Saturday, December 31, 2016

The 15 Best Things Jen Said In Her Sleep This Year




Whatever else it's been, 2016 has been a prolific year for Jen's subconscious ramblings. Here are the best of the best:

1.
"There's two of you... You're the original, and the other one... I'm holding one of you in my hand, and the other one's on the ground. You're all doubled up."

2.
Jen: “You have something.”
Me: “What do I have?”
Jen: “I asked you first.”

3.
Jen: "You should make your own kind of soap with all the different flakes."
Me: "Um... why should I do that?"
Jen: "Because that's what everybody does."

4.
"It's you. That's all there is to say about you bald people... Yeah. You ride around on your mongoose."

5.
"Do you like kitties behind their backs? How many of them are there, and how many want to snuggle you?... A plastic dinosaur."

6.
"You still live here. You're on the right side of things... The place where all the bald people go hang out."

7.
Jen: "You should have yourself made into a sticker."
Me: "Really? What kind of sticker?"
Jen: "Like a picture of any of your other ideas... it's just a whole different worldview."

8.
Jen: "You're like Mr. Fix It."
Me: "Really? Why's that?"
Jen: "I'm not sure why this or that question is asked of me."

9.
"You've got a lot going on with the cat situation... The cats are probably running their own booth... They're having all the people talk about different stuff... Stuff that's not important except to another kitty."

10.
"All of it makes a square... All of the different shapes that you make... It's what you've got going on. 'Cause you don't know anything about anything."

11.
Jen: "Get you a snow cone."
Me: "Why?"
Jen: "Because you ordered that. It's not very substantial, but you could have it."

12.
Jen: "Kitty walks to the store."
Me: "What does kitty buy at the store?"
Jen [indignantly]: "It buys the things it needs. It's not the same every time."

13.
Jen: "We need to talk about your wingspan... none of the facts are accurate."
Me: "What exactly is it about my... wingspan that we need to discuss?"
Jen: "I'd rather not get into it. You're making this harder than it has to be."

14.
Jen: "Can you write your first name... and your last name... on a piece of masking tape?"
Me: "Um... Sure, I guess. Why though?"
Jen: "We'll get to that." [rolls over, stops talking]

15.
Jen: “You’re the only one.”
Me: “The only one what?”
Jen: ”The only one like you.”
Me: “Well, I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Jen: “It’s just biology, sweetie. It’s not that special.”

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 In Review: Highlights of Sound Design + Original Music


Huge thanks to all the collaborators who shared opportunities to create this year. 2016 marked the opening of Junior Birdman Audio, our new recording studio in Northesat Minneapolis, and the genesis of many exciting projects. Providing services ranging from voiceover recording to original music to final mix, in media from film and animation to ads, industrials, VR, and e-learning, serving end clients from indie filmmakers to companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield, 3M, Medtronic and Best Buy, we covered a lot of ground this year.

Looking forward to more in the days to come! In the meantime, here are just a few of the projects that made this year special:

PERSONAL SPACE



Above: sound edit + mix on "Personal Space", a tense thriller directed by Andrew Hunt and one of two shorts featuring our work that premiered at 2016's Z-Fest. The film won Best of Fest and a host of other honors at Z-Fest this year; it also earned a nomination for Best Audio/ Sound Design. more info

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OTHER FISH: ORIGINAL MUSICAL SCORE + SOUND DESIGN FOR ANIMATION



Above: trailer for the animated short "Other Fish", featuring an original score, sound edit and mix by Junior Birdman Audio's Mike Hallenbeck. The film was co-directed by Josh Roush and Josh Stifter. It features voice acting from Michael Parks ("Argo", "Django Unchained"), Harley Quinn Smith ("Tusk", "Clerks II"), and Jacqui Duncan ("Old School", "White Lines"). more info

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BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD OF MN: "WE'RE HERE"



Above: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota's "We're Here" campaign. Voiceover engineered at Junior Birdman Audio by Mike Hallenbeck. more info

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SOUND EDIT/ MIX FOR VIRTUAL REALITY: SUNKEN FOREST



Above: excerpt of a virtual reality experience from Honey VR. Here the viewer encounters a mermaid, and follows her on a journey. Sound edit and mix by Mike Hallenbeck at Junior Birdman Audio. more info

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BOOM TOWN: ORIGINAL MUSIC, SOUND EDIT + MIX FOR DOCUMENTARY



Above: highlight reel from "Boom Town", a forthcoming short documentary about the proprietors of a fireworks shop in Nevada. Sound edit, mix, and all music in this clip by Mike Hallenbeck at Junior Birdman Audio.

