The Sounds of Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

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With a fantastic premiere at the TIFF Midnight Madness, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a film made to be exciting for fans. It is a wild adventure into the fictional world of Weird Al, with concepts taken from many music biopics we all know all too well. From the rise to greatness and the inevitable fall, with Daniel Radcliffe in the title role and a fantastic cast, the movie is an adventure that is hard not to let wash over you.

Coming to the Roku Channel, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is something well worth your time. But to make a film like this, especially one that is so reliant on sound and music, to capture the feeling and essence of the period, you need a team of sound editors to bring the world to life. Sitting down with CGMagazine before the world premiere of Weird: The Al Yankovic Story at TIFF, supervising sound editor Anthony Vanchure and sound designer Michael James Gallagher discussed the process of bringing the world of Weird Al to the big screen in a truly memorable way.

CGMagazine: What brought you to Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, and what made you want to be part of it?

Anthony Vanchure: Well, I grew up a massive fan of Weird Al, and the studio I worked for, the Formosa Group, reached out to me, and they were like, “we can work on the Weird feature,” and I said, “Yes, done and done, I want to work on it immediately.” So, it was easy to get started on this project.

Michael James Gallagher: Yeah, same. I have worked with Anthony on this level for about five years, even though we have known each other for over a decade. I have always been a massive fan of Weird Al, and it’s funny because we saw the teaser before we got the gig, and we were just like, “Oh, man, this movie’s going to be awesome,” then Formosa reached out, and it just really lined up.

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CGMagazine: Amazing! Now, what was it like to work on the project? What stage did you jump into to bring this thing together?

Anthony Vanchure: The movie had a lot of cuts, and I met with the director and talked about his vision for the movie and our vision. Then we started right at the very end of the project once the film was fully locked, so we had that to work on from the get-go. Mike and I met at the same time. We collaborated and had meetings with the director where we talked about specific scenes and what exactly they were hoping to achieve with sound specifically for those scenes. Mike and I would sit there and cut, and we just had a good time cutting the sound effects for this movie.

Michael James Gallagher: For a movie like this, you would be surprised how many big cinematic moments it has. We had a lot to do, as far as trying to give some moments some weight, and it is a terrific movie, and I enjoyed working on it.

CGMagazine: What is the process in bringing the final product to life for a movie like this? Did you have a lot of back and forth between the people on the film versus the audio side, or did they give you a project, and you just went with it?

Anthony Vanchure: Typically, in a film, the supervisor and sound editor will meet with the director, then sit and talk about what they want, and then they let us go on our own. We sit there, and Mike and I will shoot stuff back and forth with each other, work on scenes and go, “Oh, how about we try this, or this, or this,” and then we will play stuff for the directors or producers or their video editors, and get their feedback.

Once we get to the final mix stage, we are in a big theatrical room playing everything, playing all the audio down for them to picture, and you make notes, and you make adjustments, and sometimes that is where some of your best ideas come from while you are on the stage, you will go, “Oh, we did not think about that,” and you cut stuff while you are on the scene, and it is a fascinating collaborative process on the final mix stage.

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CGMagazine: This film is part of TIFF. How does it feel to see the film you worked on as part of one of the mainstays of this year’s major festival?

Anthony Vanchure: I believe Mike and I are excited to see it. It premiered on opening night at TIFF. I think people will enjoy it, and I cannot wait to see it with an audience. Everybody was excited for it to premiere at TIFF.

Michael James Gallagher: And we are attending TIFF as well. So, we get to watch it for the first time with the crowd and see everybody react to it because there are a lot of great surprises.

Anthony Vanchure: It’s always great to see a movie, and we have seen it so many times now, just working on it, too. Getting to see it with audience members and seeing their reactions is something we are all looking forward to witnessing.

Michael James Gallagher: We have not seen it with anyone that has not seen it yet. So, that is going to be awesome because we did the final playback after the mix was done, and everybody knew what was coming, so it is going to be fun.

