Soundtrack: Apple TV+'s <I>The Crowded Room</I>
September 15, 2023

Soundtrack: Apple TV+'s The Crowded Room

NEW YORK CITY — Steve "Major" Giammaria, Sound Lounge Film + Television’s supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer, was called on to mix the Apple TV+ limited series The Crowded Room. The American psychological thriller unveils the mysterious events that led to Danny Sullivan’s (played by Tom Holland) arrest following his involvement in a shooting in New York City in 1979. 

Giammaria recently shared with Post his experience working on the series, which was  created by Academy Award winner Akiva Goldsman and stars Tom Holland, who serves as executive producer, along with Amanda Seyfried and Emmy Rossum. 

What were your thoughts going into the show?

“The entire cast of The Crowded Room brought amazing performances to the screen that complimented the exceptional writing of the series. From the start, we were all prepared for a high-caliber approach to the audio to match their performances. The emotional range and chemistry among the cast brought a dynamic atmosphere to the film, which translated into authentic scenes and an immersive audio experience for the audience.”

Psychological thrillers give audiences the chance to explore themes of fear, paranoia and mental manipulation. What role does sound play in making a psychological thriller? 

“Sound flies under the radar in shows and is used to steer the audience in a specific direction, like heightening emotions or building tension. One of the primary ways sound contributes to a psychological thriller is by creating an unsettling atmosphere through dissonant tones, eerie ambient sounds and well-timed silences. For example, at the end of the Rockefeller Center scene, voices and sirens are added to bring new tension to a sustained sequence. Other scenes get quiet to convey Ariana’s loneliness or Danny’s separation from reality. Ultimately, working on a psychological thriller allows us to push creative boundaries, as I try to best contribute to the overall intensity and mind-bending experience that defines a compelling psychological thriller. Jon Fuhrer and Matt Snedecor did great work on the sound design to keep it intense and mysterious.”

In the series, Danny (Tom Holland) unveils his life through a series of interviews with interrogator Rya Goodwin (Amanda Seyfried) that led him to the fateful incident that changed the trajectory of his life. How did the interview-style format and retrospective aspect of the show impact the sound design?

“The interview-style scenes provided a distinct perspective on Danny’s life, enabling us to delve deep into his emotions and experiences. The sound design needed to enhance this intimacy, ensuring that every word spoken during the interviews carried weight and emotion. We focused on capturing clean and clear dialogue to maintain the authenticity and intensity of these personal revelations.

“The retrospective aspect of the show presented another layer of complexity to the sound design. It’s fun to work in flashbacks, as they are often someone’s point of view, so we can play with reality a bit and use sound to help fool the audience or solidify the truth.”

With each revelation in the series, the story takes on an increasingly tense and emotional tone, as Danny confronts his past and the events that brought him to the present. How are you able to convey these emotions to the audience through sound?

“The thing we did a lot of was contrast very serene soundscapes against quite disturbing or implied actions. Setting a calm tone and then an utterly upsetting one was an effective tool when trying to evoke emotion. For tense moments, we incorporated unsettling ambient sounds or low-frequency rumbles to create a sense of unease. On the other hand, emotional scenes were enhanced with poignant music or natural sounds that resonate with the viewer’s feelings.”

What were your favorite scenes to mix, and what were some of the more challenging sequences?

“The opening sequence was fun as a set piece. It consists of a subway ride into a shootout at Rockefeller Center. There are a lot of moving pieces in there, a lot of detail, but also a larger macro shape to the entire sequence. We then get to revisit it throughout the series in flashbacks that start to reveal some interesting details.

“One of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of the show was working on the intense scenes with Amanda and Tom in the interview room. These were quite dynamic scenes going from whispers to screams in a matter of lines. Making sure those sections were audible while maintaining some life proved difficult, but we were able to pull it off.”

Do you have a different outlook on psychological thrillers now, having worked on one? 

“I enjoy a good thriller. It’s fun to leave little breadcrumbs and details that maybe aren’t apparent on the first viewing for the audience to maybe ingest subliminally. Helping to deceive the audience and actually thrill them is an important job for the sound department. From eerie locations and questionable POVs, to even the occasional jump scare, all of it is the domain of audio.”