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SOUND DESIGN FOR MEDICAL ANIMATION: UCB MECHANISM OF ACTION VIDEO



Sound edit/ design + mix for this MOA (Mechanism of Action) video promoting the pharmaceutical company UCB. The piece explores various pharmaceutical approaches for the treatment of epilepsy, including calcium channel blockers, SV2A ligands, and glutamate antagonists. more info

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BIM BAM BRANDING BUMPER



When the San Francisco-based Jewish educational resource provider G-dCast decided to re-brand as Bim Bam, they invited me to provide a musical arrangement for a new bumper to preface videos and marketing content. Below, you can see and hear what we came up with together. more info



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AMYE SCHARLAU PROMO VIDEO: SOUND EDIT + MIX



Above: sound edit and mix for this highlight reel promoting the services of hypnotist Amye Scharlau. more info

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SOUND DESIGN FOR ANIMATION: INFESTATION



Above: Voiceover performance/ engineering, sound edit and mix for "Infestation", a creepy crawly experimental short animation by Cable Hardin. This short has had quite a festival run so far, and we're really proud of it! more info

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ORIGINAL MUSICAL SCORE FOR SHORT FILM: BREATHLESS



Original musical score for a short film, directed by Ben Enke, that celebrates the romantic relationship between Batman villains Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.

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OH DEER: ORIGINAL MUSICAL SCORE AND SOUND DESIGN FOR ANIMATED HOLIDAY CARD



To celebrate the 2016 holiday season, we teamed up with Rockne.Digital to bring you the story of a reindeer who finds an innovative way to fly. Original music and sound design created by Mike Hallenbeck at Junior Birdman Audio.

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Onward!

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Carrie Fisher




To be sure, Carrie Fisher accomplished more over the course of her life than portraying Leia Organa. And like most of the "classic trilogy" Star Wars cast (except Harrison Ford, and I guess Anthony Daniels), she spent quite some time trying to escape her role in the SW films as a career-defining fact. But when I saw Star Wars for the first time as a kid, it changed my life immediately-- it's one of the big reasons I work in audio now, looking back-- and anyone involved with it had a kind of mystic aura when I was a kid. OK, they've had a mystic aura forever.



Chris Taylor's fascinating book "How Star Wars Conquered The Universe" relates that Leia's storylines were continually chipped away by script revisions-- to the point where her character was vastly underused in the films, along with Fisher's immense talent. Still, from the social media reaction I've been seeing, many people I know (especially women) have gained tremendous inspiration from Leia, and from the actress' strength in battling mental illness and substance abuse.



Fisher's salty, self-deprecating humor was a rare treat. You watched one interview or one celebrity roast, and you kind of wanted her as your permanent house guest. If you ever get the chance to watch a filmed performance of her Broadway show "Wishful Drinking", do yourself a favor.



It was a thrill to see her reprise the role of Leia in "The Force Awakens" last winter-- General Organa nowadays-- and it was fitting that George Lucas owned her likeness no longer. Somehow Fisher's personality shone through, and the character was who she said she was. The life lived in the interim had seen to that.



So it's a staggeringly sad thing for her to have departed this life at such a young age. The news hit me hard, as it did many others. But I'm buoyed by the words posted recently by my friend Josie: "Since childhood I have attempted, again and again, to emulate her fierce energy, her quick wit, her profound strength and wisdom while fighting for what's good and what's right. No one compares." Is she talking about Fisher or Leia here? Not sure. Don't care. Amen either way. Especially if it's both.

Thank you, Carrie Fisher, for everything.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

"Ho ho ho": What Jen's Been Saying In Her Sleep, December 2016




Low quantity, high quality, and the usual mix of incoherence and undeniable fact this time around:

“Draw some clouds. All the regular kinds of clouds.”

