“When you’re doing movie musicals, you’re involved about six weeks ahead of time so you are infused into the community of filmmakers,” says Netflix’s “tick, tick… Boom!” production sound mixer Tod A. Maitland about the integral role he plays on musical films. “I just love movie musicals, I think that it’s a great energy on set,” he continues, noting how due to the nature of song, “I am a much more integral part of the process.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
One of the benefits of having such early involvement in the production is Maitland’s ability to “choose microphones for the actors.” “I actually do a whole test with the actors with lavalier microphones and find the one that matches best to my boom microphone and then that microphone matches best to the studio microphone,” he shares. On “tick, tick… Boom!” in particular, Maitland stresses how he and director Lin-Manuel Miranda “wanted to try to make this sound as natural as possible.” The main character – Jonathan Larson, the real life theatre composer best known for the score to “Rent” – was “really a wild, off the cuff kind of guy,” Maitland reflects, saying, lead actor Andrew Garfield “captured him amazingly.”
Maitland discusses two of the musical centerpieces of “tick, tick… Boom!,” songs “Boho Days” and “Sunday.” Both required strict coronavirus protocols, especially the former because all of the singing was done live. “I love the sound of a boom best of all,” Maitland says of following Garfield around the apartment set with a boom mic because it “just captures the element of sound better than a wireless microphone” and “helps create more of that naturalistic sound.” For “Sunday,” which features the likes of Joel Grey, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Bebe Neuwirth, Bernadette Peters, André De Shields, Chita Rivera, and others, “The entire crew had to quarantine for two weeks” because “you have all of these Broadway legends that are in their eighties and nobody wants to kill them.”
The emotional climax of the movie is the song “Why,” which Garfield performed live at the Delacorte Theatre in New York City’s Central Park. Maitland talks about pivoting during the shoot from the plan of using Garfield’s prerecorded track to going entirely live: “The emotion that Andrew had on the day we were doing it, he was so much further along emotionally than he was when he did the vocal prerecords two months earlier, so we ended up doing the entire scene live just because the vocals didn’t match at all what he was performing on that day, so we switched everything to live and it turned out amazing because you really capture that full emotion.”
Maitland is a four-time Academy Award nominee. He earned his first for “Born on the Fourth of July” in 1990 and earned subsequent nominations for “JFK” in 1992, “Seabiscuit” in 2004, and, most recently, “Joker” in 2020. “It’s a wonderful thing, what else can you say?,” Maitland reflects on the recognition of his work. He talks about the excitement of the Oscars nominees luncheon, where he often reconnects with individuals he has worked with before on his 110 film credits, as well as the “wonderful” BAFTA Awards he attended in 2020 for “Joker.” This year, Maitland worked on both “tick, tick… Boom!” and 20th Century Studios’ musical “West Side Story.”
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