Gary Rizzo and Jonathan Greber Interview: ‘Laurel Canyon’ sound team
When Gary Rizzo and Jonathan Greber signed on as part of the sound team for the documentary, “Laurel Canyon,” they began a massive undertaking of matching sounds to people and remixing old recordings to make it acceptable to a modern audience. It starts on the side of Greber, the sound editor, who’s dealing with his team as well as the picture editor and a mountain of archival material. “There were some challenges of matching people when they were younger to when they’re older. We had to play around with those things but all the while making sure never to alter anything,” explains Greber. When the audio made its way over to Rizzo, the mixer, he had to make it work all these songs work in a modern sense even if they weren’t recorded to the effect. “You’re trying to make it into what is acceptable to a contemporary audience. We wanted to present it in a way that was emotionally fulfilling for the documentary, but without changing the structure of it,” says Rizzo.
The Epix documentary examines the iconic Los Angeles neighborhood and the legendary musical acts that came out of the area in the late 1960s and early 1970s including The Doors, Joni Mitchell, The Mamas and the Papas, Linda Ronstadt and The Eagles. Rizzo is nominated for Best Nonfiction/Reality Sound Mixing and Greber is up for Best Nonfiction/Reality Sound Editing. While this does mark the first Emmy nomination for both of them, it’s not the first brush with Hollywood awards for one of them. Rizzo is a five-time Oscar nominee for Best Sound Mixing and has won twice: “Inception” in 2010 and “Dunkirk” in 2017.
Getting the news of the Emmy nomination was just as big as the actual nomination for Greber. He was actually working with Rizzo over a video chat for another music documentary that both are a part of when Rizzo told him, “Check your email, dude!” All Greber could think when he saw the news was, “Is this real?” Rizzo got the news during his commute to the Skywalker Ranch. “I got pummeled with text messages on my drive into work and I didn’t know what was going on. I thought there was a family emergency. You never expect these things. You never anticipate them. That way it’s a surprise and it’s joy and it really was a joyful moment.”
The two also weighed in on the recent change by the Oscars to condense the categories for Sound Mixing and Sound Editing into one category simply called Best Sound. Both viewed the decision as one that makes a lot of sense. Greber said, “I like it because it still recognizes all the key people that would recognize before and it just makes sense to people like my mom. It’s confusing for most people.” He also added that he’s also okay with the change since it won’t be taking credit away from anyone who would normally get nominated. Rizzo, an actual member of the Academy, concurred. “There’s a lot of mixing that’s happening by the editors and there’s a lot of editing that’s happening by the mixers. That’s just the evolution of the technology and the resources that we’re given.”