Urban Myths: Cary Grant and Timothy Leary

Two Brothers Pictures for Sky Arts

Urban Myths: Cary Grant and Timothy Leary

Urban Myths: Cary Grant and Timothy will broadcast on 9th February 2017 as part of the Sky Arts Urban Myths series. The short starring Ben Chaplin (Mad Dogs, The Thin Red Line) and Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones, The Wire) tells the fictional historical account of Hollywood Golden-age star Cary Grant and LSD advocate Dr. Timothy Leary meeting on the set of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.
Written by EMMY award winner Roger Drew (VEEP, The Thick of It) and Ed Dyson (My Family, Man Stroke Woman), When Cary Grant Introduced Timothy Leary to LSD follows the two men on a whimsical hallucinogenic ‘trip’ through psychological space and time, as they visit past, present and future memories.
Urban Myths: Cary Grant and Timothy Leary is directed by Geoffrey Sax and produced by Sarah Hammond.

Mixed by: Sam Castleton

We like to get involved with projects as early as possible and this film was testament to the rewards of that process. Before the shoot we read the script and met with director Geoffrey Sax and the team, to gauge their vision and bounce ideas off each other. Sound effects editor Jay Price and I, were enthused by how open they were to ideas and encouraged us to push boundaries. Discussions and ideas from this meeting directly influenced the shoot and edit.

Upon getting the rough cut we were pleasantly surprised by the authenticity of the ‘North by North West’ scene and the accuracy of the era. We took an EQ curve of the cornfield scene from the original film and applied it to our session to push this authenticity further. Similar methods were applied to the black & white scene and we used a plug-in called Speakerphone for the 50s TV talk show.

For the dressing room scenes, Geoff wanted us to emphasise the sense of intimacy and isolation, we achieved this by building a contrasting cacophony of sound outside of the room. This is driven hard at the start of the film and we get frequent reminders of this ongoing ‘real world’ every time the dressing room door is opened. Key features in this dressing room, such as the fan and clock, were mixed slightly louder than normal to help us at the transition stages. Jay pulled off some unbelievable morphing effects, slowing down the wall fan into cicadas and into the plane’s propeller, as well as speeding it up to form the car engine. When Cary Grant breaks the 4th wall, the sound of clock morphs into a hammer on set. These made the LSD trip transitions feel more organic, psychedelic and helped the viewer to experience the story from the disorientating perspective of the central characters.

The open minded attitude of our first meeting allowed us to be brave in many other areas too. Jay bought more humour to the TV talk show scene with studio laughter and backing band drums. When the LSD starts to take effect we went to town with the dialogue, applying hard left-right panning to delays whilst sweeping them to the surrounds, pitching the voices up and down to create a sense of woozy motion sickness. We also had lots of fun with a variety of reverbs, most notably for the Mount Rushmore scene, using a canyon impulse response reverb to add size and scale.

Throughout, the sound playfully toys with authentic soundscapes, bold comedy and the mind-expanding effects of LSD. Together, they help drive the narrative forward and take the film to new heights. With a collaborative approach, experimental sound design and a bold mix we were able to achieve something we’re very proud of.

Grade by: Ross Baker

Grant Leary was a fantastic opportunity to explore different looks for each scene as the story jumped around different decades. These scenes included black and white wall projection, 1970’s television recordings and breaking the fourth wall through to modern day. To set the main story in 1959 I used different layers of grain and soft focus to remove the digital look and then used Nucoda’s channel mixer to simulate a 3 strip colour scheme.

When we had to re-create classic scenes from North by North West this presented its own challenges as the look and feel of the film stock of that era are quite unique. Loading clips from the original film we pushed individual colours to bring them as close as we could to the original scenes. 

I enhanced the LSD factor by popping the colours whilst maintaining a natural filmic look that didn’t look like over saturated video. I worked closely with the Halo VFX team to create a cohesive environment for the LSD scenes that stood apart from the rest of the scenes and take us visually on their trip with them.

Online by: Rob Grainger

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