Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 In Review: Highlights of Sound Design + Original Music



Happy New Year, cyberspace! 2015 has been an incredible year for me, and I'd like to thank all the collaborators who made it such a blast.

Can't wait for 2016-- looking forward to all it has in store. Let me know what I can do to make your next project sound great.

In the meantime, here are some 2015 highlights to celebrate: sound design and original music for narrative short + feature films, corporate video, branding, documentary, animation, and experimental work.

CLEAN CUT: SOUND DESIGN + MUSIC FOR SHORT FILM



This comedy-horror short spent the year vacuuming up awards across North America. A cautionary tale about a Roomba gone rogue, and a great experience seeing what director Andrew Hunt could pull off with a dream team of collaborators. More info

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SOUND DESIGN FOR MEDICAL ANIMATION: EYESIGHT PSA




Highlight reel work for an opthamology PSA produced by Ghost Productions. More info

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CURSE OF THE INVISIBLE WEREWOLF: SOUND DESIGN + MUSIC FOR HORROR SHORT



"The Curse of the Invisible Werewolf" is a short film directed by Jay Ness, a tribute to classic monster films of the 30s and 40s. Both the film and its trailer (above, released Halloween 2015) feature my sound design and an original musical score. More info

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MINDWASP BUMPER



Audio branding for an award winning filmmaking collective. More info

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OUT IN THE COLD



Sound design for a documentary feature directed by J.D. O'Brien, aimed at raising awareness of issues related to homelessness. Won Honorable Mentions for both Best Documentary and Indie Vision Breakthrough Film (the latter in the company of a Charlie Kaufman film, no less!) at its 2015 Twin Cities Film Festival premiere. More info

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CELLULAR CINEMA: LIVE SOUNDSCAPE FOR EXPERIMENTAL FILM



A highlight of 2015 was the chance to provide a live soundscape for this unique showing of 16mm experimental films by Trevor Adams at Bryant-Lake Bowl's "Cellular Cinema" series, curated by Kevin Obsatz. Quite simply, a blast. More info

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FESTIVAL SCREENINGS 2015



The 2015 Twin Cities Film Festival offered four pieces featuring my work: the documentary Out in the Cold, shorts The Caper and Clean Cut, and the Season Three pilot of web series Theater People, the latter of which launched later in the fall (see music highlight reels here and here). With the exception of "Clean Cut", each was a world premiere. I met a lot of great new folks, and had the pleasure of seeing two pieces I worked on ("Out in the Cold" and "The Caper") win a total of three awards. Thanks to everyone whose efforts make this fest a success!



Festivals elsewhere in North America screened films featuring my work as well:

Clean Cut careened from Tijuana to South Dakota to Mexico to West Virginia, then back to MN for TCFF.

Trevor Adams' experimental animation "Through A Purgatorial Twenty Eleven" (featuring my original score) premiered at Stillwater, MN's Square Lake Film Festival and reprised at Minnanimate IV.

"Deux Champs", a black and white documentary by Kevin Obsatz featuring my sound design and original score, screened at NYC's Anthology Film Archives as part of New Filmmakers 2015. It also screened as part of an event hosted by Portland, OR's Compliance Division, as did Trevor Adams' McFowl, a film I scored back in 2014.

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THE CAPER: ORIGINAL MUSICAL SCORE FOR SHORT FILM



Original musical score for this romantic comedy short directed by Matthew Anderson. "The Caper" won an Honorable Mention for the Audience Award upon its premiere at the 2015 Twin Cities Film Festival. More info

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FLUSH STUDIOS: SOUND DESIGN + MUSIC FOR ANIMATION



Cartoons that definitely aren't for kids! From the ingenious mind of Josh Stifter. More info

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MIRRORORRIM: SOUND DESIGN FOR EXPERIMENTAL ANIMATION



John Akre's experimental animation "Mirrororrim" premiered at Cellular Cinema III: The Double and showed subsequently at the 2015 Square Lake Film Festival, and then Chicago's Zhou B. Arts Center as part of the Twisted Oyster Experimental Film Festival. It even made it into Minneapolis/ St Paul Siggraph's MN Electronic Theater presentation, alongside work by Sparkhouse and Ghost Productions for which I'd provided sound design and/ or original music. More info

