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Interview: Re-Recording Mixer Tony Solis on the Challenges of ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’

Roku

When it comes to musical biopics, few have had the unusual approach Weird took to tell Al Yankovic‘s story. The Roku Original Film released earlier this year and it was met by favorable reviews from critics, who praised the movie’s particular style and unique voice. Daniel Radcliffe‘s performance as the famous musician also received plenty of acclaim during the initial release of the movie.

Awards Radar had the opportunity of speaking to Tony Solis about the production of the project. Solis worked on Weird as a re-recording mixer, making sure the right sounds helped tell Yankovic’s story alongside the sound department. You can find our interview with Solis below and don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments:

Awards Radar: Congratulations on the success of Weird! What can you tell us about the process of your work for the LSD trip sequence?

Tony Solis: Thank you! There’s been lots of positive feedback since it came out. Lots of peers have reached to talk about how great the sound was, and the effort we put into it. (The movie) is not what a lot of people expected. The LSD trip scene was one of the coolest things we did on the stage. When I first saw a rough cut in my house, it wasn’t really done yet. It was mostly temporary VFX and I didn’t really know how big it was going to get until I was on the mix stage and I saw the absolutely fantastic work that our sound designer Michael Gallagher had done. He built this huge sonic world.

Once Al and Eric Appel (the film’s director) gave us a direction, they said they wanted to hear everything. We had a big score, a lot of big music moments we needed to hit and, a lot of sound effects. There’s a lot of dialogue and, of course, Al wanted all of the dialogue to be heard. It was the longest process we had on the stage. We wanted to attack it, and we knew that we had to build tension. We started slow, once Radcliffe notices there’s something wrong with the guacamole, we slowly introduce the trippiness until he blows up. It was a lot of pushing and pulling, and part of my job is finding a balance to everything.

There was a lot for us to work with. By the end of it, it’s a scene we’re really proud of, specially if you see it in Dolby Atmos, there’s stuff all over the place. By the time we signed off our mix on it, we were stupidly proud of it (laughs).

AR: There were plenty of references to Weird Al’s work throughout the whole film. How did you know which ones to include and how to balance it out?

TS: That was written in the script with what Al and Eric did, and how it was shot. In the sound design aspect, we had moments where we could help push the joke. I know that towrds the end of the movie, when there’s an Amish Paradise reveal, we implied his other songs, like Fat. We thought if we should push it a little bit more or if the audience would get it right away.

For the rest of it, Al knew what songs he wanted to focus on. He re-recorded several of them for the mix. One of my favorite moments was towards the beginning of the third act, where he gets hit by the car and wakes up at the hospital. The beeping on the background is the beeping for Like A Surgeon. It’s a musical movie, so we wanted musical elements pushing the story forward, as well.

AR: What other elements did you use to keep bringing the story forward with the mix?

TS: It was tough. They understand we have lots of genres covered in this movie. We have action, musical moments, romantic comedy and drama elements. It was my job to make it all fit together into one story. As soon as I knew what story we were telling, I knew we couldn’t treat it as a parody, we needed to treat it as a legitimate movie because, at the end of the day, it was a legitimate movie due to the way it was written and shot.

We were careful with doors, cars, hands touching and other effects, even with the music, as well. Since I was able to re-record all of that stuff, he wanted all of those songs to sound like the space they were being played in. We kept all the dialogue cohesive throughout the whole movie. It’s just treated like a real drama and that draws the audience forward with the story. That was the biggest challenge for this movie when it came to re-recording the mix.

AR: You previously mentioned Dolby Atmos technology for this project. How was that tool used for the film?

TS: It allowed me to have three-dimensional space for me to mix in. I wanted to do a lot of ambient stuff, create the room around you. That technology always allowed me to just immerse you a lot better into the world we were creating and what ended up happening with this movie was that being able to have Atmos allowed to make sounds appear as if they were moving in circles around you. It allowed more immersion to whatever the scene you are watching was.

For the music, I had left-hand accordion and right-hand accordion separated out around the room, things like that gave us brand new versions of the songs. Specially Another One Rides The Bus, because that one is played outside. That one needed a lot of touch. It goes over you and dissipates into the air. And they gave us full creative freedom too, combined with the Dolby Atmos, it was a playground for the sound team.

This interview was edited for length and clarity purposes.

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Written by Diego Peralta

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