If you've visited New York City, you're likely to be
well aware of just how noisy a place it can be. It isn't unusual for newcomers to wear ear
plugs, or at least put their hands over their ears when an ambulance speeds past. Or a cop
car, or a fire truck, or passing dignitaries.
Or let's say some idiot has double parked and some other idiot triple
parks, well, that could be good cause for a whole lot of other idiots to lean on their
horns. The other morning, pretty early, I walked out of the house and heard a horn
blasting away in a syncopated kind of rhythm. I'm not sure what I expected, but I was
surprised that the honker was simply keeping time with his car horn to his radio, which
was blaring Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," at 7:30 AM.
One of the many difficulties with shooting movies on location in New York
is the noise. In many ways getting good sound is harder than getting good pictures. You
can always point the camera in another direction, but the piercing wail of a siren will
penetrate nearly any soundproofing.
And when you're shooting on location, rather than in a soundproofed sound
stage, the situation can get positively dire.
Monday was not unlike many days during the shooting of Cherry.
The West 72nd Street location, a professional office on the first floor, was known to be
difficult. Back in December, when Noah did his location
scout, he came back with words of warning. I remember his long hair falling in front of
his face as he shook his head.
"Can we shoot there?" Joe
"If you have to," he said, resignedly.
The sound guy is always speaking resignedly, because directors and DPs and
production designers fall in love with the look of a place, not its sound. And when they
hear the location mixer say, "If you have to," resignedly, they don't hear,
"It would be better if you didn't." Instead, they ask what it will take to make
it okay, and he or she will suggest baffles for the windows and maybe blankets. And
directional microphones. Because those are the available tools.
On Monday, on 72nd Street, the baffles were in place. Two thick pieces of
glass, with rubber spacers between them, fitted into the window frame. And heavy caulk
sealing every bit of space on both the inside and the outside of the windows, fixing the
baffles to the jamb. And as I stood in the window looking out I could see couples talking
together, children running, mothers scolding, friends greeting, all making noise, all just
outside the window, and I couldn't hear any of them.
But Noah, listening to Shalom and Jake (who was back for the day, to shoot
scene #22) in the inside room, could hear--on various takes and at various times--a
veritable symphony of city sounds. These included: Sirens; A crew member on the Walkie
Talkies; Hammering (upstairs); Footsteps (upstairs); Concussive digging (Con Edison was
working on a gas leak just down the block); More sirens.
This wasn't unusual. Nobody was getting upset, although Patrick called Steven in to
listen to the hammering.
"Do you hear it?"
"Wait until there's a take."
"I don't hear it."
"Hang on. You'll hear it. Rolling. Quiet please." He calls out.
Steven sits, patiently. Listening. At first there is nothing, but as the
room settles, a quiet but insistent knocking can be heard. Patrick smiles, nodding to
Steven, as if to say, "See?" Before the take is done an ambulance comes hurtling
across 72nd Street.
"Cut," Jon says.
"That was bad," Noah announces, noting on his sound report that
the whole take was ruined. The take before he'd said, "I had a big bang on 'Gender is
not a yes or no answer.'" The idea is to let Janna
know what coverage they have gotten, so that she can determine, with the directors' input,
what coverage they still need.
"You heard it?" Patrick asks Steven, who's smiling.
"I have no idea where that's coming from," he says. "I'll
As soon as Steven steps outside, Noah announces he's got speed and Patrick
calls out, "Rolling. Quiet Please."
It's up to the sirens to pay heed.