More sound + music by Mike Hallenbeck for branding

More sound + music by Mike Hallenbeck for animation

More film sound by Mike Hallenbeck

More film music by Mike Hallenbeck

Mike Hallenbeck home page + contact

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Film Screening Updates: Da Vinci Fest, Fargo Film Festival




“Through A Purgatorial Twenty Eleven”, an experimental film by Trevor Adams featuring my original soundscape, screens as part of DaVinci Fest in Stillwater, MN on January 9th— one of several reprised pieces from Square Lake Film Festival last summer. More info

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A little later in 2016: “The Caper”, a comedy short by Matthew Anderson featuring my original musical score, will screen at the Fargo Film Festival in March.

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More film sound by Mike Hallenbeck

More film music by Mike Hallenbeck

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wendy's Training Video: Cold Drinks



While the Wendy's Grill Skills training video has long been the stuff of legend among corporate infotainment enthusiasts, it wasn't till recently (yesterday, in fact) that I became aware of this lost gem:



Not unlike "Grill Skills", this piece offers some real innovation in the genre of artisinal hip hop. Thanks to Mike Rylander for bringing it to my attention.

I found some other work in the "related videos" column which I could share with you-- I have, however, chosen not to do so. Sometimes I watch this stuff so you don't have to.

It makes me wonder, though, how much of this material from the VHS era lies dormant, neglected, left behind by the digital rapture. It haunts me.

Mike Hallenbeck home page + contact

Monday, December 14, 2015

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The History of Animation Sound




Nice recent piece by Kate Finan of Boom Box Post exploring the history of animation sound. Thanks to the Designing Sound blog for bringing this to my attention. The article goes into the processes used by Disney, Warner Brothers, Hanna-Barbera, etc...

Which reminds me of this lovely featurette from "Wall-E", wherein sound designer Ben Burtt ("Star Wars") relates the history of Disney's animation sound process in some detail, then tours the facility and demonstrates some of the sound tools used in the toons. I'll add it as a bonus here:



Mike Hallenbeck home page + contact

Thursday, December 3, 2015

"Mirrororrim" Screens at MSP ACMSiggraph's MET 2015




John Akre’s animated short “Mirrororrim”-- for which I provided some crazy sound design-- screens aa part of tonight's MET 2015 at the PourHouse, 10 S 5th St, downtown Minneapolis. Presented by MSP ACMSiggraph.

Disney animator Andrew Chesworth ("Frozen", "Wreck-It Ralph") speaks at 6:30 PM.

“Mirrorrim” will appear as part of the MET 2015 Show Reel, which plays at 7:30 PM. The program offers digital animation ranging from indie pieces to corporate VFX demos-- a wide spectrum of material.

If you're in the Twin Cities, come on by!

More sound + music by Mike Hallenbeck for animation

Mike Hallenbeck home page + contact info

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Industrial Musicals Barnstorm the Midwest



Last night I had the pleasure of witnessing a live presentation of the films documented in the book and CD set Everything's Coming Up Profits: The Golden Age of Industrial Musicals (hit the preceding link for some background on this material from a previous post of mine). And I sure wasn't disappointed; the book's author Steve Young served up a weird and wonderful event, replete with footage of corporate infotainment unavailable anywhere else. A mindbending evening, for those who are into this sort of thing.

More shows coming up in the Midwest this week, too. Check the tour schedule for details, but here are the basic facts:

--Wednesday, December 2nd, 8 p.m.
The Majestic Theatre, Madison WI

–-Thursday, December 3rd, 7:30 p.m.
The Music Box Theatre, Chicago IL

–-Friday, December 4th, 9:30 p.m.
The Art Theater, Champaign, IL

As part of the lineup, we also got to see an excerpt from an in-progress documentary about the films. There's an affordable CD set for sale, available only at the live shows. Check it out!

Mike Hallenbeck home page + contact

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Your "Vampire Hunter" Name Generator




Want to find out what your "Vampire Hunter" Name is? Just follow these three easy steps!

