Renee Tondelli, Mike Prestwood Smith & Mike Keller Q&A: ‘Into the Woods’ sound
"Rob (Marshall), with his theater background, approaches this in a very different way from any other director I’ve ever worked with,” says sound editor Renee Tondelli, who was tasked with supervising the elaborate soundtrack of "Into the Woods." Typically in movie musicals, the songs are recorded prior to filming, but according to Tondelli, director Marshall employs a unique approach to this old Hollywood method.
In a new chat with Gold Derby, Tondelli adds, "He first goes with his choreographers to the sets and the locations and they work out all the moves with the songs. Then he brings the actors to what he calls ‘the camp,’" referring to a four-week rehearsal process in which the entire cast – which included Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, and Johnny Depp – to "learn all the songs and the moves at the same time… and once he feels they really understand it, then he takes them into a recording studio."
Because of the rehearsals, Tondelli says, "they have this muscle memory and this physicality when they do their songs, so they’re actually knowing at this momentm, 'I’ve got to jump down a rock, at this moment I’m spinning around and I’m leaping here.'" Those tracks then go to the studio to be played back to the actors during shooting, but Marshall also films a live recording on set.
"Rob is all about performance," she adds. "He doesn’t care whether it’s a loop or a pre-recording or if it’s live. If the performance is the best, he’s going to use it." Tondelli therefore had to piece together bits from the various recordings in order to create the best performance of each individual song and make it flow seamlessly.
Once Tondelli was finished, it fell to sound mixer Mike Prestwood Smith to remix the tracks to make them all sound apart of the same performance. Meanwhile, fellow sound mixer Michael Keller handled the re-mixing of the various sound effects and foley created for the film. The three sat down with Gold Derby for an exclusive audio interview about their work on the film, in which they gave several insights into the blood, sweat and tears shed bringing Stephen Sondheim’s classic to the big screen.