The Hollywood Reporter

October 2002

Sounds to Savor

Many of the year's highly anticipated films will feature not only great drama but also astounding audio

By Jon Silberg

...On the other hand, "gritty" and "realistic" would be appropriate words to describe director Curtis Hanson's approach to "8 Mile" (set to open Nov. 8), Universal's drama starring rap superstar Eminem as a Detroit factory worker with musical aspirations.

"The kinds of movies I do most of the time are very exaggerated," says supervising sound editor Dane Davis, an Oscar winner for his work on 1999's "The Matrix." "It's often my job to help stretch the audience's idea of what things can sound like. In this case, it was the opposite; Curtis Hanson wants this film to sound almost like a documentary. The camera is handheld and close amongst the characters; there's a very unstaged quality that keeps the whole thing on its feet. The sounds are all very rough, unadorned and unpolished; we want the sound to help remind the audience that these things they're seeing are real, they just happened."

In a documentary, notes Davis, who works out of his own facility, Danetracks, in West Hollywood, "you're always aware that there are extraneous sounds all the time. Somebody's talking, and there's a dog barking, somebody's slamming a door or tires are skidding somewhere off-screen. We're trying to build a fabric of sound that doesn't sound clean, like nothing in the movie was planned or staged." Davis made extensive use of the surround channels to help underline that approach. "Contrary to using the surround for big action movies to make you feel there are spaceships behind you, on the right, on the left, we're using it to do just the opposite," he says. "We make you feel like you're inside this tiny 6-foot-wide trailer. We use the 360-degree sound environment to actually help create that feeling of constriction, of being trapped. That's what this whole movie is about, being trapped."