There are three things in life I really enjoy doing: Reading to my daughter, making dinner with my wife, and talking to everyone I meet about the awesomeness that is SUSHI GIRL.
Yes, I’m a die-hard, bona fide fan of the grindhouse-esque noir film, SUSHI GIRL, and having been part of the film’s sound design team has become what I consider the pinnacle of my career in post audio. It’s my raison d’être in a sense, and I’m always at the ready to wax philosophical about SUSHI GIRL and everything the Monkeyland crew and I did for it sonically. Those who have read my personal blog (lagosounds.com) can attest to my nerdy and neurotic enthusiasm for it.
Having had its big premier On Demand this past November, SUSHI GIRL will hit the big screen for a limited theatrical run starting this Friday, January 4th. If you aren’t able to catch it in theaters, the film makes its Blu-ray debut on February 19th. So, in honor of all this great Sushi news, I’ve decided to pick up the pen once more and share some of my SUSHI GIRL experiences with friends of The Post Lab.
SUSHI GIRL is a high-adrenaline plunge into the world of deceit, mayhem, botched heists and… sushi! The film is rich with well-nuanced performances, and oozes with tasty allusions to exploitation cinema, pulp literature and film noir. The stylish production design and the refined cinematography helped to color and refine SUSHI GIRL’s inherently gritty nature with an elegant edge. It’s Kurasawa. It’s Mamet. It’s Saxton! The high production value also served as fuel for the sound design crew, presenting a perfect visual canvas on which to blend brutally “real” sounds with “lyrical and poetic” design.
Our initial spotting session with writer/director/producer/editor Kern Saxton and producer Suren Seron generated an exhaustive yet detailed 30-page dossier, which became the sonic reference point for the audio post crew and our re-recording mixer Kelly Vandever. The hefty report covered every one of our director’s nuances regarding sound design, Foley, ADR, and dialogue, and included our sonic thoughts and input as well. What really worked in our favor was the fact that everyone gelled on every note, and our collective enthusiasm for SUSHI GIRLmade the audio post process ridiculously enjoyable.
Descending into Sonic Madness
The overall note for sound effects in the film was not only to hit hard and precise during the big, bad, torture scenes, but also to design the anticipation of said violent spots. We really gruesomed the hell out of SUSHI GIRL, but it’s the stuff building up to those gruesome spots that really keeps the moviegoers squirming uncomfortably in their seats.
It was imperative that the Foley on this project be heavy, with lots of fine detail and crispy definition. Clinical and clean. Down and dirty. Graceful. Elegant. Disturbing. Raw. Soothing. Painful. Each character in SUSHI GIRL was defined by his or her own subtle signature sounds, be it through the swagger in their step, the shifting of their leather jackets, the jingle-jangle of their chains. In many cases, footsteps were doubled (or in the case of Duke, tripled!) in order to achieve a certain level of nuance for the character. All footsteps were also double mic’d so as to ensure appropriate amount of perspective shift and to really help define the depth of our locations.
Since the majority of the story’s action takes place in the midst of a torrential rainstorm, within the eerie confines of a dilapidated and derelict, one-time glorious sushi restaurant (Universal City’s palatial Fung Lum Restaurant!), it became imperative that our backgrounds fully explore and define the dauntingly bleak, tempestuous environment, while blending in a more allegorical and interpretive slant to mirror the inner turmoil and hopelessness of our characters. The literal and symbolic devastation in Kurasawa’s RASHOMON served as a point of reference for creating our multilayered backgrounds.
Mixing It Up
SUSHI GIRL was mixed in glorious 7.1 on Monkeyland’s B Stage in October of 2010, with re-recording mixer Kelly Vandever solo mixing for nine days. Despite there being a ton to do in such a short amount of time, the vibe was ultra cool. Speaking of cool, the film’s composer Fritz Myers flew in from New York, bringing with him a groovy and eclectic soundtrack that really played well with what we constructed on the sound design front. It’s always nice to see effects and music getting along, and given the 7.1 mixing environment, there was definitely enough room for the music to stretch its legs, while letting the brewing tempest tickle the surrounds.
Like I’ve often said, from conception to completion, everything about this film was exceptionally executed. I tip my hat to Kern, Suren and the two other members of the Sushi producing quartet, Destin Pfaff and Neal Fischer, for not only making this film happen, but for infusing this sound editor with a healthy dose of motivation, inspiration and drive. Though I’ve pretty much worn out my SUSHI GIRL crew t-shirt by this point, the experience of having participated in such a wild project remains fresh, and the lessons learned during that time have served me well in my firm effort to add value to every project I participate in.
Photo Credits: Peter Lago