Mathew Waters interview: ‘Only Murders in the Building’ sound editor
“I got the script and read it and was thoroughly intrigued,” remembers “Only Murders in the Building” supervising sound editor Mathew Waters about the episode from season one with virtually no audible dialogue, “The Boy from 6B,” for which he won a Golden Reel Award from the Motion Picture Sound Editors. We talked to Waters as part of our “Meet the Experts” TV sound panel. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
At first, “they really didn’t know how they wanted to go about it,” Waters explains. “How much do we hear? How much don’t we hear? And all that. So basically I told them to send me the production tracks, and then I started building these scenes … It’s almost like composing music.” That included creating a low ambient sound to represent the point of view of Deaf character Theo Dimas (James Caverly). It was important to “keep the viewer engrossed.” But “to be honest with you, until we played back after it, until we mixed the episode … I wasn’t sure if we went too far.” When they watched the finished product, though, “I found myself totally involved in the episode. And so I was really happy with it.”
Of course, “The Boy from 6B” wasn’t a typical episode for a show where the characters tend to be a lot chattier. “To me, the writing and acting are tremendous,” so his priority is to keep the dialogue and performances “super clean” so the dialogue “keeps the emotion.” The central characters of Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin), Oliver Putnam (Martin Short), and Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) “are the show. So I really try and make everything as clear as possible for the audience and still keep the subtleties of their performances.” So whatever else the soundscape needs, “I really start with them.”