1. Type your name.

2. Type a comma, and then a space.

3. Add the phrase "Vampire Hunter".

And there you go! Simple as that.



You're welcome. No, really, it's fine.

Mike Hallenbeck home page + contact info

Monday, November 23, 2015

Rickrolling ISIS




According this recent report from Dazed, the hacker consortium Anonymous has begun rickrolling the terrorist group ISIS. As someone who has written extensively on the rickrolling issue in the past, I of course take an interest in this.

Dazed reports that "according to a recent tweet from the #OpParis account, Anonymous are now flooding all pro-Isis hashtags with 'Rick Roll' videos. That means; whenever any Isis account tries to spread a message, or get something trending, the topic will instead be flooded with countless videos of Rick Astley circa 1987."

Excellent!



Dazed helpfully apologizes to those who don't remember rickrolling, since it started in 2007. Old school, baby.

I have to say I'm of two minds about Anonymous... while I tend to align with their political views, I have to wonder how I'd feel about them if I didn't...

Mike Hallenbeck home page + contact info

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Curse of the Invisible Werewolf" Poster




Hooray! The poster promoting The Curse of the Invisible Werewolf has arrived. I'm serving as both sound designer and composer on this project, a tribute to classic monster movies of the 1930s and 1940s.

The film made a good showing at American Film Market a couple of weeks back, and garnered a fair amount of interest from distributors.

Stay tuned for more COTIW news, and feel free to like the film on Facebook.

More film sound design by Mike Hallenbeck

More film music by Mike Hallenbeck

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Contact: hallenbeckmike at gmail dot com

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Original Music for Web Series: Bryn Mawr Bop




Spotlight on a track that appears in Season Three, Episode Three of the web series Theater People...



I assumed the music would be mixed low under dialog much of the time, so I listened at a very low volume when completing my own music mix-- thus, many elements wound up sounding different than they would have had I been mixing for up-front placement. Given the comedic nature of the sequence, I also wanted to preserve the sense of naivete I was going for. So I resisted the urge to "correct" some of the rhythmic imperfections I might have otherwise addressed.

Here's a clip of how the piece played out in the episode...



Three separate stories play out here: an actor (Clarence Wethern) confronts his fear of not being recognized/ acknowledged as he attempts to gain access to a theater for a rehearsal process; an assistant stage manager (Katie Willer) fights for admittance to the same rehearsal, saved only by the whim of her boss, the actual stage manager (Mo "MoCap" Perry); and the production's director (Stacia Rice) schemes to divert what may already be inevitable: that the titular male star of the TV sitcom "Fat Guy With A Hot Wife" has been cast as the lead in her theater production "The Shade Beneath The Awning" (imagine said casting in a play by Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill) without her approval.

Enjoy!

More film music by Mike Hallenbeck

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Contact: hallenbeckmike at gmail dot com

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Everything's Coming Up Profits: Live in Minneapolis!




For Twin Cities fans of corporate infotainment, a special event coming up soon at the Heights Theater: a live presentation of material covered in the book Everything's Coming Up Profits: The Golden Age of Industrial Musicals. For tickets and more info, go here.

I've already written about this phenomenon extensively in a previous blog entry, so feel free to check that out if you're curious as to what the heck this is. And if you decide this event is for you-- you'll know pretty quickly whether or not that's the case-- then I'll see you there!

For those elsewhere, there are other shows coming up too. Here's a tour schedule.

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Contact: hallenbeckmike at gmail dot com

Monday, November 16, 2015

"Mirrororrim" Screens at Twisted Oyster Experimental Film Festival




For those in the Chicago area: "Mirrororrim", an animated short by John Akre featuring some of my more bizarre sound design, will show at the Twisted Oyster Experimental Film Festival opening on November 20th at Zhou B. Arts Center.



The festival showcases the work of filmmakers from the US, UK, Switzerland, India, and Brazil. Looks like fun. Wish I could go!

