Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"You only live twice, or so it seems/One life for yourself, and one for your dreams..."

"Can you direct me to Mr. Craig's trailer, please?"

Sadly, I will not be featured in next James Bond movie, but that is me outside the sound stage at Pinewood Studios where they've shot several sequences for the majority of the Bond films, as well as The Fortress of Solitude from both Superman and Superman II. For a more in depth look at the history of the 007 Stage, go here.

I was at Pinewood this afternoon doing ADR work for an upcoming film, set on a New England college campus (title upon request). The movie was actually shot entirely in the UK--I'm guessing it was probably cheaper that way. For those of you who don't know, ADR stands for "Automated Dialogue Replacement." Basically, it's part of the dubbing process when making a film, and can be anything from a lead actor coming in to re-record dialogue that's audio was shaky during shooting, or to add dialogue into certain scenes to aid in continuity or atmosphere. It was for this last reason that I was hanging around Pinewood.

Whenever you have extras in the background of a shot, they are almost always asked to act silently, while the lead characters are the only ones being followed by the boom. The majority of the time, the sounds the crowd makes are added during post-production. So if you have two actors in the foreground having a plot-based conversation, and you hear from behind them, "Hey! Two beers here, please," that line of dialogue, shown through mimed action on set in November, will finally be recorded by a completely different person come March. Or, if there was an actor who had a single line of dialogue in a shot, but the sound editor hates their voice and wants to replace it, chances are they will be dubbed over as well. This was something else I did today.

I got the job through Spotlight, an online database that almost every UK based actor seems to be on. (The US equivalent in NYCasting, for those who ponder such things.) I got called because I had the right accent--finally, New Jersey pays off! Sadly, due to my student visa standing, I was unable to work for monies. Oh, but yes. You see, under the student visa, you cannot work as an "entertainer" or be "self-employed," both of which kind of describe the field of industry in which I exist and function accordingly in. Upon this realization, I called the company that had booked me to turn down the job, but they very graciously offered to let me come along and work for free. Truth be told, they were probably strapped to find Northeastern accents, but never mind it. I had never done this kind of work before and it seemed like a fun prospect, so why not gain a little experience? So now I have a credit for my CV, working knowledge, and the understanding with myself that since I've done it once, I never have to feel like I need to do this work for free ever again.

There were about twelve of us actors, mostly from America, but a couple from other countries but with accessible US accents from one of their parents. The sound technicians recorded us tons of different ways: put us in separate rooms talking and carried the boom up and down the hallway to get the effect of a dorm hall; had us walk down the hall talking; had us walk up stairs talking; had us talk and walk into a building from outside; had us run by the boom laughing, pretending to get into all kinds of shenanigans at night; had us make snarky remarks about one of the leads we saw in some footage. All of this took a little over 2 hours, and was done around various locations on the studio lot.

Pinewood Studios, showing off it's Slumdog pride.
(This parking lot was one area we recorded in, to get that outdoor feel.)

Then the lot of us were taken over to a recording stage, where we were held in a green room of sorts, and one by one were taken into the recording studio. I got led in by the sound editor who showed me a piece of footage and identified the line she wanted me to replace and ad lib after. The actress who they had filmed speaking the line had a somewhat pronounced "Baaaastan" accent, which didn't sit well with the designer at all. What happens when you dub over dialogue is you watch the footage you're dubbing to on a screen and wait for a white line to cross from one side of the screen to meet a stationary line on the other. Once the lines meet, you start speaking, and hopefully you give them something useful. If a character is moving around on screen, you move your upper body while keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground. This affects your breathing and how you use your voice, and generally comes off more "realistic sounding." Apparently. After about seven takes, she was satisfied, and I walked back into the green room to wait with the other actors to be called in for a couple more crowd recordings, and then we were released.

I have to be honest: I had a great time today, and since voice over work is something I've been seriously considering exploring as of late, this opportunity came at a really perfect time. And it was just fun, which is what acting is meant to be after all. Right? So upon release, hopefully in a few months time, you'll be able to hear my voice laid out over other people's bodies on film! Unless, of course, I get dubbed over by then.


Caitlin said...

I take offense to your anti Boston remark. ;-)

Lea Maria said...

It wasn't me, Caitlin! It was the sound editor, the sound editor!!!

Zuzu Petals said...

Yay! I'm glad you got to do this after all. =)

Lea Maria said...

I met a woman there, Amy Lee, who reminded me so much of you it was frightening. She even had a foot problem. But I prefer you.