Wonderland Productions Finishes HBO ‘Watercooler’

Apr 16, 2004 12:00 PM, Editors

HBO recently called upon Wonderland Productions’ editorial, music, sound design and audio post services to create the mockumentary-style campaign, “Watercooler.” This HBO campaign emphasizes the cable network’s lineup of shows by showing office banter around the water cooler and “saving” the U.S. water cooler industry.

Since producer/editor/composer Bill McCullough launched Wonderland in 2001, HBO has called upon him to execute the creative vision of promo campaigns through the post-production process for such shows as Six Feet Under, Def Poetry and Angels in America.

Director Noam Murro of L.A.’s Biscuit Filmworks provided HBO Creative Services with the idea for “Watercooler.” The footage was then turned over to Wonderland, where McCullough and Joanne Belonsky used their editing skills to craft the spots. McCullough simultaneously scored the promo with composer John Wiggins (his partner in No Wonder Music).

Working with Murro’s four-minute director’s cut, Belonsky cut a 90-second spot to air on the cable network. Then McCullough edited 60- and 30-second versions. They performed their offline edits and did the online finish in Wonderland’s Avid Symphony, color correcting on the platform as needed during the offline process.

"Editing a low-key comedic performance piece like ‘Watercooler’ is a real challenge,” said Chris Spencer, senior VP of HBO Creative Services. “Obviously, if you are a beat off one way or another, the whole thing falls apart. It really takes the right kind of sensibility to get it.

“Mark and Karen always come to us with great ideas and give us plenty of room to bring our own input and creativity to a project,” said McCullough. “Working with them is always a wonderful collaborative experience."

The spot’s three distinctive parts triggered mood changes in the score. McCullough and Wiggins considered what mood and pacing would best support the footage as they scored the project. As a concept jelled, Wiggins mixed the tracks against McCullough’s rough cuts on Wonderland Sound’s Digidesign Pro Tools Mix 3 system with Focusrite Control 24 surface.

“Our shared storage system was key to a smooth workflow,” said McCullough. “John and I approach each job as a team. The music, pacing and visuals influence each other as each frame of film is married to the score. We can respond quickly as the job evolves and explore different options as the synergy between the cut and the music reveals itself.”

“Composing the track during the edit session is a totally organic process,” added Wiggins. “Bill was a musician long before he was an editor. Editing and music are both driven by rhythm and tempo, so it’s only natural that he’d find a way to fuse the two disciplines.”

Sex & The City farewell tribute,” Wiggins said. “Then we piled it on, including Karma choir sounds, to make the score sound huge for the end.”

Wiggins also was sound designer for the campaign, creating a sound bed that “enriched the feel of everything while remaining very subtle.” He added signature water cooler burbles at the start of the spot and covered visuals with sound effects such as a factory lunch bell, water-bottle caps being hammered on and the workers’ grateful applause for HBO’s contributions to their booming business. It was essential, however, that both the music and sound design “not overpower the dialog,” Wiggins said. “The jokes about Tony Soprano, Larry David and others had to be clearly heard.”

British-born editor Belonsky read the voice-over for the scratch tracks. “The client thought Joanne’s accent was the perfect complement for the piece’s subtle comedic tone, so they decided to run with it on air,” McCullough said. “It adds a Spinal Tap kind of humor to the ‘documentary’ and was a great idea.”

For more information about Wonderland Productions, visit www.wonderlandnyc.com.

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