a scene because the audience will think there is something wrong with the theater or the projector. So the way to actually convey silence is to interrupt it occasionally with those very delicate sounds that Odin was talking about. When you are home alone at 2 AM and you hear that little creak of the house, or a little bit of grit or dust falling from a rafter, it’s those sounds that make you feel isolated. And Odin was so effective at placing those little bits in the soundtrack.
Another important sonic component was Mads Mikkelsen’s breathing. Those are the sounds that I hear when I’m out in the desert or out skiing and I’m surrounded by silence. By narrowing the sonic focus to Overgård, we were able to help telegraph this idea of him being alone; it’s just him and his breath.
OB: On the topic of punctuating the silence, Joe and Ryan had written into the story that Overgård sets fish traps and so the rattle of the fish traps would call him over and he’d pull out a fish. This fish was the only connection with other life because it was so barren where he was. It was a moment where Overgård could connect with something alive. So Joe and Ryan had written that interruption of silence into the story, that there would be this one little bit of life that breaks the silence. Overgård really connects with this fish because he is so lonely that even a fish will do.
MM: Maybe that fish makes him realize that he is part of the food chain.
How did you make the sound of the fish traps?
OB: The traps were made from wire with little metal teeth that came from the plane wreckage. So the traps are clanging around the poles to which they were attached.
The production sound was tremendous in this film. Production sound mixer Arni Gustafsson did such a tremendous job of trying to capture whatever he could from the location, placing mics everywhere. My hat is off to him for providing us with so much great material (despite the brutal cold and weather on-set). The first time I heard the temp track, it all sounded like production and a lot of it was.
Walter Spence at Hi Fi Foley did such an outstanding job. He developed the sound of the fish traps and I’d be curious to know what he used.
The final sound for that was a blend of Foley and production.
MM: It was a 50-50 blend. Both Foley and production were very good and to choose between them would have been like sacrificing a child.
OB: It was critical that the Foley and production worked together, because we couldn’t lose either of them.
Tell me about Walter Spencer’s Foley on Arctic…
MM: The Foley was a vital component in helping to create that sense of isolation. In that barren expanse, the soundtrack is comprised mostly of delicate Arctic wind. There is not much other sound and there’s nothing else making sound — there are no birds, bugs, traffic, helicopters, jets, or any urban environmental sounds that we’re used to. Foley created very delicate sounds, like the rub of Overgård’s Gore-Tex jacket. They even recorded Foley for the fur around his hood.
There is deep snow, shallow snow, slushy snow, crunchy snow, fluffy snow, deep fluffy snow, shallow fluffy snow, ad nauseam.
Foley also captured a variety of different snow crunch sounds. They created a large palette of sounds for snow that isn’t just ‘walking in snow.’ There is deep snow, shallow snow, slushy snow, crunchy snow, fluffy snow, deep fluffy snow, shallow fluffy snow, ad nauseam. Walter did an extraordinary job of fabricating and recording new sounds for all of that, to bring this verisimilitude so the audience felt like they were there. It’s those delicate sounds that helped to build that sense of isolation because those are the only things that you hear other than your own breathing.
OB: Walter used to be a dialog supervisor, so his goal is to make his Foley blend seamlessly with production and it really does. Walter and his team even flew up to Québec and recorded the snow footsteps outside. This was his first time recording exterior Foley, and now I believe he’s doing it more and more. Those footsteps for Overgård walking through deep snow were just tremendous. They sounded so great but of course we couldn’t leave them that loud in the mix because it would take you out of the movie. But those footsteps were gorgeous!
Wind is a major component of the soundtrack. How did you use wind sounds to support this story?
MM: Odin did an extraordinary job with the winds. He created a variety of colors and flavors and emotions with the wind, and it fits the needs of the scenes.
OB: Initially, Joe was talking about how the wind would echo the emotions of the main character. But he also wanted us to build up the wind during the storm scenes. We don’t have big howling wind throughout. We subtly ramp it up into those moments until Overgård is caught in a blizzard.
The good thing about winds is that they do have quite a bit of emotion in them.
Also, wind was helpful for personifying these intimidating and forbidding mountains that Overgård knew he needed to cross in order to get to a rescue point. Joe said the mountains were like Mordor and Overgård couldn’t cross them. So we had to come up with sounds for the mountain that would evoke this feeling of dread. I found a balance of winds that would sell the forbidding nature of the mountains. It’s a low, moaning wind that had a texture to it that was a little scary. The good thing about winds is that they do have quite a bit of emotion in them. The score there also helped to elicit that emotion.
