The road to a finished film is paved with the long hours, expertise and dedication of dozens of specialized individuals. A culmination of countless moving pieces, every single film stands as a testament to the wealth of people tackling minute details behind the velvet curtain. One of these talented individuals operating behind the scenes in the film industry is Jacob Bloomfield-Misrach. A diverse and skilled master of sound, Jacob has contributed to projects like Tales from the Loop, Crip Camp, Brea Grant’s 12 Hour Shift and the documentary You Cannot Kill David Arquette.
Crafting unique and effective palettes of sound through his work as a sound supervisor, re-recording mixer, composer and ADR mixer, there’s nothing in the sonic sphere that Jacob can’t handle. To help kick off The Sound of Screams Month here at Nightmare on Film Street, Jacob sat down with us to shine a light on what exactly his jobs entail, what it was like working on 12 Hour Shift and whether David Arquette’s laugh is truly as infectious as it sounds on film.
“So much of the impact and what can be scary in a good horror film is the tension that gets built through the sound design.”
Rachel Reeves for Nightmare on Film Street: You recently worked on two very different films, 12 Hour Shift and You Cannot Kill David Arquette. However, both were fan faves at the recent Fantasia Film Festival and both involve David Arquette. How did you get involved with these films and is there a connection between the two other than Mr. Arquette?
Jacob Bloomfield-Misrach: Yeah, it’s funny. They really are such different films. They actually couldn’t be any more different. And yet, David Arquette is in both of them. For me the connecting thread was these two producers and filmmakers, Matt Glass and Jordan Long who I’ve worked with for a bit. Matt Glass did the score and was a producer for 12 Hour Shift and Jordan was a producer on both, so they brought me in to help out with the sound on both.
NOFS: On both of these films you worked as the Supervising Sound Editor. What exactly does that job entail?
JBM: The way I like to describe it (because a lot of people haven’t heard of that title before) is that I’m basically the Team Captain. It’s my job to put together a team. And for a lot of these films, whether it’s You Cannot Kill David Arquette or 12 Hour Shift, they’re pretty big films from a sound perspective and they need a lot of work. And actually, for any film in the horror genre, they need tons of sound design. So much of the impact and what can be scary in a good horror film is the tension that gets built through the sound design. My team usually consists of 5 or 6 people and at my company IMRSV Sound, we have our A team that’s already kind of built together. So that’s multiple sound designers, dialogue editors who clean up the dialogue and make sure you can hear all of the words correctly, various mixers and then myself as the supervisor. So, I’m touching base with everyone and making sure that everyone is doing a great job.
And for what it’s worth, on both of those films I was also the re-recording mixer. And that’s just putting all of these pieces together. So let’s say you have a good ‘stabbing in the eye’ sound with a syringe. But there’s also music playing and people running around in the background. As a mixer, my job is to make sure the order of those sounds is put in the right place. If the music needs to be really big for a big swell, that’s great, but you got to get the music out of the way for someone to get stabbed in the face. Because you really want to feel that impact moment. It’s the mixer’s job to really put all of the pieces together and figure out what the priorities are.
NOFS: When it comes to a documentary like You Cannot Kill David Arquette versus a more traditional narrative film like 12 Hour Shift, what are some of the unique sound challenges that each format present?
JBM: It’s interesting. A documentary, because it’s not staged, it’s out in the world and not in some quiet Hollywood set. So documentaries tend to be very noisy. They tend to have cars that drive by in the background that aren’t part of your crew, or a dog barking, a siren goes off or an airplane flies overhead. By the way, all of those things happened in You Cannot Kill David Arquette. So for a documentary, it’s my job to take out anything that’s distracting. Because it all comes down to the same thing. Any film, you just want it to connect and have strong emotional content. And anything that can be distracting is a negative. So if someone is having a really important dialogue, like let’s say David Arquette is talking to his kids at home about why he’s choosing to go back into the ring, it’s important to make sure the dog yapping in his living room is not getting in the way of that really heartfelt moment. So that’s the stuff that happens in a documentary.
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And then, a film like 12 Hour Shift is totally different. It was in a closed set and they could really control the amount of noise that was happening. But with a horror film, or even narrative films in general, the goal is to feel close to your characters. When the lead nurse is running down the hallway, I want to hear every single footstep. I want to feel the stress and the tension of her running. In a doc, we wouldn’t necessarily sound design and foley every footstep. But in 12 Hour Shift, we would. So in 12 Hour Shift where it’s this hyper-real universe that we’re trying to build, it takes a lot of work. I think we literally did add in footstep sounds for every single footstep in the film.
