FX on Hulu’s The Bear premiered back in June, receiving critical acclaim and renewal for a second season. The dramatic series was created by Christopher Storer and stars Jeremy Allen White, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ayo Edebiri, Abby Elliott, Lionel Boyce and Liza Colón-Zayas, with Edwin Lee Gibson and Matty Matheson in recurring roles.
In The Bear, young-but-accomplished chef Carmen “Carmy” Berzattore (White) returns home to Chicago to run his family's Italian beef sandwich shop after the suicide of his older brother. Carmy learns he must balance the soul-crushing realities of small business ownership while working alongside a rough-around-the-edges kitchen crew, who ultimately reveal themselves as his chosen family.
The series’ soundtrack underwent audio post at Sound Lounge in New York City, where its film + television team provided complete sound editorial, ADR and mixing for the show. Steve “Major” Giammaria is a supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer at Sound Lounge, and helped mix the hit series. He recently shared with Post his insight into its popularity and audio needs.
The Bear established itself as the surprise hit of the summer. What’s it been like seeing the show take off so quickly?
“It never gets old seeing a TV show or film you worked on getting so much love – the attention it’s drawn and the reviews have been incredible to see. We had a feeling it would be well received, but you really never know where it will land with audiences until it’s out in the wild. The outpouring of support from the culinary community has really been over the top!”
The show uses sound to help grab viewers’ attention. How does sound come into play with the show’s style?
“You’re right, The Bear really never stops moving, and sound was a very important storytelling element in the show. Lots of people have commented on the hyper-real kitchen soundscape that my team and I created, which supports the show’s authenticity. The biggest challenge overall was honoring the cacophony, chaos and loudness of a kitchen, while also getting the dialogue across to move the story forward.
“We also focused on building contrast between the quiet moments, stylized flashbacks and the crazy environment of the kitchen. We were able to convey loudness and intensity, not only through the actual volume changes, but sonic density as well, allowing the viewer to experience peaks and valleys on the journey without having to ride the volume on their remote at home.”
How long did the series take to complete?
“Audio post took about two months, start-to-finish, for the eight-episode series. The team (dialogue editor Evan Benjamin, FX editor Jonathan Fuhrer, ADR mixer Patrick Christensen, and assistant editor Craig LoGiudice, with Foley by Alchemy Post Sound) had a week to edit and sound design each episode, then I had about two days to mix each, including a few rounds of notes.”
It sounds like it was a very collaborative process? Can you walk us through those initial conversations with the production team?
“We’ve worked with (co-showrunner) Chris Storer and (executive producer, senior post) Josh Senior previously on the comedy-drama Ramy, so they were familiar with what we could bring to the table. However, this show has a very different sonic palette than Ramy. We had the pilot as a starting point, but as viewers can see, Episodes 2 through 8 settled into a slightly different tone than the pilot, both visually and sonically. Chris wanted very much to reinforce that the kitchen was always a noisy place, and often unbearably so. Creating tension and ratcheting up the stress in certain parts with sound, as well as providing small respites from the noise, were all talking points in our spotting sessions.”
What were the most challenging moments to mix?
“Two specific scenes stick out to me. Surprisingly, Carmy’s seven-minute monologue at the top of Episode 8 was tricky. There’s no place to hide! (Dialogue editor) Evan Benjamin did a masterful job cleaning up the production audio just enough to remove any distractions, but not so much that it was devoid of life. Jeremy’s performance is so amazing that you really don’t want to alter it or dampen it by over-cleaning.
“Also, Episode 7 is mostly a single, unbroken shot! We worked really hard to place specific offscreen voices in the space and really give a sense of the chaos of that particularly-bad day. As the tension rises, so does the amount of noise, from loud layered voices, to the incessant ticket printer, to increasing kitchen noises as they furiously prep for the impossible day ahead. Huge credit goes to the production sound mixer Scott D. Smith, who gave us amazing tracks to work with on this episode and throughout the series. Because of the unbroken shot, we were able to pan individual offscreen voices around the kitchen in a way you usually can’t. It really gives an extra dimension to the episode.”
Has working on The Bear given you a new-found respect for chefs?
“Absolutely. I’ve known some that work in the restaurant industry, and from what I’ve seen, the stress, repetitiveness and pursuit of perfection is well represented.”