CGMagazine: Were there any unique challenges that this film brought that you have not seen in other projects, or was it easy going most of the way?

Michael James Gallagher: There is a lot of music in the movie and crowds. We had to record a crowd singing along with one of the songs; easier said than done. Anthony had his birthday party, gathered all his friends, and sang along to one of the Weird Al songs, so all of our friends made a cameo in the movie.

Anthony Vanchure: The challenges were fun. For example, there are many crowd audience sounds throughout this movie, and there is a different scene where we needed a crowd to do a particular thing. I think one of the best things that came out of this movie was talking with Weird Al while we were mixing this movie, so when we needed this specific crowd scene, I was like, “Hey, Al, do you think you can get the audience at your shows to do these chants?” And he was like, “Yeah, of course,” and so the next night, we got these files from Weird Al himself that were all of his audience chanting and cheering and doing these specific call-outs, and we got to use those in the movies, and so it was a lot of fun challenges on the film.

Michael James Gallagher: Yeah, for sure, and to be clear about that, Weird Al worked with us on every second of the mix, and he was in a different city every night. He was 100% dedicated and committed to this project. It was really fun, and what was interesting was that towards the end of the mix, we realized that we needed a crowd chanting “No” very enthusiastically.

From a sound effects perspective, it is challenging to find that specific sound. So, suddenly, Anthony said, “Al, you think you could record that?” It almost seemed like a shot in the dark, but Al got so excited. He said, “Oh, I will get you different versions of it. I will get you different levels of enthusiasm and all that kind of stuff.” He was in Nebraska, and that crowd made it into the news due to their audio landing in the movie.

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CGMagazine: This being a music movie, music has to be the focus of the film. How do you find that balance, ensuring that the music is front and centre, but still focus on all the different elements you add to the film?

Anthony Vanchure: I would say that’s probably the biggest challenge of any movie when you are doing audio for film because you have music, and that is helping tell the story, and then you also have the sound effects that we are using to help tell the story and with this movie, not only do we have Weird Al songs, but we also have a fantastic score by our composers, and it also is dependent on seeing how you mix a scene you need to keep playing it back a couple of times and go, “all right, what are we feeling, what’s carrying the scene more.”

If we want to hear more of the sound effects, you mix by ear and with the Weird Al songs, the moments where Daniel is playing the parts of Al, we can make that music loud like you’re sitting right there.

Michael James Gallagher: Yeah, it is massive, and our mixer Tony Solis did an excellent job of balancing all that out. A lot is going on here, from the performances to the narrative. It is a dense soundtrack, and Solis did an excellent job making sure all those things played.

Anthony Vanchure: Yeah, he did a fantastic job mixing some of those moments because there are moments I don’t want to give away, and epic sound effects, we have to say, “Okay, all right, for this moment, we want this one sound effect to stick out” and he beautifully masterfully mixed all of that, so you just get all of the fascinating details when you are listening to this movie.

Michael James Gallagher: A lot of thought makes its way into every movie moment like this. It might not be a film you think would have a full orchestra recorded in real life with real players, but the score sounds fantastic. The composers Zach and Leo did an excellent job.

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CGMagazine: Is there anything people should look for that might be of note in the film when they watch it?

Anthony Vanchure: Mike has some very cool ones. We cannot give them away because the movie has not premiered yet [at time of interview], but some minor sound effects slip in for moments that you can find if you are a fan of Al. However, there are some sound-related Easter eggs that you can poke through.

Michael James Gallagher: It surprised the director.

Anthony Vanchure: So, we can say there are some sound Easter eggs out there, but we cannot give those away just yet.

Michael James Gallagher: Yeah, it is too bad we cannot talk specifically about anything, but there is a lot of fun stuff in there.

CGMagazine: Thank you so much for your time. Anything else you want to leave us with before we wrap up?

Anthony Vanchure: Go check out Weird when it premieres on Roku in November.

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