“If the music needs to be really big for a big swell, that’s great, but you got to get the music out of the way for someone to get stabbed in the face.”
NOFS: Speaking of 12 Hour Shift…the film takes place in a hospital in 1999. Does a film’s time period or setting affect your approach to a film? Or does it affect your job maybe in a way that people don’t realize?
JBM: That’s a good question. Yes and no. Period pieces definitely have to sound appropriate to their period. I don’t know if that plays as much into 12 Hour Shift because it’s in a hospital and a hospital environment is in its own way a bit timeless. At least maybe in the last 30-40 years. If this were a hospital in the 1940s it would have a very different sound. But in a hospital you’ve got your normal heart rate machines, various beeps, loudspeakers and intercoms paging the nurses. That’s all very consistent considering the period. But what is interesting from a sound perspective is the subtleties regarding the time of day and what is happening.
One thing that was cool in 12 Hour Shift was the fact that it was basically a graveyard shift. This nurse is working like, 8pm to 8am. So what we had to be really strategic about was making the hospital get quieter and quieter. Which became creepier and creepier throughout the course of the film. When she started her shift maybe there were some people getting discharged or people still coming in, but by 4 in the morning, a hospital can be a very quiet place. And so we had to be very careful about the timing and about the crowds in the waiting room, that maybe you don’t even really see, but we’d put some sounds in to make it feel like there were people hanging out. But then it has to get quieter and more eerie as the film goes on.
NOFS: I loved the way the Matt Glass’ score and the music mingled with the film’s narrative and sound. Are stylistic choices like these something you work out with the director, the composer, or is that what they’re paying you the big bucks to figure out?
JBM: Ah yes, the big bucks. (laughs) What’s kind of cool is that at the beginning of every film we have what’s called a spotting session. And that’s a full 8-hour day where myself, the director, the producers and my whole team hang out for a day and watch the film. And we talk about questions like that and what kind of decisions we need to make for the film to be its strongest. And Matt Glass did an amazing job on the score by the way. This was one of my favorite scores that I’ve heard in a long time. The operatic, really aggressive kind of chanting, weird medieval vibe was really awesome.
So at times it’s my job to make sure everything gets out of the way for the score to do its thing really big. And at other times, there’s moments where the sound design merges and melds itself with the score and they become one thing. Like a hospital gurney that’s rickety and clacking being rolled down the hallways of this hospital, there were times where we’d try to pitch shift that or massage it just a little bit so it feels like it could be a part of the score. Or even the footsteps. To have them all come in and out of connectedness with the score was a really cool thing to do.
“[In 12 Hour Shift] we had to be really strategic about was making the hospital get quieter and quieter. Which became creepier and creepier throughout the course of the film.”
NOFS: The process for finding just the right sound for a specific moment or action is fascinating. In 12 Hour Shift, was there a particular sonic cue or sound you were most proud of creating?
JBM: Also a good question. I don’t know if it’s our best work, but the one that always stands out to me the most is (and I don’t want to give away too many spoilers), but there is a moment towards the end where there’s a hospital syringe that goes into somebody’s eye in a very violent fashion. I’ve seen that scene maybe 40 times now and every single time I cringe and have to sit back in my seat a little bit because it’s so gruesome. And I feel like that means I’ve done a good job.
NOFS: Is that a situation where you’d create the sound or do you have like a bank of sounds you can choose from?
JBM: It’s always a combination of things. And we don’t have like, the eye squish sound in our library. Although, we probably have some things that are pretty close. And usually what goes into a sound like that is probably around 6 layers. It’ll be some kind of moldy peach squishing sound that we either record or have in our library. And then some kind of impact sound which could be something we record, like a pencil stabbing into a couch. And then there’s going to be a variety of fluids that have to have sounds because eyes tend to be full of fluids. And there’s always different pieces that are going to be combinations of us throwing up a mic and actually recording some foley and then blending that with things that are in our library. But each sound effect in every film is unique and we approach them individually to decide, should we record this? Should we foley this? And actually, for anyone who’s not familiar, that’s basically what foley is. Recording new sounds to replace them rather than just cutting in sound effects from some library that we own.