“Do you sleep here?”

“You take up space… It’s the middle of the night, and you don’t have your shoes on.”

“That’s what you say. Ho ho ho.”

Happy holidays from Jen's subconscious!

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sound Edit + Mix For PSA: Rochester Motor Cars/ Channel One Food Bank




A recent spot for Rochester Motor Cars' campaign to raise $20,000 for Channel One Food Bank. Sound edit + mix by Mike Hallenbeck at Junior Birdman Audio.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Happy Holidays! Animated Greeting Card


Regardless of your faith (or lack thereof), here's an animated greeting card that we hope will brighten up your holiday season.

We've teamed up with Rockne.Digital to bring you the story of a reindeer who finds an innovative way to fly. Original music and sound design created by Mike Hallenbeck at Junior Birdman Audio.



Enjoy! And Happy Holidays to you.

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Film Update: Winter 2016


Some news about recent film projects featuring sound design and original music we've created at Junior Birdman Audio:



OH DEER

On December 8th, the 2016 Minnesota Electronic Theater showcase will premiere "Oh Deer". This comedic animated short celebrates an ongoing collaboration between my studio Junior Birdman Audio and the animation/ design house Rockne.Digital. The idea germinated as a brief 4 or 5 second holiday greeting that we could send out this winter, but rapidly mutated into an ambitious tale of inept adventure reminiscent of "Wallace and Gromit". I provided all things audio, from an original musical score to sound edit and final mix.

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PERSONAL SPACE

Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival and Hollywood Just4Shorts recently screened "Personal Space", a short film I sound edited and mixed in 2015. Continuing a successful festival run after sweeping the major awards including Best of Fest at its Z-Fest premiere, it recently won Best Short Film at Hollywood Just4Shorts.

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DEUX CHAMPS

An experimental short documentary concerning a double exposure of Marcel Duchamp, Deux Champs has been making quite the festival rounds lately. Here's a complete list of screenings to date:

Analogica Film Festival, Italy, 2016 (upcoming)
Weyauwega Film Festival, Wisconsin, 2016
Antimatter Media Art Festival, Victoria B.C., 2016
Winnipeg Underground Film Festival, 2016
Milwaukee Underground Film Festival, 2016
Echo Park Film Center, Los Angeles, 2016
Anthology Film Archives, New Filmmakers, New York, 2015
Compliance Division, Portland, 2015

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OUT IN THE COLD



I mixed this documentary feature back in 2015, and it's now available on Amazon Video. The film chronicles the often harrowing adventure of director J.D. O'Brien and a friend as they leave the comfort of their homes to explore what the homeless experience during a freezing Minnesota winter. Find out more about Out in the Cold here.

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AMERICAN BEAST: THE SOLITUDE SAGA CONTINUES

It's been known by many names, from "Bosque Macabro" in Portugal to "Beast of Prey" in the UK. At last, the anthology horror film "Solitude"-- for which I provided sound edit, mix, and some original music cues back in 2014-- is available on DVD in the US, replete with the brand new title "American Beast"! I'm pretty sure I've never worked on a project that wound up with as many as four official names before. Good to cross yet another such career threshold.

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

"On A Piece Of Masking Tape": What Jen's Been Saying In Her Sleep, October 2016




Here's Jen's sleeptalk from October. As usual, ellipses indicate pauses or places during which I asked for clarification. Enjoy!

"You're not even here, but you're doing things."

"They're gonna find out about this... It's a whole program… Scary things... Top secret, classified."

Jen: "Can you write your first name... and your last name... on a piece of masking tape?"
Me: "Um— yeah, I guess. Why though?"
Jen: "We're gonna get to that." (Rolls over, stops talking)

"That's all that stuff. What they said about all this stuff."

"It's just like sitting where they go."

"You do them all in the same order. All the different techniques."

"I don't even want to get into it. I'm just like: Bleaaah!"

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Voiceover Engineering: Blue Cross Blue Shield "Questions" Campaign




A recent advertisement for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota's "Questions" campaign. Voiceover recorded by Mike Hallenbeck at Junior Birdman Audio.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Boomtown: Original Music, Sound Edit + Mix For Short Documentary




Highlight reel from "Boomtown", a forthcoming short documentary about a fireworks shop in Nevada. Sound edit, mix, and two original music cues (varying arrangements of the same piece) were recently completed by Mike Hallenbeck at Junior Birdman Audio.

