CAS Quarterly

Summer 2023

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36 S U M M E R 2 0 2 3 I C A S Q U A R T E R L Y TELEVISION SERIES – ONE HOUR BETTER CALL SAUL S6 EP. 13 "SAUL GONE" by KURT KASSULKE CAS This year's winner for best sound for hour-long television drama, Better Call Saul, follows the exploits of Bob Odenkirk's Saul Goodman, and explores the events surrounding his adventures as the lawyer we first saw in Breaking Bad. It was my pleasure to chat with most of the sound crew: production mixer Phillip W. Palmer CAS; re-recording mixers Larry Benjamin CAS and Kevin Valentine; and Foley mixer Stacey Michaels CAS. (Due to scheduling challenges, ADR mixer Chris Navarro CAS was unable to be interviewed by our deadline.) The whole crew has been with the show from the very start. Everyone commented that the show's well-focused approach to sound starts from the top with EP/show runner Vince Gilligan and co-creator Peter Gould encouraging every crew member to focus on story and to take pride in doing their best work to tell that story. While this is the first CAS Award win for Better Call Saul, the work heard throughout the "Saul Gone" episode, which features the time-jumping summation of Saul's creation and downfall, offers countless examples of brilliant audio storytelling. From the opening shot panning by crinkling foil, a $100 bill flapping, and an old desert windmill squeaking—all the way through to the closing scene in a prison yard with a carefully chosen symphony of voices, basketball, and bus driving away—it's clear that sound is always a carefully chosen part of the narrative. Well, first, congratulations on the win. How long have you been on the show? Larry Benjamin CAS: From the beginning. So, it was like six seasons over the course of eight years. It's been a big team effort with a variety of people. Melissa Bernstein is an executive producer, Diane Mercer, who originally brought us the project, is co-executive producer, and then we have the sound supervisor Nick Forshager and his team. They do all the editorial and then Kevin and I mix it. We started off at Smart Post Sound and then, after three seasons, went to Formosa Group and did Seasons 4 and 5, and then Season 6 was here at Signature Post. I guess they like working with you guys! The show is so clean, everything you hear is exactly what you want the audience to hear. Kevin Valentine: It is just perfect mixing on our part [laughter]. The effects, they get direction from Vince and Peter, but also Nick Forshager and his team do a great job of hand-picking this stuff. And it makes a difference because I equate it to us being chefs; if you get good ingredients, you can make good food, but if you get crappy ingredients, you can only do so much. So, do they give you a full buffet that you then have to pick and choose what you use, or do they stick pretty close to what's been spotted? KV: It depends. Most of it is a single choice, but many times there are tracks and tracks of sounds that are muted as alts. Many times, a good sound is multiple tracks, so you do have to jockey the faders and put it where you want. If they don't want it that way, you just re-do it. MEET THE WINNERS Event photos courtesy of Alex J. Berliner/ABImages

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