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Interview: A Conversation with the Sound Team Behind ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ 

A24

Moderator: Thomas Curley, CAS 

Sound Supervisor Brent Kiser

Re-Recording Mixer Alexandra Fehrman

Sound  Designer Andrew Twite

ADR Sup. Julie Diaz 

The new film by “The Daniels,” (Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert) AGBO and A24 Everything Everywhere All At Once is truly a celebration of what filmmaking can be when an incredible story gets told by masters. If you’ve seen it, you know that this film lives up to its name in many ways, and has a fresh look at the Multiverse that is thrown around in so many Superhero films now. I had the pleasure of talking with the people responsible for the daunting task of sound designing and mixing this film, and how they achieved such an impressive result. 

Tom Curley: How did everybody here come to be on this? 

BRENT KISER: Andrew and I have basically been doing all the sound for the Daniels since day one. Since music videos and short films. I think our first project was an online only Nike ad that never saw the light of day. And then our partnership just slowly grew. The Daniels are really great in that once they find somebody they really like to work with, they make sure they work with them forever. So, they try to find crew that they work well with so they don’t have to keep on meeting new crew. 

ANDREW TWITE: Also they like keeping things small, as small as they can, because they like being able to go to the source and we can tell them why something works, why something doesn’t work without going through extra channels. 

Tom Curley: I did notice that there seems to be a ton of cuts in this. I can understand even if they were not doing remote or pandemic stuff that that might have been a chore. And so let’s get into that. The script is equal parts normal and just bonkers. And I would love to hear what kind of conversation you guys had about how to tackle this. 

BRENT KISER: It was just like an ad lib, almost like you have to just kind of go with it. I read it, and I giggled to myself because I have no clue how any of this will work. We were able to see some stuff as they were shooting, and then what we did for them was make sure that they had a library of sounds based on our initial creative conversations. We would build up these huge, huge ideas like, oh, we could do this and this and they’re like “Yeah, maybe pull it back. You know, check out Grand Master, check out Kung Fu Hustle.” Then we’d be getting little videos of things to see during the process.

ANDREW TWITE Once we started, they had delivered us a custom Spotify playlist and their pitch deck too. We got a really great idea of the kind of influences that were going to be coming into this thing. So we knew the fight scenes were a big deal, but developing some of the more thematic stuff like the radio transitions and the glass transitions, those were all things that were crucially important. We had to figure out how we were going to break down these scenes so we know that we can get this done with the small amount of time that we have. 

Tom Curley: Something that I thought was really remarkable about this film is that it takes an extremely cerebral concept and translates it to people that might not have any idea of multiverse or quantum anything, but that’s how a lot of these scenes blend together. 

ANDREW TWITE: When these crazy things are happening, you’re trying to remind the audience that the skill is being borrowed from another universe, which wasn’t easy. It was something that we constantly had to keep in the back of our heads. 

BRENT KISER: The Daniels are some of the smartest people in the room and part of their genius is they are able to communicate big issues so simply and make it so silly that you’re able to grasp them. I think their direction to help us do that sonically was huge. 

ALEXANDRA FEHRMAN: They gave us a clear map, an end of a thread to help us through the entire chaos to make sure that the audience, is aware of where the thread is and where it’s going. 

Tom Curley: Throughout this whole process, was there any particular scene or particular thing that you were trying to employ that was especially challenging, or that wasn’t sort of coming together right away? 

ALEXANDRA FEHRMAN: Yeah, I think we all had PTSD here. I’ll let Andrew talk about it more, but like the stairs, or the stair fight. Our initial intuition was to go big, and so Andrew cut all this craziness. 

ANDREW TWITE: They had a rhythm in mind, for the entire thing. Based on the way that it’s shot, the scenes don’t just start and end really, it leads right into the next thing. We really struggled to figure it out during the edit, but really felt it once we had all the music, and we were on stage. We get back to this rhythm that Daniel Quan had established early on. That was my biggest challenge, trying to flow in and out. Trying to figure out a way to do this swell up and then come back in without being super repetitive and making it noticeable. We try to not make it utterly jarring, because if you do that, you’re taking them out of the story, you’re taking them out of that moment, and you really don’t want that of course. 

ALEXANDRA FEHRMAN: And they’ll tell you why, or how to fix it. How to make it better.

BRENT KISER: Right? And then Cheyenne comes in like a little kid and just starts laughing. He goes, “This is amazing, just less badass.” “Bring it in. It doesn’t have to be these huge action things all the time.” That helped with the pacing, the ups and downs. Ultimately, a lot of people’s favorite scene is the quietest. It’s the rock scene. Because it’s just, you’ve hit this beautiful moment and we’ve stripped that away and it just swells. And so that’s the challenge of finding the rhythm and staying with the rhythm. 

ALEXANDRA FEHRMAN: I think referring back to their tracks gave us an audible direction of where they wanted to go. We used a lot of stuff Andrew provided so we had enough to build on and spread it wherever their sonic direction might have been. 

Tom Curley: Cool. So now that I’ve triggered you, what was the most fun you had with any particular process? 