More info on this film when it hits the festival circuit soon!

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sound Design for Medical Animation: UCB Mechanism of Action Video


Junior Birdman Audio recently provided sound edit/ design and final mix for this MOA (Mechanism of Action) video promoting the pharmaceutical company UCB.



The video explores various pharmaceutical approaches for the treatment of epilepsy, including calcium channel blockers, SV2A ligands, and glutamate antagonists.

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Photo Gallery: Recent Images From Junior Birdman Audio


Some new and gently used photos from recent sessions at Junior Birdman Audio. Voiceover recording, Foley, and music for film, explainer video, animation, and more. Photos by Mike Hallenbeck, unless otherwise credited. Enjoy!



Anna Stranz in the booth. (Photo: Keith Mullin)

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Aftermath of a voiceover session with Leigha Horton, for a product video by Rockne Digital. (Photo: Leigha Horton)

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Tracking some violin for sound designer Katharine Horowitz's work on the Park Square Theatre production of "The House on Mango Street". (Photo: Katharine Horowitz)

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Setting up to record some acoustic guitar for the Other Fish score. Yes, right out in the control room! I'm nutty like that.

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Ben Connelly lays down some lap steel for the Other Fish score.

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Gathering materials for crunchy footsteps Foley on Justin Staggs' short film Elixir.

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Tracking Foley to simulate drops of blood falling on crisp leaves for Justin Staggs' short film Elixir. Barely visible on the plate is a pile of torn paper scraps. I dripped individual water droplets on the paper to simulate the blood drops; had to crank the gain pretty high for that one.

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

"There's Just A Wall And A Hamster Wheel": What Jen's Been Saying In Her Sleep, September 2016




"Fluff bucket. That's all that you've gotta do. That's the connection that you're not making... You could go away and come in. You could really just talk it out, the first one and the second one." *

"That's great. All you have to do is fit it on." [After I ask for clarification] "It doesn't matter to you. You should mind your own business."

Jen: "Yeah, that's what you do all the time."
Me: "What do I do?"
Jen: "What *don't* you do?... Were there lots of other people with cars and chairs? There's just a wall and a hamster wheel, and you stop and you get out there. Then it just does its thing."

* She calls our cat Ricky "fluff bucket" all the time, so this isn't the strangest of utterances, in the abstract...

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Twin Cities Film Festival Preview




Two short films featuring sound edit and mix by Junior Birdman Audio have been selected to premiere at the 2016 Twin Cities Film Festival in October. Congrats to the directors, casts, crews of Elixir and Bobby's Run Off!

Both pieces will screen as part of short film blocks at Showplace Icon at the West End in St Louis Park, MN.



ELIXIR
Written and directed by Justin Staggs
Screens October 23rd, 2016 at 1:45 pm
"A young sorceress battles dark forces for the future of the Great Garden. But is her magic great enough to defeat Death, himself?"
Get tickets

Here's the teaser trailer for "Elixir":



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BOBBY'S RUN OFF
Written and directed by John Kaiser
Screens October 25th, 2016 at 5:10 pm
"Grace searches for her abusive brother-in-law after he fails to come home one evening. The deeper she digs into the town she left behind, the more she learns that everyone has secrets."
Get tickets

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

In-Depth: Writer/ Co-Director Josh Roush on the Making of "Other Fish"




The writer/ co-director of the animated short Other Fish blogs in-depth about the process of making of the film. He includes some very kind words about Junior Birdman Audio's sound design and music on the project. Thanks Josh!

"Other Fish" on Facebook

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Festival Updates: "Bobby's Run Off" at TCFF 2016, "Infestation" in Toronto




"BOBBY'S RUN OFF" AT TCFF 2016

"Bobby's Run Off", a short written and directed by John Kaiser, will premiere at the 2016 Twin Cities Film Fest. I served as sound editor and re-recording mixer. I was indebted here to the ace location mixing of Tim Schraeder.

