Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn interview: ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ sound editors
“Sound is in the DNA of this story. Sound is a character. Sound is the danger but also the weapon,” explains supervising sound editor Erik Aadahl of “A Quiet Place Part II.” He and fellow supervising sound editor Ethan Van der Ryn were Oscar-nominated for the first “A Quiet Place” film, and both editors agree that the ambitious sequel pushed them to explore the creative possibilities of sound design even further. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
“There’s always pressure on us when we’re working on a sequel,” reveals Van der Ryn. Though he and his sound design partner admit that some of that pressure comes from themselves because they want “to always be growing and exploring.” The sound editor is thankful to writer/director John Krasinkski because “he provided us with a script that allowed us to build on some of the themes that we established in the first movie.”
A prime example of this deeper exploration of sound can be observed in the opening sequence. “The audience is dropped into a scene without knowing where they are timewise,” says Aadahl. The camera cycles through shots of a small town street. An eerie sense of stillness hangs over the scenery, before the jarring rev of an engine slices through the silence as a pickup truck zooms into frame. The duo purposefully eliminated music from the opening so that everyday sounds would feel heightened, playing on the audience’s fear of sound which was established in the first film. Small noises like the crinkle of a bag of chips or the ripping of a produce bag explode forth like firecrackers. “It’s just pure, visceral sound design,” states Aadahl.
This sequel also features an increased amount of action sequences with the alien creatures while also putting greater focus on Regan (Millicent Simmonds), a deaf character who uses a cochlear device to fend off the beasts. The dramatic shifts in point of view between the creatures and Regan gave the sound team leeway to explore sharp dynamics and contrast in their design. Van der Ryn explains that they could “cut out of these intense, loud action scenes, straight into Regan’s sonic envelope of near silence or total silence.” It’s a technique the duo perfected in order to supply instant, edge-of-your-seat tension throughout the film.
The two men have shared Oscar nominations for “A Quiet Place,” “Argo” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” Van der Ryn was also nominated for “Transformers” and is a two-time Oscar winner for “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and “King Kong.”