Over twenty years have passed since the O.J. Simpson murder trial, but such visceral moments remain clear and need no embellishment. For FX Network’s limited series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Technicolor supervising sound editor Gary Megregian, re-recording mixer Joseph Earle, and re-recording mixer Doug Andham helped capture the weird reality of the iconic case by pulling back and letting the story tell itself. Their existing relationship with Emmy-winning producer/writer/director Ryan Murphy made for a fluid work process and the creation of a sonic experience that takes you inside the events of the larger-than-life murder trial, while keeping you grounded in reality.
Earle and Megregian discuss working on a Ryan Murphy production and telling the sound story of a criminal case that has reignited memories and further stoked the discussion of current social issues and our media culture:
Q: What is it like working with Ryan Murphy?
EARLE: We have worked as a team on all of Ryan Murphy's shows since the debut of Glee. The courageous style in which he tells stories and our bold approach to sound mixing has blended well. As a team, we work closely with Executive producer Alexis Martin Woodall and her picture editors to make sure that no single effort is wasted.
MEGREGIAN: Ryan has a unique voice and vision that is unlike any other. To be able to contribute to that, especially on a series like this is a joy. Having worked for so long with Joe Earle and Doug Andham, we've developed a short hand that helps us deliver Ryan's vision sonically.
Q: How did you help tell the story with sound?
EARLE: We, as a group, chose to “pull back” and let the story tell itself. Starting with the first show through the last, the music and the iconic sound design has been played down or eliminated altogether. From the discovery of the bodies, the police proceedings the night of the murders, to the courtrooms, the music is held back, lending a weird reality to the events in the show. Also, the list of actors in this show is very impressive. Starting with John Travolta, Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance
, and on and on. In some cases, the best thing we could do was stay out of the way.
MEGREGIAN: As Joe (Earle) mentioned, this is a show where it really helped to "pull back" but we were able to help sculpt the show with the small details that may go unnoticed. The loop group we used, headed by Kristin Bosson, has done an amazing job this season. She had a great cast of actors gathered so we could handle everything from subtle court reactions, angry and supportive crowds as well as recreating many newscasts that helped solidify the spontaneous and crazy nature that was this trial. Our sound effects editor, John Snider, also played a huge roll as well. His detail during the trial, giving the courtroom just enough life is one of those pieces that viewers won't notice but helps keep this show grounded in reality.
Q: Are there specific scenes that stand out to you?
EARLE: Again, the best thing we could do was stay out of the way, so that style really opened the door for tasty sound effects and a unique score by Mac Quayle. Having said that, the Bronco chase in the second episode called for aggressive sound effects mixing against a pumping Beastie Boys music track. With large crowds, helicopters, freeway pass-bys and a barrage of newscasters, we showed that even in this series there is room for both styles.
MEGREGIAN: I like the Bronco chase and how different it is in size and scope compared to the rest of the series, but I have to say that I love the beginning of Episode 1. From the opening montage, starting with the Rodney King beating up until the time Detectives Lange, Vannatter and Fuhrman realize that OJ is the suspect and his home is a crime scene. The choices made regarding music and sound design is a great representation of what viewers can expect sonically throughout the series.
Q: Closing statements?
EARLE: Working with the producing team at Ryan Murphy Productions has been a true blessing for a group of editors and mixers who strive to stay outside of the traditional television box. We trust that any shows he brings in the future will only be more challenging to us and the viewers at home.
MEGREGIAN: I can't even begin to tell you how fortunate I am to have worked on all of Ryan Murphy's shows since the beginning of Glee. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to work with. From Ryan Murphy, Executive Producer Alexis Martin Woodall, the editors at Ryan Murphy Productions and our talented team at Technicolor, it has been an honor.
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