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More film sound by Mike Hallenbeck

More sound + music by Mike Hallenbeck for animation

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Contact: hallenbeckmike at gmail dot com

Thursday, November 12, 2015

"Deux Champs" Screens at Anthology Film Archives for New Filmmakers 2015




It appears that "Deux Champs", a short film by Kevin Obsatz featuring my sound design and original score, will screen at NYC's Anthology Film Archives as part of the New Filmmakers Short Film Program on November 18th.

Shot on a Bolex, the film is narrated by a relative of Obsatz who once shot an accidental double exposure of Marcel Duchamp that eventually wound up in a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.



"Deux Champs" screens as part of the New Filmmakers Short Films Program at 8:30 on November 18th. More details here.

More film sound by Mike Hallenbeck

More film music by Mike Hallenbeck

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Contact: hallenbeckmike at gmail dot com

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Original Music for Web Series: Shakopee Shuffle




Recently I was invited back to compose music for the third season of the web series Theater People, now with Kickstarter funding! I was, of course, thrilled.

Among the many pieces of music I developed was a somewhat lighthearted cue, variously evocative of triumph and inquiry. In this season's first and second episodes you'll encounter three different versions of it, a total of five times altogether: a "basic" swing arrangement, a bossa nova rendition, and a piano jazz variant that reappears throughout the show (often as source background music).



The piece appears twice near the top of Episode 1. The original swing version accompanies Elise on her triumphant walk home from the Shepard Theater after learning she'd be directing there. In the bossa nova immediately following the theme, we encounter the full melodic development, replete with a key change that eventually resolves back into the original tonality. It first plays out under a conversation close to the start of Episode 1 in which Ben (Clarence Wethern) announces to his wife (Miriam Schwartz) that he's quitting acting, only to change his mind at the receipt of a fateful phone call.

Enjoy!

More film music by Mike Hallenbeck

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Contact: hallenbeckmike at gmail dot com

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Out in the Cold" Mall of America Screening + Documentary Drive Review




Out int the Cold, the feature-length documentary I mixed in post last summer, screens at the Mall of America tomorrow night, 11/11/15. Get tickets here.

The film also got a nice review from Documentary Drive. They even mentioned me and production mixer Matt Manson. When does that ever happen?

Details on the film from its imdb page: "Two men leave the comforts of home to spend a week of Minnesota winter experiencing homelessness. They sleep either on the streets or in homeless shelters in an effort to create empathy with those who truly have to experience life without stable housing, and create an avenue for them to share their stories. During their week on the streets they encountered below zero temperatures, dangerous places to sleep, and met a lot of wonderful people who showed John and J.D. how to survive and how to maintain hope while living without stable housing."

More film sound by Mike Hallenbeck

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Contact: hallenbeckmike at gmail dot com

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Chimpmunks Slowed Down


This has been making the rounds quite a bit lately, and rightly so, because it's brilliant. These are Chipmunks tracks slowed down to 16 RPM, thus approximating the original speed at which the vocals must have been recorded by actual humans.



The resulting dirges have an ominous, forlorn quality...

You can hear the final sped-up results here too.



These tracks confirm what I've long suspected: that the singers/ actors portraying the Chimpmunks could be literally anyone, providing they can talk and sing. And it's interesting to hear that their pitch wavers quite a bit in the original key, since the vocalists have to hold the notes out so long.

But things always sound more in tune when they're sped up. Hence, the bar is lowered yet further for who is qualified for the job!

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Contact: hallenbeckmike at gmail dot com

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Twin Cities Film Festival Wrap-Up




I had a great time at the Twin Cities Film Festival last week. It was a chance to check out some new films, celebrate projects I'd worked on as a sound designer and/ or composer, support the work of fellow artists, hang out with old friends, and make new ones. The staff was efficient, friendly, and helpful, and they kept things running on time. What's not to like? Nothin'. That's what.



