…or on your computer if you’d rather not go out!
Nestled in the Curzon trailer are clips from Harry Macqueen‘s debut feature Hinterland, which I had the pleasure of working on as sound recordist and designer.
It’s been almost exactly two years since my fortnight sojourn in frozen Cornwall. During which, I spent a large majority of my time, headphones on and hugging my mixer bag in the footwell of the fairly ancient Volvo estate “Leroy” featured in the film. For someone who tends to suffer a little from travel sickness this was, at times, fairly uncomfortable.
The car aside, Cornwall is a sound recordist’s paradise. Unlike London the sky is filled with seagulls, not planes and traffic noise tends to only ever creep gently over the hills from a distant A-road rather than the constant wall one tends to frequently battle within the M25. That said, some of my favourite moments in Hinterland are scenes in the car – there is something hypnotically nostalgic about listening to the engine whirr and hum as “Leroy” struggles up the steep inclines on Dartmoor and around Port Isaac; his very own Casey Junior ‘I think I can’ moments are preserved in the low frequencies under Graham Hadfield‘s rousing and carefree scoring.
The calm of the countryside soundscape can however work against you somewhat as we discovered once in post-production. The dialogue in one particular scene, relocated to some sand dunes from an erratically moving and (vomit inducing) fishing boat ended up coming across a little too clearly. As a recordist I was delighted but with my sound designer hat on I wanted to make sure that we still felt like we were with the characters on that sand dune. Fortunately I’d spent a lot of time on location wandering off to record atmos tracks so some of the windier sounding ones came to my aid here, along with some wide perspective sea recordings, a few of the aforementioned seagulls and a touch of foley to enhance the movement of some grass that was growing nearby. Voila! Back on the freezing sand dune.
Re-building or building-up the soundscape for a scene like this rather than having to ‘repair’ a noisy recording is the essence of a sound designers work, and for me, the best part of the job. Hinterland was great for these sorts of moments; the space in between the action and the quiet recording locations allowed a lot of leeway in post to control and construct the sound design. Background sounds were manipulated to ebb and flow with the emotion of a conversation and little features taken from location wild tracks or recorded as foley are used to enhance or underpin events on screen. All in the name of drawing in the audience and putting them in that remote landscape with Harvey & Lola, my very own attempt at mind control and hopefully subtle enough to go unnoticed!
That all seems like a long time ago now but with the February weather giving us the last frosts of Winter it feels like the perfect time to cozy up in a darkened cinema and take a trip to Cornwall with some old friends…
Hinterland begins it’s UK cinema release on 27th February at the Curzon Leicester Square with a screening and Q&A with the director.
Update: you can read an interview with Harry about the film here