The film is anchored by a mostly female cast-- including Eleonore Dendy and Molly Ryman, who more and more occupy the video tack of my audio timelines like the villains condemned to the Phantom Zone in Superman II. imdb describes the plot thusly: "Grace searches for her abusive brother-in-law after he fails to come home one evening. The deeper she digs into the town she left behind the more she learns that everyone has secrets."



"INFESTATION" AT THE TORONTO URBAN FILM FESTIVAL

Cable Hardin's animated short "Infestation" continues its quest for world domination, with my sound design in tow. In keeping with its history of unconventional venues, the film is currently screening on the Toronto subway system. Vote for it here!

Stay tuned for more festival updates.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Voiceover Engineering: Blue Cross Blue Shield "We're Here" Campaign




Above: A recent spot for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota's "We're Here" campaign. Voiceover recorded by Mike Hallenbeck at Junior Birdman Audio.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

"Other Fish" Trailer


I recently served as composer, sound editor and re-recording mixer for the short animation Other Fish. Here's the trailer:



The film was co-directed by Josh Roush and Josh Stifter. It features voice acting from Michael Parks ("Argo", "Django Unchained"), Harley Quinn Smith ("Tusk", "Clerks II"), and Jacqui Duncan ("Old School", "White Lines").

In the film, a recently divorced mother seeks to prove her independence by swimming a channel of shark-infested water. It's a strange and hard-to-classify film, which makes sense when you know it's based on a dream Roush's wife recounted.

To create the musical score for such a dreamlike piece, I called on a couple of friends for help: Ben Connelly contributed lap steel guitar, audible at the very top of the trailer. And Ben Glaros shredded some power chords on guitar for the Black Sabbath-inspired passage at about :28.

The film should be making festival rounds soon. Please get in touch if you have any leads on festival screening or other showcase opportunities.

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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Recent Viewing: August- September 2016


Haven't had time to watch much lately, but here's the noteworthy among what I've witnessed.



Florence Foster Jenkins: A terrific movie. Does a great job of establishing sympathy for the character, who we wind up rooting for despite an utter lack of talent in the field at which she strives. Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg shine.



Kubo and the Two Strings: An amazing animated film. Definitely Laika's best since the sublime "Coraline". There's been controversy around the casting of mostly white actors to play Asian characters. And while I'm not so concerned about this in animation, I wouldn't have minded more Asian voice talent. The larger issue, though, is the pointlessness of famous people playing all the roles in cartoons nowadays. Specialist voice actors are a rare and distinctive breed. Give 'em a chance to shine!



The Witch: Creepy, thought-provoking and by all accounts historically rigorous. I had to keep the subtitles on to decipher what anybody was saying through their accents and diction, which is probably what it would have been like if I'd actually been there. Except I don't think they had subtitles back then.

Stranger Things: Perhaps a bit oversold to me by the time I watched it, but still really enjoyable. Gratifying to see MK-Ultra integrated into mainstream entertainment.

Green Room: Being a fan of "Blue Ruin", I was pretty excited for this followup from the same filmmakers. I really wanted to love this, and while I liked it pretty well, I found it to be a bit of a muddle. Some great performances, especially from Alia Shawkat, and the movie looks great. But it often just plain isn't clear what's going on, and the dialog sometimes gets murky and muffled just when we need clarity. Still, I'm excited to see what these folks bring us down the road. Lots of potential there.

Silent Running and The Black Hole: Got together with a couple of friends to throw these down. I'd never seen "Silent Running", though I remember reading about it a lot in Starlog magazine when I was a kid. And while I can see why it was so influential at the time-- the robots were clearly an inspiration for R2-D2, the crew is a clear antecedent to that of the first "Alien", and the greenhouse ship itself appears in both incarnations of "Battlestar Galactica"-- man is this a slow and meandering movie. If you hollow out the meat of "2001" but retain the glacial pace and bewildering aspects, plus add a liberal helping of Joan Baez, there you go.

About "The Black Hole", which I had seen before but wanted to refresh in my memory, the less said the better. Except for Slim Pickens playing the voice of a robot. That was pretty funny.