(L to R: "Out in the Cold"'s composer Elliott Elliot Johnston, director J.D. O'Brien, filmmaker John Koepke, and yours truly feeling like we can be somebody on the red carpet)

I was honored to contribute to projects that garnered three awards at the festival: Out in the Cold, a documentary about homelessness directed by J.D. O'Brien that I mixed in post this past summer, won Honorable Mentions for Best Documentary and Indie Vision Breakthrough Film. Meanwhile The Caper, a narrative comedy short directed by Matthew Anderson and featuring my original musical score, received an Honorable Mention for the Audience Award. Not too shabby in a field of over 120 films, some of which featured famous actors and stuff!

I also discovered some new work I'm excited to share. My pick of the fest is a feature called The Polar Bear Club. Quiet, contemplative and psychological, the film explores the psychological space of older characters with subtlety and grace. I have no doubt this movie will find distribution if it hasn't already; make sure to catch it when it does.



Another truly excellent film I saw was a short called D. Asian. Set in the 1980s, the film recounts youthful ethnic confusion with the tag line "Identity is in the eye of the beholder." It's pulled off with nice performances from young actors and some great 80s cultural references. Highly recommended.



I succumbed to The Incredible Life of Darrell during the Digital Firsts Webisodes shorts block, or should I say not long after. The humor is awkward, "NSFW" and a tad disturbing even by today's standards, to the point where I had to think about whether or not I liked it, but afterward I dcouldn't stop thinking about it, and when I got home I watched the rest of the episodes online. Mission accomplished, Darrell! (Watch an episode below.)



Finally, I really enjoyed Myrna the Monster. Lots of marionette and animation action in this one. Plus, it's really funny. Granted it's produced by MTV and thus kind of like bringing a gun to a knife fight at a fest like this in terms of production value, but it really is a treat so I'd be remiss not mention it.



Unfortunately I had to miss a couple of days/ nights to finish work on the Curse of the Invisible Werewolf trailer. But I had a great time when I was able to make it! Thanks again to everyone who helped make TCFF 2015 happen! Much obliged, to be sure.

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More film sound by Mike Hallenbeck

More film music by Mike Hallenbeck

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Contact: hallenbeckmike at gmail dot com

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Deep Cuts #12: Cabin in the Woods





(Just in time for Halloween, the "Deep Cuts" series highlights horror films I think deserve a little more recognition. Not to say they're obscure by any means-- most are major releases. I just want to give them a little more love is all. Enjoy!)

Index of all "Deep Cuts" entries, updated as they're posted

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Cabin in the Woods
American, 2012, d. Drew Goddard

Happy Halloween!

As a fitting end to this series, I offer a film that too few horror fans appear to have seen. If you love horror and you've never seen this, do yourself a favor and check it out. Only make sure not to find anything out about it ahead of time-- just watch it. It's essentially a love letter to horror fans. Enjoy! And thanks for reading the Deep Cuts series.

imdb listing

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Contact: hallenbeckmike at gmail dot com

Trailer Sound Design + Musical Score: "Curse of the Invisible Werewolf"


Happy Halloween! Here's the trailer for "Curse of the Invisible Werewolf", a tribute to classic monster films of the 30s and 40s directed by Jay Ness and featuring my sound design and original music.



I plan to offer some behind the scenes info before too long, but for right now the trailer is its own reward. Enjoy! And for more info, feel free to engage "Curse"'s Facebook page.

More film sound design by Mike Hallenbeck

More film music by Mike Hallenbeck

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Contact: hallenbeckmike at gmail dot com

Friday, October 30, 2015

Original Music for Web Series: Season Three of "Theater People" Launches




I've been brought back to score the third season of the popular web series "Theater People". After a successful premiere as part of the Twin Cities Film Festival's Digital Firsts: Webisodes programming, Episodes 1 and 2 launched online today.

I plan on getting more in-depth about these cues in the future, but for now I'll just post the episodes.

So here's Episode 1:



And here's Episode 2:



Enjoy!

More film music by Mike Hallenbeck

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Contact: hallenbeckmike at gmail dot com

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Deep Cuts #11: Peeping Tom





(Just in time for Halloween, the "Deep Cuts" series highlights horror films I think deserve a little more recognition. Not to say they're obscure by any means-- most are major releases. I just want to give them a little more love is all. Enjoy!)