BRENT KISER: I think Julie’s got one of the best ones that we’re all jealous of. 

ANDREW TWITE: I was just gonna say Julie should say something here. Okay. 

JULIE: Um, oh, man. My favorite as the ADR supervisor is thatI got to hang out with all the actors. It was great. It made my entire life. My favorite I think was hanging out with Randy Newman and tracking him as  RaCaCooney. Not only was it like an ADR session, but it turned into a music session. Because I had Ryan Lott of Son Luxwith me, and Randy didn’t really understand that he thought he was an animated raccoon, not an animatronic one. So that process of him actually understanding what he was about to track was really funny, and then he just knocked it out of the park and he gave us some of the funniest lines. Some didn’t actually make it into the movie, but some did. Just like sprinkled here and there if you listen really closely.It was just amazing. Definitely a career highlight, it’s just my favorite. 

BRENT KISER: The hallway scene is probably my favorite crazy one. That’s the first one we touched, but my favorite sound in the whole thing is as she’s like beating this guy up with two dildos and holds it out and as it wobbles, you hear that “BWOOOM.” Little things like that triggers the kid in me. 

ANDREW TWITE: My favorite is when Evelyn comes to the conclusion that she needs to learn to fight when she starts working her way up the stairwell. There’s a beauty and playfulness to that entire sequence, not only in the way it’s orchestrated and shot. There’s such a wide array of sounds and a lot of really quick things happening. I just love this positive coming out of a negative and like just the slow-motion store shooting leading into the wedding bells into the grenade popping into perfume, and then the Tweedy birds with the bliss on Biff with space, and the chiropractor, and then it all culminates with them face to face right in front of the bagel. When they’re really combating each other, and they’re just flying through the worlds. We really built those out, so when you’re spinning around, you go in and out of all these places, and there are little highlights from each one. You can feel the embers burning in the desert, you can hear birds, you hear the impacts of the fist being caught, and the foot on the ground. It’s a really cinematic moment. For how many big things are happening throughout this movie, it’s a huge combination. 

ALEXANDRA FEHRMAN: There really is so much going on in that sequence. We’re supposed to very quickly identify what she’s doing to everybody to help them, but then also throughout that entire sequence, that bagel is just GOING. You have to focus in and pull back from, and then focus in on the bagel again. We all just wanted to match the quality of the film, I feel like we all wanted to put everything that we could into it. 

Tom Curley: When you did get to finally see it, were you able to detach yourself from the work? 

BRENT KISER: SXSW was intense. We went and did soundcheck. A24 was awesome and they got us a tech check that played the entire movie. So, it wasn’t just like, “Yo, here’s three minutes to watch.” We were able to get into the Paramount, a gorgeous theater. 

ALEXANDRA FEHRMAN: We checked all the seats, all the different seats. 

BRENT KISER: So, it was just like, you get in there. I mean, everything comes up everybody’s hooting’ and hollering’ after every fight scene, they’re cheering, they’re laughing at the right points.  It was the best screening I’ve ever been to, and the best screening of my career. 

ANDREW TWITE: It was wonderful in the sense that part of my worry was if people are going to understand? Are they going to get it?  

ALEXANDRA FEHRMAN: And there’s so much going on… 

ANDREW TWITE: But in the Q&A after that first one, even Scheinert was saying “Oh, we were just expecting some goofballs” and people are like, not only utterly moved, while they were asking their questions, but they asked some heavy stuff; about nihilism, generational trauma, ADHD, like, they GOT it. But yeah, man, like after the fanny pack scene, the place erupted. I get goosebumps thinking about it. It was the best screening I’ve ever seen. Once the movie got going, Alex and I were sitting next to each other and crying. It was an emotional experience. 

BRENT KISER: But I wasn’t crying. 

ALEXANDRA FEHRMAN: OK Tough guy

JULIE DIAZ: Okay, well, I definitely cried after not seeing this thing for six plus months after we wrapped it. And then SXSW came along. I think one of the biggest things for me is the amazing reception of this story, and everybody’s understanding it, and that everybody’s loving and intaking a story that’s not just in English has been amazing to me. That was one of my biggest worries, too. 

BRENT KISER: The best moment for me was at SXSW. Andrew and I were standing at the wrap party and Michelle Yeoh walks in. She basically asked what we did. And I was like, we did the sound, and she FREAKED OUT. She’s like “This movie came alive because of you!” It’s so rare that we are given these moments to be in person with the crew, especially getting everybody together, and not a compartmentalized crew. It was an amazing moment. 

ANDREW TWITE: That’s a credit to the Daniels right there. They’re good at bringing people together. At the end of the day, it’s something we’re supposed to enjoy and have fun. The technical stuff is tough, the conceptual stuff is tough, and it’s supposed to be, but when you accomplish it, it’s nice to sit back and truly enjoy the fruits of your labor a little bit. 

Tom Curley: It really was a film that kind of lived up to his name. It’s I mean, script acting sound picture. All of it is really everything everywhere all at once, and I had the best time watching it.

(Interview edited for clarity and length.)

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