Boardwalk Empire

Nov 11, 2011 7:18 PM, By Blair Jackson



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Currently in the midst of its second exciting season, the Prohibition-era drama Boardwalk Empire continues to draw plaudits from critics and large numbers of viewers to HBO. Set in Atlantic City in 1920-’21, the series follows the exploits of powerful but corrupt city treasurer “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi) and his interactions with organized crime figures of the day, federal agents intent on shutting down the city’s bootleggers and racketeers, and a wide range of fascinating characters, including prostitutes, politicians, cops and criminals of every stripe.

The series brilliantly captures the look and feel of its bygone era, from the Atlantic City Boardwalk to the unglamorous backrooms where deals are made (and broken) to desolate country roads where nefarious activities are perpetuated to dance halls where liquor still flows in abundance and the “Roaring ’20s” are being born.

Frank Stettner on location at Fort Tilden in the Gateway National Recreation Area in Brooklyn

Frank Stettner on location at Fort Tilden in the Gateway National Recreation Area in Brooklyn

Sound plays a vital role in conveying the world of Boardwalk Empire, with its vintage cars, telephones, Victrolas, guns and period music, which is used liberally in every episode. The series is shot around New York City—on indoor soundstages and outdoor sets in Brooklyn (mostly Steiner Studios); on location in old buildings in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island; and in more remote exterior locales on Long Island.

Frank Stettner has been the production mixer for both seasons. Audio post is done at Manhattan’s Soundtrack Studios and C5. Fred Rosenberg (dialog editor on numerous Martin Scorsese films, among others) is supervising sound editor. The mixer for the entire first season and the first five episodes of Season Two was Soundtrack’s Tom Fleischman (another Scorsese fixture and one of New York City’s top mixers since the late ’70s), but his commitment to work on Scorsese’s next feature, Hugo, prevented him from going deeper on the season so he was replaced by his extremely capable Soundtrack colleague Bob Chefalas (Sex in the City, et al). Each season comprises 12 episodes.

Scorsese is an executive producer on Boardwalk Empire, and his Emmy-winning direction of last year’s pilot set a very high standard for the show. But with executive producer/writer Terence Winter (The Sopranos) guiding the series and co-producer Steve Turner (Deadwood, Big Love) heavily involved with day-to-day workflow in both production and post, the show has remained true to Scorsese and Winter’s vision. And though the team doesn’t have the luxury of months of post time that a feature might, it has a fairly generous schedule for episodic television: 14 days of shooting for a typical 58-minute episode (vs. eight days for most 42-minute dramas on commercial television) and six days for sound editing, which includes all of the dialog editing, Foley and effects recording, and placement and integration of the music, which comprises old recordings from the period and newly recorded versions of vintage tunes. The latter are cut at producer/engineer Stewart Lerman’s studio, The Shinebox, in nearby Hoboken, N.J. Annette Kudrak is the music editor. Music supervisor Randall Poster consults with Winter, Turner and the film editor for each episode about different music possibilities.

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