Jul 12, 2010 2:30 PM, By Blair Jackson
POST-KATRINA NEW ORLEANS GROOVES IN HBO SERIES
The acclaimed HBO Series Treme ended its 10-week first season about a month ago, but the show’s many fans are still buzzing about its eventual release on DVD (date still undetermined) and what might come next when it returns next year.
Treme (pronounced “tre-may”; it’s named after a largely black, working-class neighborhood in New Orleans, more formally known as Faubourg Tremé) is the creation of producer/writers David Simon and Eric Overmyer; they previously worked together for the past two years on Simon’s HBO show The Wire, and before that on Homicide: Life of the Street. Treme is set in New Orleans three months after Hurricane Katrina devastated that city in 2005, and it follows the struggles of a slew of interesting characters, including various local musicians, a restaurant owner, a radio DJ, a Mardi Gras “Indian” chief, a college professor, his lawyer wife and various others. The city’s great tragedy is still very much in the foreground of the story—how will these disparate (and desperate) people rebuild their lives and/or careers in the wake of Katrina?
The series is shot on location all around the Crescent City, from the French Quarter to the desolate and destroyed Ninth Ward, and as is befitting a show whose real “star” is the city itself, there is nearly wall-to-wall music in every episode, whether it’s in bars and clubs, or coming out of radios or being played by pass-the-hat musicians on the streets. Some of the lead actors were prominent on The Wire, but many others are locals; some of the “locals” aren’t actors at all but hot players hired to give the show’s many music scenes a little extra verisimilitude. There are also beaucoup musical celebrities playing themselves, including Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Trombone Shorty and Coco Robicheaux.
Simon’s projects are famous for that gritty, you-are-there realism, and this show is no exception. Like The Wire, Treme has no score; all the music is either played by the musicians on screen or is source music pulled from old New Orleans records of every era.
Capturing the sound and the vibe of the locations around town where the show is shot is paramount, which means there is a heavy reliance on production sound. A number of veterans of The Wire are involved on Treme’s sound team, including supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer Andy Kris, supervising sound editor/ADR chief Jennifer Ralston and production sound mixer Bruce Litecky (who, due to a film commitment, joined Treme after the 80-minute pilot had been shot), as well as music superivisor Blake Leyh, who is deeply involved with the live music on the show and the source tunes.
“We’ve pushed pretty heavily to make sure that the production sound is what goes in the show,” Kris comments from Sound One in New York, where he mixes the show. “There’s very little overdubbing or replacing of tracks. There is a bit of ADR, but most of it is additional lines or off-camera lines or some group ADR.” The ADR on the series was recorded in New Orleans at Larry Blake’s Swelltone Studios.
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