One of the great things about being part of the Formosa Group is that we have terrific, top-of-the-line supervisors and they have all worked on great projects and we get to collaborate with one another. One that we worked on recently was The Revenant. So, we all share ideas and recordings and techniques and I was able to get my hands on that stuff which was fortunate because I needed every possible type of wind there was. So I did have a lot of material from personal recordings that I’ve been capturing for roughly 30 years. I also had access to the custom recordings done here at the shop. I needed a large palette of sounds because I had to fill the 7.1 environment and I like to design the wind to fit the film. I tend to have more non-specific winds in the surrounds and more active winds closer to the screen. I can change the winds depending on what’s on-screen.
We have a lot of custom libraries at Formosa as well as the more familiar libraries like Sound Ideas and The Hollywood Edge. Some of the commercial libraries I used for wind sounds were those from Tonstrum, and Rabbit Ears Audio. I pretty much needed to use all of the best wind sounds I could find because I had so many different and varied locations to fill in 7.1.
I like using the spotting panels in Soundminer as a way to filter out my choices and to keep track of my favorite winds and pet sounds. That helps to narrow it down.
MM: Odin did some very deft design work on the winds. He layered and sequenced these wind sounds; he didn’t simply edit a wind track on top of a scene. He really did some artistic work in crafting the wind to have character. For example, there’s a dramatic five-minute storm in the middle of the film, and you can’t keep repeating the same wind sounds over and over and over again. Odin did a deft job of layering, multi-tracking, and dovetailing several wind sounds, one into another. The winds have this ever-changing shape and character. That’s not easy to do.
OB: I used some of the work done by Melody Gun and built more wind on top of that because I had to build it out for 7.1. I like to place my winds and environmental sounds in discrete speakers, but of course you need to guard against the build up of too many elements.
MM: Given the plethora of material to choose from, Odin organized his palette of wind in a very intelligent way so that I, when mixing a scene, knew exactly where to go if Joe said, “I like the whistley winds but I don’t like the blustery winds.” Odin spent a great deal of time organizing the material so that it could be mixed intelligently and quickly. You can imagine a typical Pro Tools session with hundreds of tracks of audio and we had a relatively short amount of time to accomplish the mix. It was crucial for me to be able to know where to go quickly, to do a note Joe would give.
OB: I generally split out the airs and room tones and so those were in the first two pre-dubs. I think those were checker-boarded.
I had another pre-dub of howling winds and tonal winds.
After that, there was a pre-dub of wind with movement. Meaning the wind had some sort of texture to it.
There was another pre-dub of storm winds and wind with debris.
MM: Odin added chunks of ice in the storm winds so we would have that texture to add, as well.
OB: I used sand for the “ice in wind” sounds. That seemed to translate the best.
MM: The whistling winds were also a separate component. Most people relate whistling as the essence of the sound of wind; so when you want to hear more wind you add in more whistle. But we, as sound designers, don’t really subscribe to that trope.
In the mix, were you panning the wind sounds through the space?
MM: Constantly. There was a lot of movement of the wind through the space, as well as static placement to fill the 7-channel speaker array. We wanted the exteriors to feel immersive, so we chose appropriate winds that would sit in the surrounds discretely. You don’t want to have gritty, high-frequency sounds in the surrounds because those sounds tend to attract the audience’s ear and distract them from the screen. So, part of my process was determining which sounds worked best in which speakers.
Odin also had specific tracks dedicated to wind gusts that were visually represented on screen, like gusts of snow. Those tracks were panned to follow the action and create movement within the static environment of immersive winds.
OB: Another sound that travels through the space is thunder. While camping one time, I noticed that thunder travels across the sky. I could hear it start at my feet and travel behind my head, or start on the right of me and travel to the left. It was really amazing. So that was something that we tried to do with the thunder in the film.
MM: Every one of Odin’s thunder sounds pans through the sound field.
Did you capture any field recordings of ice and snow for Arctic?
OB: I went to Big Bear and to Mammoth Mountain, and was able to record a variety of different snow fall. Mark was talking about how we did these delicate sounds, even the fur on the jacket, and so in my recording I was able to capture snow falling on a parka. I used a Sony PCM-D50. It had an incredibly low noise floor and no mic pre-amp hiss so I was able to get these little delicate sounds.
I also recorded a frozen lake. When the sun hits a frozen lake, the ice sheet will start to crack and move and it creates a resonant sound very similar to when you strike a guy-wire with a hammer. It almost makes a laser sound effect. And on the surface, it makes this thumping, boinging sound. That was one of the sound effects we put into the film in the very beginning but then pulled it out because it’s a sound that didn’t make sense unless you saw more ice movement.
