"The project started off on a very positive note, especially once the creative approach was agreed, and that energy and momentum flowed on from that moment"
In collaboration with Leland Music, 19 Sound were tasked to create the sonic world for a series of new films featuring Jennifer Aniston, for a campaign created by 72andSunny, for Vital Proteins.
"At Leland Music, it’s been our pleasure to work with 72andSunny on a number of creatively compelling productions over the years." said Ed Baillie, director / music supervisor, Leland Music. "So when producer Max Belin contacted us about an environmental sound based composition for a campaign starring Jennifer Aniston, we were immediately intrigued. After delving into the concept with creatives Maite Rodrigues de Albuquerque (GCD) and Tahirah Edwards-Byfield (CD), we knew this was the opportune production to collaborate with our good friends at 19 Sound. Enter Oscar Kugblenu, our sonic Yoda, who with sound designer Will Ward, will walk you through the process we embarked upon to create the sound of Vital Proteins 'It’s Within Us'."
Initially, all the team had to go on from Maite and Tahirah, and Josh and Xander (directors), was the script and some references. This meant the brief was ripe for creative exploration.
Ed Baille and Oscar Kugblenu had a series of Zoom meetings with agency producer Max Belin, the creatives and directors, to talk through the various ideas of approach, and they all came together in agreement, on this final premise; to create a rhythmic soundtrack using sounds that correspond to the film; footsteps, coffee grinder, water splash etc. This, from a compositional and sound design perspective is a real treat. Exploring the musical possibilities of everyday objects and human sounds opens up a lot of creative freedom. Furthermore, they were very keen to incorporate elements of ASMR to the soundtrack, harvesting as many human textures as possible, in order to infuse the soundtrack with a tangible, human intimacy.
Will Ward initially created a bank of temp sounds, which were edited into sequence, using the script as a guide to how and where the sounds would be mapped out, in a similar way to how he and Jack Wyllie would do with a more traditional score; offering it up before any footage has been filmed and edited, so the film can be cut to an approximate time and rhythm. This meant the team were all working in tandem, and at the same tempo. Things of course inevitably change, but by working this way, everyone was on the same page from the get go. Instead of using drums, bass and strings, the 19 Sound team were composing with pencil swipes, coffee machine sounds, footsteps, machine beeps and breaths etc.
Once the shoot was completed, the edit team at Exile Editorial, based in New York, began their work. They took Will’s initial tracklay and ran with it during the editing process, using his temp sounds to map out the rhythm of the film, just as he had intended. For instance, the sound of Jen’s phone beeping at the start, is the same sound he initially created in the very first pass of the soundtrack’s creation (all created, in the attic of Will's mother-in-laws house during lockdown). The treadmill sounds, which Will had created without any visual reference, were now in the film, playing alongside the footage of Jennifer Aniston.
Now that there was an actual visual to work against, Will could begin the process of actually scoring the track to picture. Seeing the sequence of Jennifer Aniston walking into the kitchen, setting the coffee pot on the stove, clicking the ignition on the hob then buzzing the grinder, gave him the jump off.
Her footsteps were the catalyst for the rhythm which runs throughout the film. Will looked at the pacing of her steps in this sequence, especially their natural rhythm and had a lightbulb moment. This visual cue, would work perfectly as a trigger to the creative direction of the sound for the entire piece. Simply layering her steps with a deep kick drum, then later on a heartbeat, meant that he had established a pulse, a groove that would dictate the whole direction of the piece.
In addition to the step sequence, Will found the clicking of the hob to be an obvious high hat equivalent. Sampling Jen's breath, recorded as part of the VO session at Lime Studios (Santa Monica), gave the team a Timbaland-esque swagger. Then a coffee cup stir, a heartbeat, a treadmill and then faster footsteps. All these elements were edited and time-stretched to match, building up around each other, adding colour and texture. Before we knew it we had created a series of new and completely unique instruments that offered all the layers that we needed. Each new sound being introduced as we see it playing out in the film, upping the anti with more complexity as the films narrative arc dictated.
Once things had taken shape with the temp sounds, it was time to record foley for the entire film. This would give the team the depth and premium finish that the film deserved. Working with its partners at Twickenham Studios, recording engineer Adam Mendez, and Foley artists Sue Harding and Oli Ferris, they covered everything in the film; regular / sync recordings, wild recordings, and ASMR recordings. They ended up mainly using the ASMR recordings, but in some instances used both, to add extra depth, throwing in a few tricks here and there to add punch and grit. In addition, Will had to spend time creating the sonic environment for the film.
The sound design was also a big consideration here. As the 'music' was so stripped back, Will had to give the spaces in between the beats, a real sense of depth and reality. When they cut away to the garden scenes for instance, Will wanted to evoke a sense of calm and meditative reflection. So he built an environment lush with birdsong, wind chimes, all wrapped in a blanket of gentle wind. A solid break from the intensity of Jen's busy day. Will could play around with this distinction, by creating strange windswept vocal delays that would swoosh from left to right, as if it were in Jen’s or the viewers head.
Will also had to take time to score the 'influencer' films, which were totally different from the hero film. These were separate films, focusing on four health, fitness and well-being influencers, with each person highlighting how they use Vital Proteins as part of their lifestyle - from high intensity workout sessions to calm beach relaxation.
Will, Oscar and Ed talked things through with the creative team, and they all agreed that using the same 'musical' approach to keep the overall soundscapes in the same 'sonic family' was the direction to go in. Taking their cue from the different characters movements and using the hero beat that had been created already as a template, Will designed and scored completely unique compositions for each character film.
The lack of VO on these films, and because no location sound had been recorded on set, meant that foley recording was absolutely essential. This also meant we had a completely blank canvas, and the amazing work of our Twickenham Studios foley team meant we had a rich pallet of sound to work with.
Breaths, ball bounces, weights clanging, leather stretching, footsteps hitting the floor etc, meant they could not only bring these characters to life but also build instruments in the same way as in Jen’s film.
The challenges involved included working across three time zones. Working from home (which some would think would be a hindrance), ended up being an advantage. All involved parties were able to utilise their time more effectively, and with Zoom, the world was literally one big post facility. The project started off on a very positive note, especially once the creative approach was agreed, and that energy and momentum flowed on from that moment.