Index of all "Deep Cuts" entries, updated as they're posted

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Peeping Tom
British, 1960, d. Michael Powell

I'd call "Peeping Tom" the forbear of cinema that explores what we now think of as found footage, especially in the horror genre. "Cannibal Holocaust", "Videodrome", "Man Bites Dog", "The Blair Witch Project", "Ringu", "Sinister", and the proliferation of present-day found footage films bear its influence. It also engages the form with a critical angle not seen since-- although I'd say "The Dirties" comes close.



The story is not rendered exclusively in terms of first-person footage. In fact, the majority of the film is a conventional narrative thriller, linking it as much with Cronenberg, "Sinister" and "Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon" as with "V/H/S", "Trollhunter", or "Creep". Though the story is somewhat complicated, the legacy at the film's core is elemental: a young filmmaker contrives to record the expressions of women in their dying moments, shooting footage of his victims as he murders them.



I'm sure that plenty of graduate theses have been written on the film-theory implications of this film's interweaving of voyeurism, objectification, documentary, power dynamics, and what have you. But it's unfortunate that the film hasn't found more of a mass audience-- though released around the same time as Hitchcock's "Psycho", and similarly themed in terms of the pairing of voyeurism and serial murder, "Peeping Tom" received scathing reviews upon its release which effectively ruined director Michael Powell's career.



And that's too bad-- this is a uniquely cerebral movie, and I'd call it essential viewing for anyone curious about the origins of found footage flicks. And it's a well-crafted film to boot. Michael Powell was not, as they say, messing around.

imdb listing

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Contact: hallenbeckmike at gmail dot com

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sound Design + Music for Animation: Tim the Terrible Part I




"Tim the Terrible" is a new animated series from Flush Studios. I've had the pleasure of working on several Flush toons in the past (here's some previous work of mine), and it's been fun to contribute sound design and original music to "Tim" as well.

Here's the completed version of Episode 1, "Birth of a Bender", which has already surpassed 7,000 views on Newgrounds as of this writing. In the pilot, drunken barbarian Tim the Terrible faces off against Tormentuous the Venomous:



Several of my music cues are featured in this piece. During the opening theme that accompanies the face-off between Tim and Tormentuous, it's possible to sing "Tim the Terrible" along with the melody. What convenience!



A more cacophonous cue underscores a savage attack later in the episode:



Director Josh Stifter recorded most of the voiceover at his studio; his own voice performances included those of Tormentuous' wife Shelly and their son Benjamin. Tormentuous was voiced by Dan Degnan.



Stifter also recorded the vocieover for the title character, performed by McCrae Olson:



I performed and recorded the voiceover for the griffin that arrives late in the episode to take Tim away; the script called for the griffin to play as a jaded cab driver.



Sound design was accomplished through replacement of a few temp sound effects with a combo of library fx and original Foley. The weapon hits, stabs and gore effects were mostly library, but there were points where subtle movement and impacts called for cues of my own.



Josh worked long hours on this piece; it's good to see it getting some recognition!

More sound + music for animation by Mike Hallenbeck

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Contact: hallenbeckmike at gmail dot com

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Deep Cuts #10: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit



(Just in time for Halloween, the "Deep Cuts" series highlights horror films I think deserve a little more recognition. Not to say they're obscure by any means-- most are major releases. I just want to give them a little more love is all. Enjoy!)

Index of all "Deep Cuts" entries, updated as they're posted

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The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
British, 2005, d. Steve Box and Nick Park

Few have what it takes to endure the films of Wallace and Gromit. Located on the outer fringes of good taste in popular entertainment, this work emanates from a psychic signpost far beyond the breaking point for most. To witness one of these films is, put mildly, to stare into the abyss.



Forcing us to acknowledge aspects of the human experience we'd rather not confront, these tales stretch our tolerance for the repressed aspects of our psyches most of us would prefer went unexplored.



"The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" stands as perhaps the most bleak and forbidding entry in the series. For here we are asked to contemplate the unthinkable: the transformation of a human being into a large and furry bunny.