MM: You could never convince an audience that this Star Wars sound is something that actually happens in nature. It’s not a sound you would normally hear unless you lived in the Arctic. We couldn’t sell it. It was a great sound but it didn’t make sense.
The final soundtrack seems sparse — it’s no Transformers film! But I know that means each sound was meticulously chosen. With little dialogue and music, each sound is really pulling its weight in terms of storytelling. Also, there is nowhere for these sounds to hide. If the sound is there, it’s because you meant for it to be heard. Can you walk me through the process of crafting this soundtrack?
OB: We had a pretty good idea of how to approach the film based on the temp track we were given. We could see what the filmmakers were looking for, and that was a good road map.
I started by crafting the backgrounds. Usually, I like to start by creating character in the environment and then I expand from there. I always let the image dictate what I’m going to do. I’m not a great extemporaneous thinker about sound. If someone asks how I would create sound for a scene based on a script, I say, “I don’t know. I need to see the movie.”
MM: I think that’s the most honest approach to filmmaking, waiting to see the film. If you know at the start of a project, then you are doing the film a disservice. Creation is discovery. You have to sit in front of the blank canvas and start building brick-by-brick, dab-by-dab of paint.
OB: Exactly. I wanted to build this film in a realistic manner and so the first step is to create an environment. I knew that Walter Spencer and his Foley team would do such a tremendous job of filling out the detail, so I focused on the environment.
Once I had that set, then I started looking at things that were in the environment, like the airplane door and the polar bear — things that would be sound effect moments. I paid a lot of attention to those because I knew the Foley would be great.
Another thing I try to do is play the emotion. That is something I think the composer did as well. You don’t want to score the action so much as the emotion of the character. So that’s what I was doing as well. I was looking at what Overgård was going through and I tried to echo that with the environment.
When Overgård is trekking through the snow, a mile from the camera, Joe wanted to hear his sounds.
Additionally, Joe had brought to my attention this video essay called “Sound in the Wide,” which showed a number of scenes from Better Call Saul. It would show a character walking about 100 yards away. Normally when you are that far from someone you aren’t going to hear anything but in the show, they did highlight the character’s footsteps and you hear his breaths. And that’s what Joe wanted for his film. When Overgård is trekking through the snow, a mile from the camera, Joe wanted to hear his sounds. So that’s something we built into the soundtrack and it was tricky for Mark to figure out how to make that play. It can’t sound like the character is two feet from us, but at the same time, you have to hear something and Joe was very keen on that.
MM: It was a lovely stylistic choice and I had to figure out a way to do it.
To pull that off in the mix, rather than make the sound grow in presence with volume (which would be the logical approach, to hear someone infinitesimally in the distance) I used equalization. I would roll-off the high-frequency content of the breaths and footstep sounds, and then gradually unmask the sounds by opening up that filter as the character got closer. So it went from dull to full fidelity as the character approached the camera. This gave it the shape of movement but still allowed us to hear the sound in the distance in a way that wasn’t literal.
In regards to crafting the final mix, I’m sure there were a lot of tough decisions about what to play when and what to take out…
MM: The job of the re-recording mixer is to find the sonic focus of the scene. Odin and Joe had already effectively pointed me in a strong direction; providing me with elements that sketch out what a scene should feel like. Then, I have to be true to that and render it in a way that is going to be sonically pleasing and as immersive as possible.
A good mix should present all of the sound ideas in as immersive and believable fashion as possible. Along the way, I am allowed to bring a little bit of my own taste to how I think the soundscape lays out. For example, in the helicopter crash we have a very important moment where we see the astonishment on Overgård’s face as he’s watching his life-line disappear. For me, emotionally, the best way to sell that is with silence, not with a giant, “action-film”-like helicopter crash. I pitched the idea of not only diminishing and removing the actual impact of the crash, but waiting an extraordinarily long time to introduce any sound afterwards. We don’t go to digital silence; there is one of Odin’s very light airs playing, but after the crash we wait a long time to bring in more sound. This tells the audience that Overgård’s sense of hearing and his sense of credulity is recovering from this very significant, dramatic moment.
That’s a moment in the film where I got to bring a point of view to the mix, pitch it to the team, and have it come to fruition. That’s the process that one goes through as a mixer on the film, bringing new ideas to the balance of music or sound effects, etc. What I’m trying to do is empathically be the central character, be the protagonist, feel what they feel and decide how to support that with sound at every moment.
