Julian Slater and Renee Tondelli interview: ‘Trial of the Chicago 7’ sound team
The riot scenes in “The Trial of the Chicago 7” posed the biggest challenges to the re-recording mixer, Julian Slater, and the supervising sound editor, Renee Tondelli, in getting the sounds aspects just right. “The riot scenes and the demonstrations had a certain rhythm to them. You start a slow build and don’t want to reach the end too quickly,” Slater tells Gold Derby in our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above). He specifically cites the score composed by Daniel Pemberton as an accelerant but needing to be a counter to that on the mixing end. “You need to balance that with the energy of the crowd yet whilst hearing everything that’s being said.” Tondelli concurs, saying that, “It was a chaotic score and we went against that, we didn’t go for chaos.”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which is available to stream on Netflix, is the latest writing/directing effort from Emmy and Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin. It explores the trial of seven leaders of the anti-war movement who were accused of instigating riots against the Chicago police during the Democratic National Convention in 1968. The film is rounded out with an all-star cast that includes Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin, Mark Rylance as William Kunstler, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale and Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman.
Both Slater and Tondelli are previous Oscar nominees. Tondelli was nominated for Best Sound Editing in 2016 for her work on “Deepwater Horizon.” Slater was nominated the following year for both Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing for his work on “Baby Driver.”
For the sound editing process, Tondelli had her whole crew watch the 1969 Haskell Wexler film, “Medium Cool,” which had scenes that were shot in the midst of the Chicago riots, to get the feel of what the actual demonstrations sounded like. “Once we got into the eruptions—there was a woman screaming that was so visceral to me, that I made it a point to make sure that all of the things that we did had a reality-based connection so the audience could feel the essence and really connect with the protesters.” She adds that these scenes were cut in a very tight manner and that the scenes had to be cut into smaller vignettes to show what was really happening. “We spent a lot of time orchestrating those particular scenes. We made sure the baton hits didn’t sound overproduced and big and beefy. We wanted them to really sound like a baseball bat cracking someone’s skull.”
Working with Sorkin was something that both Tondelli and Slater found to be an extremely pleasant experience in the way he allowed them to operate. “This is his second film but he might as well have done 25 already. I don’t think I’ve ever had a director that has responded so quickly to me in anything that I’ve asked for. He basically gave us overall notes and just said, ‘Go for it,'” Tondelli explains. Slater remembers Sorkin saying, “Look, you’re the experts in sound. I’ve done my bit. You go to town and do what you think and I’ll give you notes.” “That gave us the freedom to just head in the direction that we knew he wanted go and experiment,” he adds.