The squeamish among you will want to let this film go. But hardier viewers might emerge unscathed as the unbearable truth of this narrative comes home to roost. If you think you can witness the mind-shredding abomination that is "Curse of the Were-Rabbit" and pick up the pieces of your life afterward, don't say I didn't warn you. You have nothing to lose but your mind.



imdb listing

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Monday, October 26, 2015

TCFF Bald Director Profile #3: Andrew Hunt, "Clean Cut"




The 2015 Twin Cities Film Festival features a number of films I worked on variously as a sound designer and composer. Each of these projects was helmed by a director who's bald like me. Today let's meet Andrew Hunt-- whose award-winning Clean Cut, a comedy-horror short about a Roomba gone rogue, screens at TCFF this year. I created the sound design and wrote the musical score for the film. Get tickets here.



Andy used to have hair, but the Roomba vacuumed it all up. Below, he holds forth about "Clean Cut" as the glare from his head clues us in on a potential hidden meaning of the film's title:



I've already blogged extensively about "Clean Cut" and its numerous festival screenings and awards, so I'll leave it to the preceding links to tell that story. But I do recommend this film highly. So if you're at the fest, do go see it!

Here's the trailer (which doubles as a credit sequence for the film), animated by Josh Stifter:

And here's a sample of my original music used in the score. I tailored this piece to fit the mechanical, workmanlike feel of the Roomba going about its business:



Get tickets for TCFF screening of "Clean Cut"

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More film sound by Mike Hallenbeck

More film music by Mike Hallenbeck

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Deep Cuts #9: Vampira and Me



(Just in time for Halloween, the "Deep Cuts" series highlights horror films I think deserve a little more recognition. Not to say they're obscure by any means-- most are major releases. I just want to give them a little more love is all. Enjoy!)

Index of all "Deep Cuts" entries, updated as they're posted

= = = = =

Vampira and Me
American, 2012, d. R.H. Greene

If you're anything like me-- and I know I am-- then you're fascinated by the phenomenon of the horror host. And while it turns out that like most people I'd been vaguely aware of Vampira as a tangent, once I read the fairly detailed account of her life (or rather, that of her performer Maila Nurmi) in David J. Skal's The Monster Show, I found her story fascinating and tragic. Seeking out more information, I found R.H. Greene's documentary film "Vampira and Me" streaming on Amazon (the only distribution platform I'm aware of) and dug in.



Greene apparently anchored this film with interview footage of Nurmi from an earlier doc he'd made entitled "Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies". He claims that Nurmi had always wanted to tell her own story and that he was honoring her wishes posthumously by making this film. And while there's no way to know, her openness in the interviews suggests that what he depicts as a close friendship with his subject was in fact quite real.

It turns out that the character of Vampira was indeed originally a knockoff of Charles Adams' character Morticia, then an unnamed 2D character in the "Addams Family" cartoon. Little footage remains of Vampira actually hosting her TV show, but here we can at least catch a glimpse:



Nurmi says her eventual scream was meant as a depiction of orgasm, which she never told anyone but seems plausible in retrospect-- a very "Bride of Frankenstein"-essque subversive strategy, and strong stuff indeed for 1954!

The film goes on to weave together a variety of her life's strands. Nurmi pursued a friendship with James Dean early in his career-- entirely Platonic, by all accounts-- and was blamed by some for his death when a doctored photo of her next to an open grave made its way into the public eye:



Sadly, Nurmi was never able to parlay the Vampira character into a lucrative revenue stream. Her final film role was an appearance in Ed Wood's craptastic "Plan 9 From Outer Space". And just as sadly, this is how most people are aware of her today.



I prefer to remember Vampira as the original horror host, a subversively powerful artifact.



It's widely speculated that the character of Elvira Mistress of the Dark was a knockoff of Vampira (in fact, Nurmi filed a lawsuit over just that). If so, there's a curious derivative throughline from Morticia right through to Elvira-- not a big shock, but it's interesting to see the (alleged) intention behind it all.



imdb listing

Mike Hallenbeck home page

Friday, October 23, 2015

TCFF Bald Director Profile #2: Matthew Anderson, "The Caper" and "Theater People: Season Three"




The 2015 Twin Cities Film Festival features a number of films I worked on variously as a sound designer and composer. Each of these projects was helmed by a director who's bald like me. Today, let's meet Matthew G. Anderson, who premieres the short romantic comedy The Caper and the pilot of the web series Theater People's third season, both at TCFF this year. I served as composer for both. Get your tickets by clicking on the linked titles above.