Also recommended:

Room
Downton Abbey Season Four: Binging on these progressively whenever I visit my mom. Fun stuff.
I Know That Voice
Sopranos, Seson 6 in progress: In the home stretch now! You guys should really check out this show. I think it's going to change TV as we know it.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

"Out in the Cold" Hits Amazon




Happy to hear that Out in the Cold, the feature documentary I mixed in 2015, will be available for purchase and download on Amazon on September 25th. See the film's Facebook page for more info.

Aimed at raising awareness of issues related to homelessness, "Out in the Cold" 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. The movie garnered a nice review from Documentary Drive too.

Congrats to director J.D. O'Brien and the rest of the crew!

More info on "Out in the Cold"

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

"The Zipper Compartment You Keep It In": What Jen's Been Saying In Her Sleep, August 2016


"You're all over your own head. The zipper compartment you keep it in. That's what you did. It's designed for that. You just want to keep it separate from the other part. Two zippers. They separate you from the other part. Like if it's flat or something. You've got your own bag to put it in. Put your own bag in your head... That's the rest of that. You can have it."

"Just get in and get out. Whatever you think you're in."

"You're bald, and everybody's talking about that... you could talk about that all day."

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"Other Fish" Poster




Above: promo poster for "Other Fish", a recently completed animated short directed by Josh Stifter and Josh Roush. I provided sound design and an original musical score.

Stay tuned for the trailer, festival screenings, and more info!

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

This Is Awesome.


This-- yes, this-- is awesome.



No idea who made this. But I do have the very firm conviction that whoever it was deserves a MacArthur genius grant as soon as possible, to ensure that they'll continue to have the free time to craft such things.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Animation Festival Update: "Mirrororrim", "Dad Movie", "Infestation"


"MIRRORORRIM" IN SERBIA



"Mirrorrorim", an experimental short animation by John Akre featuring my sound design, will screen in the 2016 Experimental Superstars festival in Novi Sad, Serbia. The festival runs August 20th- 21st.

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"DAD MOVIE" AND "INFESTATION" AT MINNANIMATE 5



Speaking of John Akre, Minnanimate is a yearly independent animation festival that he curates. This year the festival, coming up on September 8th at St Anthony Main, will feature at least two pieces I worked on in various capacities:

DAD MOVIE



A whimsical take on early fatherhood (previously titled "10 Things You'll Learn In The First Year Of Being A Dad") from Flush Studios. My role: composer, sound editor, re-recording mixer. I also narrated the piece! More info

INFESTATION



Creepy crawly weirdness from Cable Hardin. My role: Sound editor, re-recording mixer. Features a ton of original field recordings and sound effects. More info

Stay tuned for more festival updates!

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

"Beast of Prey": The "Solitude" Saga Continues




When last we checked in on "Solitude"-- the anthology horror film I provided sound edit, mix, and a few music cues for a couple years back-- its first DVD release had emerged, in Portugese, under the title "Bosque Macabro" ("Macabre Forest").

Now there's a apparently a British DVD release as well, under yet another title: "Beast of Prey" this time. And in this case, the film's writing and direction is credited to someone named Nick Sandow-- a name no one involved with the production had ever heard of. Research shows this name associated with an actor from "Orange Is The New Black", though I can verify that this individual was not in fact involved in the production of "Solitude".



Where will "Solitude" land next in its global journey? Find out here! I'll keep you posted.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

In Depth: Original Musical Score for the Short Film "Breathless"




"Breathless" is a short film that celebrates the romantic relationship between Batman villains Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, an affair "canonized" by DC comics as having commenced on the date of June 12th. Featuring an original musical score I composed, the film duly premiered on June 12th, 2016. And while it was saddening to share the date with the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, releasing a film honoring a same-sex relationship was a counterpoint I took pride in.

In this entry, I'll examine the composition process in detail. First of all, here's the finished film:



Producer/ director Ben Enke told me the instrumentation should generally be very light. He also said the music didn't have to acknowledge specific beats in the story-- which directive I disregarded-- and that it should build into something inspirational at the end. He gave me the following clip from the score of the film "Amelie" to demonstrate the sensibility they were looking for:



I assimilated the waltz feel of the "Amelie" music-- appropriate here, since Quinn's involvement with The Joker and then Poison Ivy sets up a love triangle of sorts-- as well as the instrumental voices evoking chimes and harpsichord. The 60s TV show has always been my favorite screen interpretation of Batman, and the stylistic elements I'd absorbed so far lent themselves well to scoring in a mysterious, pseudo-psychedelic pop style. Morricone, Link Wray, "Meddle"-era Pink Floyd, "Future Days"-era Can, and "Pet Sounds"-era Beach Boys served as inspirations.

