SANTA MONICA — Summit Post’s (https://summitpostsound.com) Derek Vanderhorst recently served as supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer for the new independent film Hala, which screens this month in the US Dramatic Competition section at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Minhal Baig, the film is a coming-of-age drama that centers around a young Muslim teenager (Geraldine Viswanathan), who is coping with the unraveling of her family.
Vanderhorst, who has worked on films such as Hidden Figures and the upcoming
The Empty Man, says he was drawn to the film after reading its script, calling it a fantastic film created with just a micro budget. He also notes that his Syrian roots helped him identify with the plot and its cultural struggles.
After talking with director Baig, Vanderhorst says he set out on a goal to deliver a soundtrack that reflected the internal struggles that Hala was facing, including loneliness and emptiness. This was accomplished by limiting the sounds revealed to the audience.
In one scene for example, Hala’s mother runs after her. The scene was shot with no traffic noise, drawing attention to breathing, footsteps and crickets. In another, Hala rides alone on a skateboard. The audience hears what she is hearing.
These scenes, Vanderhorst notes, can be more challenging to get right than a scene of a car chase, for example, containing a lot of layered sounds.
He works within Avid’s Pro Tools and uses CEDAR for noise reduction, which was helpful in creating these lonely scenes.
Summit Post did the mix and partnered with Hi-Fi Foley for the Foley package, capturing hand pats and hugs that will go unnoticed by the audience, as well as other sound effects, such as students carrying notebooks, a dinner, and another scene where characters are eating in a car.
In a scene where Hala is riding a carousel alone, a squeaking sound was used to accent her crying. In another, she is shown leaving class and entering a hallway that’s crowded with students. She then enters an empty bathroom to find solace, and the soundtrack shows juxtaposition by going from chaotic to silent.
Vanderhorst handled the 5.1 mix, using a two-position Avid S6 console. The mix spanned six or seven days and Baig would visit to provide ideas.
“She had strong and good ideas, and wanted to try different things,” Vanderhorst recalls. “I love the collaborative process, and my room is set up for that, with the director sitting close by.”
Vanderhorst says he will take on two or three independent films each year, and puts just as much attention into his indie work as he does for larger studio films.
“It’s amazing what filmmakers are doing with these kinds of budgets.”