Years ago, back in what might safely be called "the day", Matt asked me if I'd ever seen the Powerpuff Girls Beatles episode. I replied that I had not.

"Oh, you gotta see it," he said. "I'll loan you the DVD."

"But I don't have a DVD player," I said.

"No problem, I'll loan you that too." And so he did.

Thusly, Matt's excitement to share creativity has snowballed into not one but two entries in TCFF this year. I remember back when we started these projects, he had hair. But as his passion and dedication for his work grew, he tore it all out. Or maybe it was kind of like "The Picture of Dorian Grey", except with an axis of filmmaking and hair loss, or something. I don't know.

Anyway, here's Matt Anderson talking about his process of making these pieces:



Here's a highlight reel of my original score for "The Caper":



A playlist of music featured in the film:



And here's the trailer for "The Caper":



As for the pilot webisode of "Theater People" Season Three, it's not out yet so a highlight reel would be inappropriate. But here's a reel of my music from Season One in the meantime:



And here's the trailer for "Theater People" Season Three:



And just for the heck of it, here are some clips from the Powerpuff Girls Beatles episode.



Enjoy!

More film music by Mike Hallenbeck

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Deep Cuts #8: Eyes Without A Face



(Just in time for Halloween, the "Deep Cuts" series highlights horror films I think deserve a little more recognition. Not to say they're obscure by any means-- most are major releases. I just want to give them a little more love is all. Enjoy!)

Index of all "Deep Cuts" entries, updated as they're posted

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"Les Yeux Sans Visage (Eyes Without a Face)
French, d. Georges Franju, 1960

This has to be the toughest going of any of the films under discussion in this series-- some harrowing gory moments. But it has a haunting quality that makes it one of my favorite horror movies, hard to watch though it may be.

Christiane GĂ©nessier, daughter of a brilliant surgeon, has suffered disfiguring facial wounds in a car accident for which her father was responsible. Dr. GĂ©nessier tries to rectify the situation by kidnapping young women, surgically removing the flesh of their faces and grafting it onto that of Christiane, who otherwise wanders the house wearing a white mask, almost literally a ghost (she's been officially pronounced dead).



Oddly jaunty music, evocative of a circus, accompanies the film at odd moments, usually at contemplative points that wouldn't be scored in other films. The grisly operating room scenes, on the other hand, are presented clinically and without any of the atmospherics often employed by horror films. The point, clearly, is not to entertain us with mad-scientist theatrics. This ain't Vincent Price. This is-- man, I don't know what this is.



And indeed, what *is* the point of all this? The film is generally presented as a naturalistic drama, which heightens the horror of what's actually going on. One doesn't get the idea that the gruesome goings-on are all just for the heck of it, thrills for thrills' sake-- in fact there are no thrills to be had, just a dolorous interweaving of trauma, guilt, revulsion and denial.



I don't pretend to know the thematic underpinnings, but I've gotten the feeling that "Eyes Without A Face" somehow references the Nazi occupation of France-- which, having ended a scant 15 years or so before this film's production, must have been pretty fresh in people's minds at the time.

It turns out that critics have bickered over this and other political interpretations quite a bit. In Shocking Representation: Historical Trauma, National Cinema, and the Modern Horror Film, for example, Adam Lowenstein positions the film as evocative not only of the Occupation but of the Holocaust and France's incurion into Algeria as well. And so on.

Which is a terrific point to segue into 80s pop music! It's worth noting that this film is-- as far as I'm aware-- the only 1960 French horror movie with a Billy Idol song named after it:



One of his better songs, I'd say-- and although it doesn't seem to have all that much to do with the aforementioned, backup vocalist Perri Lister is in fact singing "Les yeux sans visage" (the film's French title) in the background, so that's something.

imdb listing

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