‘Mr Wiggles’ – the sound process of a short film

June 7, 2013

Type in Mr Wiggles to Google and what do you get? A load of entries for the rap artist Mr Wiggles. However the penultimate entry on page one of Google – last time I looked – refers to another Mr Wiggles. This is far more interesting – to me at any rate.

Mr Wiggles is a Swindon-based short film, written and directed by Steve Ware and co-directed by Steph Palmer. In late 2011 Steve asked me if I’d be able to spare some time over a couple of weekends to record the location sound for the film and to act as sound supervisor on the project. As with all ‘no/lo-budget’ projects I was naturally skeptical, so I asked Steve for a draft script so I could read what it was all about. First read and I was hooked by this powerful family drama and simply had to be involved.


I went to recce the location with Steve and Steph a month or so before filming so I could get my bearings on the situation – this being a large run-down farmhouse on the side of an A-road and an accompanying large barn, open at the sides. My immediate impression was the sound of the road nearby. As a sound recordist I’m always thinking about the final product when making decisions on sound. Thinking about what I can get away with in terms of dialogue and how I can perhaps ‘cover’ up the sound of passing traffic if need be, especially for the exterior barn shots. Lot’s of close-up shots come in handy here, where I can get the boom in a close as possible to maximise the signal (dialogue) to noise (passing traffic) ratio.

During the recce I made some atmos and room tone recordings which I could later use in the film. I also recorded the sounds of the farm animals as I expected to be using some of these during the post production process. After all, the sound of a snorting pig pitched down can be quite dramatic!! I also ended up banging and hitting various farm implements, including a large rusty spring on the back of a grass cutter, which was later pitched and used in the trailer for effect.


Main shooting of the film took place over two consecutive weekends in November 2011. The first weekend turned out to be very cold with near or sub-zero temperatures for most of the time due to to a constant wind entering the open side of the barn we were filming in. Lots of layers, hats, balaclavas, scarves and gloves were required, as well as plenty of hot drinks! As sound recordist I was ably assisted on boom by Samantha and 2nd sound assistant, Shannon to record notes for each take. We were lucky to have such a comprehensive crew on this film, whose unyielding efforts really contributed to the quality of the final product.


The second weekend’s shooting was a little easier as many more of the shots were in the house so less effected by traffic noise and a lot warmer too!

Following a very intense but ultimately successful shoot we were now into post production. Initially I had offered to compose the music for the film, as well as doing the sound design, edit and mix. This initially seemed like a good idea and my first composition was some original music for a music box which is featured heavily in the film. Steve was keen that we have an original score for this which I duly delivered. The main music score was a different proposition and I was feeling under pressure to deliver as well as keeping my regular paying clients happy. Fortunately around this time I was introduced to composer Michelle Eaton through a mutual friend. I was immediately impressed by her compositions and asked if she might like to get involved in the film. She said yes! I’d been messing about with a couple of ideas, which basically consisted of a series of nine notes!! A catchy riff but very far from a proper film score. I played these to Michelle and a week later she had transformed my initial idea into something wonderful and immediately engaging. A few tweaks later and we had a main score for the film. From this Michelle composed a series of moods to go with the unfolding of the film.

The last music track in the film was written and performed by Daniella Faircloth and Matthew Mordak. I recorded and mixed the music at Dreambase Studios and a music video was later created for the song at the film’s location.


At this time the picture edit was more or less complete so I was editing/processing the dialogue and adding fx and atmospheres to the soundtrack. I’d already completed a short teaser trailer for the film with some temp music, which was later changed using Michelle’s score. Michelle’s music was the last element to be laid up to the main project and this is pretty usual for most films. Ideally the composer would be bought onto a project at pre-production stage but logistically this doesn’t always happen. The music was track-layed using Michelle’s notes and with some further editing and mixing we were approaching a theatrical mix which could be played back in the local multiplex for the premiere. We had a couple of evening sessions at the studio with the core team to go through the soundtrack and get approval before it was mastered out and married with the graded picture, ready for the first showing. When the crew actually have tears in their eyes in the studio you know you’ve done a god job; emotions were running high – in a good way!!

Next event was the screening in the local multiplex cinema. I had mixed the film knowing it was going to be re-played in this environment so was pretty confident everything would be played back at the right level and all the dialogue would be understood. The sold-out charity premiere was a superb night and marked the end of the first stage of the film’s progress.


Mr Wiggles has so far been shown on the festival circuit in Asia and is currently showing in America.  I wish it all the very best, especially given the hard work, commitment and attention to detail from everyone involved.

You can keep updated on Mr Wiggles via the Facebook page here.

Mr Wiggles is about the imaginative distraction we all desperately desire from reality. The film takes the lives of two young children’s desperate escape, into a world created for protection. But for Amber and Nathan, it’s only a matter of time before reality, catches up.


2 Responses to “‘Mr Wiggles’ – the sound process of a short film”

  1. This is a very interesting article. As a young filmmaker sound is what frightens me the most. You can get away with poor quality pictures but bad sound is unforgiven…

    • huddsounds Says:

      Thanks Giuseppe, I’m glad it was of use to you. I cannot disagree with your assertion regarding sound and picture. Sound is often misunderstood, especially by new film-makers. But it is sound that provides the emotion to the pictures – this is why it’s so important that it’s recorded, designed and mixed with attention to both creative and technical details, no matter what the budget.

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