Once I'd accepted the mission, melodic passages bubbled up in my brain while I rode around on my bike. I pulled over occasionally to hum fragments into my phone's memo app.



We open on Poison Ivy (Helena Steele, above) working her botanical mojo to a repetitive Rhodes arpeggiation. (Or rather, the simulation thereof; to be clear, this composition was achieved using 100% virtual instrumentation.) Some crotales accents ding in the background-- as it turns out, I used these same elements in director Enke's Enke Films logo animation (directly preceding the opening of the film) a few years back. "It must be the sound you hear every time you see me", he joked when I pointed that out.



Bass and drums kick in eventually as well, and an electric guitar sneaks in as a rougher-textured harbinger of Harley Quinn (Aradia Tombes, above)-- who, it turns out, Ivy's thinking about right now. At 1:15 we see Harley for the first time. The guitar switches from chordal backup to a lead voice, carving a jagged theme that evokes a sinister circus to reference her association with the Joker. An accordion takes over the chordal lines here, for an ersatz/ anachronistic link to the Commedia dell'arte tradition conjured by Harley Quinn's name (a pun on "harlequin").

At 1:51 The Joker (Mr. J, below) makes his first appearance; I acknowledged him with an ominous, fuzzy synth line that occupies the same the same chord structure as Harley Quinn's theme as if competing for her attention.



From 2:34 to 3:15 we see Ivy and Quinn nervous and giddy about getting together, as well as Ivy finalizing and setting out with her plant to give to Harley. I felt like a transitional theme made sense to herald their impending union. Then at 3:15 I brought back Joker and Quinn's themes simultaneously-- easy, since they're both set to the same chord progression-- given that while we see Harley doing her thing, we also see Ivy in the foreground troubled by Quinn's involvement with the Joker, who appears again at 3:43.

At 3:48, noticing Ivy's chagrin/ jealousy, Harley moves over to sit with Poison Ivy. I chose this point to move into the final theme that accompanied the two women getting together. The previous section's Joker synth hangs over the top of this new theme for a bit of a dissonant transition, which I left unpolished to highlight the break Quinn is making with Joker.



The rest of the score develops the arrangement of this final theme until Ivy and Harley's climactic embrace at the end of the film. Ivy's celeste and Harley's guitar dance around each other until they finally join in unison at 4:54, when Quinn answers the door to receive Ivy's gift. Enke asked for a pause at 5:00, to build suspense as we wait to see if Harley accepts the gift or not; when she does at 5:06, the music starts up again and concludes the score. The credits are accompanied by various solo instrument lines from the piece, flipped around backwards and dipped in a bit of reverb.

Thanks again to producer/ director Ben Enke, co-DP Steven Hoff, and performers Helena Steele (Poison Ivy + writer), Aradia Tombes (Harley Quinn), and Mr. J (The Joker) for inviting me to collaborate on this project.

The soundtrack for "Breathless" is available as a download from Bandcamp, here. Listen for free; throw me a couple bucks if you like it.



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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

"Infestation" : Upcoming Festival Screenings




"Infestation", a short animation by Cable Hardin featuring my sound design, has earned two upcoming festival screenings:

Square Lake Music & Film Festival (Stillwater, MN), August 20th, 2016

Manlleu Short Film Festival
(Manlleu, Spain), November



Stay tuned for more festival updates!

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

"We Need To Talk About Your Wingspan": What Jen's Been Saying In Her Sleep, July 2016



This entry features quite possibly the most surreal thing Jen has ever said to me, asleep or awake. Also the second consecutive month to feature the mention of a blender, just to put that out there.

"Are you still doing all of the regular things?"

Jen: "You're like Mr. Fix It." *
Me: "Really? Why's that?"
Jen: "I'm not sure why this or that question is asked of me."

"Is this where you were living?"

