Chris Burdon and Simon Willis interview: ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ sound mixers
“The tremendous thing for me initially, technically and then subsequently creatively, was that these are some of the best sound location recordings I’ve ever had,” declares Oscar-nominated sound mixer Chris Burdon (“Captain Phillips”), who contributed to the ambitious soundscape for “The Banshees of Inisherin” with re-recording mixer Simon Willis. For our recent webchat he adds, “It never dominates, it just allows the space,” he reveals. “It’s wonderful to work on and it varies,” he says, adding that “there is an opposite version of that where you’re filling every space with every sound effect and every bit of music and it’s a different narrative. But this is just, I think, very special actually because of that.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
In “The Banshees of Inisherin,” jaded folk musician Colm (Brendan Gleeson) abruptly ends his life-long friendship with his drinking buddy Pádraic (Colin Farrell) on the fictional island of Inisherin, a small remote community off the coast of Ireland during the Irish Civil War. Pádraic’s caring and forthright sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) and troubled local simpleton Dominic (Barry Keoghan) attempt to repair the damaged relationship by helping to defuse the escalating stand-off between the men, but their collective efforts prove fruitless as Colm’s resolve intensifies, leading to inevitably shocking consequences. The Searchlight Pictures black tragicomedy was written and directed by Oscar winner Martin McDonagh, reuniting Farrell and Gleeson, who previously worked together on McDonagh’s directorial debut “In Bruges” (2008) and with Condon after previous collaborations on stage in “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” and “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” and McDonagh’s last Oscar-winning film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
The sound mix on this film is necessarily austere and pared back. It relies heavily on dialogue and ambient sounds that are punctuated by composer Carter Burwell‘s score, which meant that it was a minor miracle that the sound team managed to capture the actors’ performances without having to supplement much of the film’s soundtrack with any ADR. “A perfect storm is a bad phrase to use, because it’s the opposite in a sense. It’s a weird culmination of you bringing all your skills and the many things that you’ve learned over the years to take dialogue and make the most of it,” Burdon explains. “19 times out of 20 I would’ve had some ADR lines in there,” he says referring to the many dialogue-heavy scenes that were shot in external locations for the film. “You’re getting details, you’re allowing Colin to whisper and you’re still getting that and just rise and fall with all that dialogue … It was astonishing, something really special,” he admits. “It’s a fantastic example of what we do when we go to work,” Willis adds. “To come back and say, well, look, it’s all ours. We’re not going in adding this and we’re not going in adding that.”