Robert Mackenzie interview: ‘The Power of the Dog’ supervising sound editor

“On any film, but especially with Jane, everything is story and character focused,” says “The Power of the Dog” supervising sound editor Robert Mackenzie about working with director Jane Campion on her 1920s-set Netflix Western. For instance, the ranch house where much of the film takes place is “sparsely furnished, dark, oppressive. It’s a metaphor for Phil’s personality. So with the sound, we tried to reflect that by making it drafty and creaky and oppressive sounding.”

The film tells the story of rancher Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch), who reacts with hostility when his brother (Jesse Plemons) suddenly marries a widow (Kirsten Dunst) and pays for the education of her son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). But while the film takes place in Montana, it was shot in New Zealand. “We’ve been to Montana, but we don’t live there. We don’t have that boots-on-the-ground knowledge of the seasons. But we contacted local sound recordists in the area, talked to them, and used their resources,” he explains of creating an authentic soundscape. The sound community is “a great collective of people, and we always share files.”

Mackenzie previously worked with Campion on her series “Top of the Lake,” and she’s “as interested in sound as she is in any other facet of filmmaking. So we sit together and go through ideas and sounds, and we’re always mixing, we’re always editing. We’re always serving the story, right from early days.” And while it’s exciting enough just to collaborate with Campion again, it was “crazy” to also be able to work with a score by Jonny Greenwood. “I think Johnny wrote the music before seeing any of the film,” says Mackenzie, so the sound team already had that as a “tone palette” to work off of. “There’s not a big orchestra behind it or anything like that, and I think it allowed our sound to almost be the backing to the score.”

“The Power of the Dog” has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and buzz for Oscars, but it wouldn’t be the first time Mackenzie has been in the race. He won Best Sound Mixing for “Hacksaw Ridge” five years ago (the academy has since combined sound mixers and editors into a single category). “It changed my life,” he remembers. “Knowing that people care that much about what we do and that it resonates with an audience as much as it does has meant the world to me.”

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UPLOADED Feb 8, 2022 7:00 am