Posts Tagged ‘music’

Recording the Singers

March 21, 2013

I wrote “The Adventures of Paul and Marian” for a specific group of actors. When I started writing it, it wasn’t a musical.

Then I wrote a scene in which Marian started to sing. And bit by bit, the movie became a musical.

There was one problem: I cast the movie with actors who weren’t singers.

But, this being a movie, that wasn’t much of a problem. There’s a long history of movie musicals in which other singers sing the songs for the leads.

I did one thing slightly differently though. I had the cast sing a rough recording of the songs to use during the filming of the movie. That way the actors could sing along with themselves on set and make their own performance choices. This was a very important point for me, because I wanted any professional singers we would bring in to match the choices and performance energy of the actors.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been recording the singers at a wonderful studio in Brooklyn called YouTooCanWoo. The singers we cast in these roles are also actors, and that was very important for me. Actors are more likely to “get” what we’re doing and would be more open to singing in “incorrect” ways as needed. Since we’re in New York, there are tons of musical theater singers to choose from, and we found some great ones, including two who are currently on Broadway, and a third who was nominated for a Tony for his work on Broadway last year.

The singers were all a delight to work with. And they were able to nail their parts very quickly, often with just a few takes.

Below is a brief behind-the-scenes video with clips from our recording sessions. Pictured are Larkin Bogan as Paul, Ron Raines as The General, and Laura Dreyfuss as Marian.

Recording the Singers for “The Adventures of Paul and Marian” from Jay Stern on Vimeo.


Sound and Music

March 17, 2013

I had a meeting with composer Zach Abramson and sound designer Greg Sextro today. I love meetings like this. Two people who are working on very different aspects of the movie had to plan out together what each one of them was going to do so that they can be working in synch.

We watched the movie twice. First Zach and I went through it scene by scene and planned out where we think there should be music cues (not including the songs of course). Then Greg watched it with us. Zach and I presented our ideas for music cues, and Greg asked all sorts of questions as to our stylistic choices for the music. As you will eventually see once this movie is finally finished, it’s an odd thing, and it takes some talking through for everyone to understand exactly how we want to play out. There are places where sound design can do the heavy lifting, while in others music will be in the forefront. And in others still, the sound design and the music will be working together to create specific effects.

Sound and music are crucial elements for any movie. But for a movie musical with fantastical elements, they’re even more crucial. So sound and music really have to communicate well throughout post production to make sure they’re on the same page. Of course as the writer and director, I’m the arbiter of this, but I want to make sure that Greg’s and Zach’s impulses are also integrated. I chose them both for this movie because I know their work quite well and want to bring their sensibilities to the finished product.

On top of all of this, the movie is a comedy. I have specific ideas of how I want moments to play out for laughs, but comedy is very subjective. The way I see the jokes landing may not be the same as Zach or Greg. And who knows how an audience will really respond to this movie. So we also have to navigate that. One thing I really like about both Greg and Zach is that they’re open to just trying things. So we may go through several versions of moments before we find out exactly what works.

This is just one of the reasons why it’s taken me nearly two years to finish post production on this movie. We have to get everything exactly right, or at least as right as we’re able to get it given the circumstances and our resources.

Recording with the Uncle

March 27, 2011

On Saturday, Zach Abramson recorded actor Craig Wichman (the Uncle) singing his two songs from “The Adventures of Paul and Marian.”  They’re just scratch tracks for timing right now to play back when we shoot.  It was really interesting to work on two songs from different points on the character’s emotional journey, and that will help us when we begin our rehearsals.

Craig Wichman sings!

When a Song Meeting Becomes a Story Meeting

July 15, 2010

A few days ago I had a meeting with composer Zach Abramson to talk about the duets which Paul and Marian sing during the course of the movie.  There’s one near the opening and one at a major turning point.  At the very end, Paul and Marian have a scene together with music but it’s not exactly a duet, since the song turns into the grand finale.  Zach thought that we needed a duet at this point, which is why we had the meeting.

Once we started talking about it, it made sense to think about making the major moments of the story also major musical moments.  Then this final moment would need to be treated musically like the other two duet scenes.

Looking at it this way, these three songs are really part of a complete story.  The characters and their relationship to each other changes and grows during the course of the movie.  This development can be explored through these three songs.  Do they alternate lines in one song and sing in harmony in another?  Is there a musical theme which is hinted at in the first song, ripped apart in the second, and finally fulfilled in the third?  What is the story of these three songs?

The answer, of course, is also the answer to the story of the movie.  When Zach and I were thinking musically, we were actually thinking about story.  If we’re not sure what a song is doing, or if the lyrics or the activity taking place during the song doesn’t feel right, then the story moment isn’t clearly defined.  So this meeting to discuss how to handle these moments musically became a meeting about how our story was working and how to make some moments better defined.

This is another example of what a great collaborative art moviemaking can be.  I wouldn’t have thought about these moments in this way if I wasn’t having to put on a musician’s hat for a bit.  And in thinking this way himself, Zach is taking character and story into consideration when he writes his music.  And this is the kind of thinking that will hopefully help us make a very strong movie.