What Odin and I got to bring to them in that final pass were new ideas and new perspectives on how to play a scene.
What Joe loved about collaborating with Odin and I, was that together we support this idea of creative collaboration. Joe and Ryan had lived with the movie for a long time and I think they (like most filmmakers) started to become desensitized to what works and what doesn’t. They had been living with their temp soundtrack for so long; I think they needed a fresh set of ears. What Odin and I got to bring to them in that final pass were new ideas and new perspectives on how to play a scene. That’s the joy of being an artist in this process, and Odin and I were given that flexibility and permission.
OB: I would say that Mark was really instrumental in getting that helicopter crash scene to work. That was one of the main things that Joe was concerned about. We presented Mark with an enormous palette of sound effects — everything from hearing the snow hitting the hull of the helicopter to hearing the crash — and to parse through all of that was a difficult balancing act. There was score at that point as well.
In the end, it’s one of the quietest moments in the film. I think we go completely out of score and out of sound. It’s near silent. So that was the most difficult scene that we had to wrestle with. That was the scene that we kept going back to, trying it in different ways. Ultimately, Mark was the one who suggested going to near silence. It was the way to go.
MM: You risk your professional credibility with moments like that. I didn’t know Joe; I had never met him before. Odin had spent months with him but the first day I met Joe we worked on the helicopter crash. You really run the risk of him going home at night, saying, “Why the hell did Mangini come up with that idea?”
OB: There is a lot of sound leading up to that moment, but after the crash the question was, “what do we do?” You see the snow and ice whipping across Overgård’s face but the idea is that he’s so focused on what just happened that the whole world just disappeared for a moment.
The other challenging scene you mentioned was the bear attack. What was happening with that scene?
MM: The bear attack was complex only because there was this question of, “How do we introduce the sound of something approaching outside the cave without giving it away that it’s a bear?” I wasn’t fond of the temp mix in that area because it sounded like there were actual bear sounds in the design. What we created, instead, were these amorphous, thumpy sounds that could have been human or animal. But we were very delicate about introducing them and we introduced them much later than they had been in the temp dub.
OB: I think we ended up going with a bear growl that almost sounded like a breath, but it could’ve been a human breath. It makes you wonder if it’s Overgård breathing, or the bear.
Then, from a sound effects standpoint, it was difficult to get all of the different bear sounds to work together. Chris Bonis, my co-supervising sound editor, handled most of the dialogue and he handled some additional effects. He worked out some of the helicopter and also the polar bear scene.
MM: The bear vocals were quite convincing. The scene comes off quite scary when the bear finally pokes its head into the cave. It’s a real shocker.
OB: That scene came in very late. Joe and Ryan were struggling with whether or not to use a CGI bear. To generate a CGI bear would have been the entire budget of the film! So, they were able to find an actual bear and they did an additional day of shooting. So that scene came in late and it had to be adjusted very late in the game to make it work.
This is a very quiet film but here is a moment when we get loud — more like an action film. We needed to again walk that line of creating a shocking scene that still feels realistic.
At one point, Mark was questioning how loud he mixed the scene. So we’d go back to it and watch it, then leave it for a day and then watch it again and make our judgment.
It’s a very shocking scene. I watched this film with an audience and the woman next to me jumped completely out of her seat!
Any final thoughts that you’d like to share on the sound of Arctic?
We all had a pure intent to make what was up on the screen be the best that it could be.
MM: I’d like to give a nod to Joe and Ryan and Odin for the collaborative way this film came together. All too often we work for filmmakers who seem to believe they have all the ideas. The joy on this film, was working with Odin and Joe, who always allowed me to be a collaborator. It was always an open forum for ideas and I felt comfortable turning from the console to make a suggestion. Like a little cabal, we’d toss ideas around the team — Joe, Ryan, Odin, and I — and we’d get a good result because we all had a pure intent to make what was up on the screen be the best that it could be. I want filmmakers to recognize the power of collaboration and understand its value for them.
OB: Ryan was the picture editor and co-writer, and in many ways his voice was very important and so were his opinions on how a scene should play. Film is a collaborative medium and this was a collaborative experience. Not all films are like that.
Joe saw the importance of sound and was active in the creation of the soundtrack. He wanted to try things and listen to different options. I think more filmmakers could take a cue from Joe and see the importance of sound and what it can bring to their films, because sound is so very important.
A big thanks to Thomas Ouziel, Hamed Hokamzadeh, Odin Benitez, and Mark Mangini for giving us a look at the intricate sound of Arctic – and to Jennifer Walden for the interview!