Robert Hein, Joshua Berger interview: ‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday’ sound
“We were struck by her performance when we got the footage,” says “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” supervising sound editor Robert Hein about Andra Day‘s turn as the title character in Lee Daniels‘s film. “She’s so amazing, and her voice is so beautiful that our goal was to retain that beauty.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Hein and re-recording mixer Joshua Berger above.
“We did our best to let her shine,” Berger adds. “We really treated her voice in a minimalistic way.” But they also worked to capture Billie Holiday in the wide-ranging venues she performed in. “We designed each space she was in to sound a little bit differently as she grew throughout the film … We used a lot of different elements to make it seem like Carnegie Hall was a really high point in her career; the audience was enveloping. Whereas in the jazz clubs, people are kind of chattering, not really listening to her earlier on in her career.” Though they made sure to “not do things to [her voice] that might cloud it or obscure it,” Hein explains. “We just wanted to stand back and allow her voice to sing out.”
Films that prominently feature music are often well-received at the Oscars in sound categories, like recent winners “Les Miserables” (2012), “Whiplash” (2014) and “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018). But this year the two categories for sound mixing and sound editing were consolidated into a single award for Best Sound. And Hein and Berger are happy with the change: “I think it’s a good decision because we’re merging our skills,” Hein argues. “When Josh and I work together his domain and my domain merge and we don’t feel any hesitation in encouraging a direction or making a comment or participating in what’s going on … We’re kind of united a little more than it used to be.”