Jen: "We need to talk about your wingspan... none of the facts are accurate."
Me: "What exactly is it about my... wingspan that we need to discuss?"
Jen: "I'd rather not get into it. You're making this harder than it has to be."

"You put your smoothie in a blender. You have to press a button to make the smoothie go."

Jen: "Lots of different stuff."
Me: "Like what stuff?"
Jen: "That's not your problem."

"Are we still going this way?"

* Quite possibly the most surreal thing she's ever said to me, asleep or awake.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

"Personal Space" and "Clean Cut" On CBS 3 Night At The Movies




Two award winning short films directed by Andrew Hunt that I've had the privilege of working on-- Personal Space (sound edit/ mix) and Clean Cut (original score/ sound edit/ mix)-- will air on Duluhth's CBS3 soon, starting tonight! The promo below features footage from both.



Schedule of air times:

Personal Space airs on July 19th & July 26th @ 10pm.

Clean Cut airs on July 21st & 28th @ 10pm.



If you're in the Duluth area, tune in if you get the chance. Enjoy!

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Bosque Macabro!




It appears that the feature anthology horror film "Solitude", for which I provided sound edit and mix a couple of years ago, has appeared in its first foreign language dub (thanks to the M&E I also provided). It's still not available anywhere in English, but ladies and gentlemen-- at least those of you who speak Portugese-- give it up for "Bosque Macabro"!

The title translates as "Macabre Forest"; it's my understanding that titles like "Ghoulish Grove" are floating around as well. The art for the back cover of the DVD (pictured above) contains two photos (upper and lower right) which, as far as I'm aware, have nothing to do with the film.



The Portugese actors all sound about 10 years older than their English-speaking counterparts, and the male characters have all been dubbed in deep, authoritative voices. I know this from witnessing one of the many pirated uploads the filmmakers are currently swatting down. But I certainly don't endorse this mode of viewing; legitimate DVD purchase is of course recommended for those who wish to experience the film in its true Portugese incarnation.

More info on "Solitude"

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

25 Bootleg DVD Covers That Could Not Give a Single F*ck




Some amazing mistranslated bootleg covers over at dorkly.com.

"Bruce found a basement under his villa, in which the equipments turned him into another person: Spiderman."

"But this time he has shoes!"

Beautiful stuff.

Mike Hallenbeck home page + contact

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"Twin Cities" Trailer


"Twin Cities" is a forthcoming feature film directed by Dave Ash, a psychological drama starring a wide range of talented Minnesota actors (it shares two cast members with the Coen Brothers' "A Serious Man", as it happens). I've been pleased to provide sound design for the film, as well as for the trailer below:



I'll post more info on "Twin Cities" as it makes its way out into the world.

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Recent Viewing: July 2016




Diary of a Teenage Girl: quite simply, one of the best movies I've seen for a long time. NSFW, and not for the kids, but a terrific film.



Pulgasari: The North Korean kaiju film no one realized they needed to see, because they didn't. Unless they're like me and Jen, in which case they definitely did.



The Dead: Directed by a dying John Huston and starring his daughter Anjelica, this adaptation of the final story in James Joyce's "Dubliners" collection creeps up on you, but oh man does it deliver. Had me in tears by the end. Thanks to Pat Harrigan for showing this, as well as "Joyce's Women", on Bloomsday 2016.

The Black Stallion: I've heard this mentioned as a sound design classic many times, so I finally decided to check it out. Some great work from Alan Splet, best known for his atmospheres in David Lynch films like "Eraserhead". The material tends much more toward the "concrete", but the film is light on dialog and much of the story is told through sound. A real treat. For me, anyway.

Love and Mercy: The soundscape assembled by Atticus Ross, making heavy use of Beach Boys reels, is masterfully assembled. But what I really love about this movie is the decision to use two completely different actors to portray two completely different points in Brian Wilson's life, with no attempt to make them look like each other. A theatrical approach used to great cinematic effect.

More stuff I've watched recently, and would recommend for various reasons:

Tangerine
Lost in the Sun
Better Call Saul Season 1
Nightcrawler
U-571
Black Mass
Our Brand Is Crisis
Finding Dory
Wild
D-Train
Unfriended

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