Another example which is pretty cool in this film is the vending machine. You mentioned things that the audience wouldn’t necessarily notice or realize, but there’s a lot of things that they would feel even if they don’t notice. So, the vending machine is kind of its own character if you want to pick apart the story plot. The really bad deeds tend to always happen when they’re standing next to the vending machine. And so we decided we needed to give extra attention to how the vending machine sounds. So, we actually did foley this. Which is unusual for a vending machine sound. You’d think, just go spend a few bucks on a pre-recorded something. But we took an electromagnetic microphone, which is a very unique microphone. It only records the sound of electricity and magnetism basically. We went out and recorded different fluorescent lights, different vending machines and different sources of electricity. We’d get these really intense buzzing and static-y sounds and we built this whole character. You end up just feeling uncomfortable whenever it pops up in a scene. It’s really important, especially in horror films, to do things like that. You can essentially guide the emotions of the audience that way.
NOFS: On top of your sound design work, you are also a composer. Do you find your experience with sound design helps or affects the way you compose? Or vice versa?
JBM: That’s a good question. I’ve always felt that any job, that anybody is doing, in any field, is informed by different pieces that surround the job itself. Before I even got into film I was working at a music venue in New York. And at first I worked in the box office. And then I worked a bit with their online, social media department. And then after that I went into booking and contracts and stuff. And it was only by doing the grunt work in the box office and such that I began to realize how all the pieces of running a company or music venue go together. And it’s the same thing when working in film. And especially working with sound in film. There’s all these different pieces. Like, location sound. I used to do a lot with location sound and I’d be the boom operator on shows like Saturday Night Live and New York Times. But being familiar with that, being familiar with sound design and then being a musician, when we get into the final mix of a film and all these pieces have to go together, I have a really good bird’s eye view of what needs to happen. And I think that’s how I’ve ended up being a supervisor. I have a pretty good understanding of all the different components.
NOFS: You also own your own post production company, IMRSV Sound. As it’s no secret that the pandemic has hit the film industry pretty hard, has it effected the how you work? Do you see it altering how you and your employees work in the future?
JBM: It definitely impacted us. It hit us pretty hard over the summer. Because we’re a post house, anything that had already been filmed up until March had us booked up until June. So those jobs kept happening, but then suddenly, nobody was filming in March, April and May really. July and August were pretty slow, but now we’re getting busy again because there’s people still trying to get to Sundance and make film festival deadlines. So our clients have been popping up again which is great really. I was holding my breath for a couple of months there and it’s tough. A lot of people in the industry are struggling.
The other thing that’s been interesting is normally when we mix a film, we have a lot of people in the room. The client, their editor and the producers all come and we sit really close together, for 8 hours a day, for up to 2 weeks. And now we can’t do that. It’s been tricky with COVID. So one thing that’s hugely different is the fact that movie theaters aren’t really a thing right now. And that’s going to change the way we’re mixing films. The outlet right now is going to be Netflix or Amazon, Hulu, HBO or any of these streaming platforms. So honestly, the way that we mix a film is different if it’s going to be online versus a movie theater. The type of mixing we’re doing is simply different. And even if COVID goes away, I’d say we have forever altered the path of films and content. It was already sort of coming and that model has been taking over for a while, but this put a huge stop to everyone’s ability to go see a movie, really loud, in a theater. It’s definitely changed everything for the long haul.
“t’s been tricky with COVID. So one thing that’s hugely different is the fact that movie theaters aren’t really a thing right now. And that’s going to change the way we’re mixing films.”
NOFS: Final question. And it’s one I’m genuinely curious about. In your professional sound opinion, is David Arquette’s laugh as amazing in person as it is on film?
JBM: Yes, it is. And one thing that I would say about David Arquette is that his persona on camera is really genuine. And as a human being, I think he’s just really genuine. When he’s acting, he’s sort of acting, but he’s also just being himself. He’s just a good dude. He got a tough rap after the Scream films came out. He got sort of pigeonholed and typecast as just an actor who could do silly in movies, and that was a bummer. And then, the whole wrestling thing was really a bummer for him. He worked so hard to make his comeback in a really legitimate way and he trained his ass off. He took so many beatings to become a real wrestler for this film. He’s got a lot of heart and he’s just a good guy. So yes. In person, his laugh is just as infectious as it is on screen.
12 Hour Shift and You Cannot Kill David Arquette are currently playing select theaters and available to rent or buy through all major VOD platforms. What are your thoughts on 12 Hour Shift? Have a favorite sound effect or sound design moment in a film? Share your thoughts with us by heading over to Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!