PopMark Media’s November “Confessions of a Small Working Studio”: The Sound of 'Lovely Molly'

Nov 7, 2011 6:37 PM, By Lisa Horan

As the process continued, it was clear that the sound was laying the groundwork for the film's psychological undertones. One important piece of this puzzle was the subtle, but powerful, atmospheric sounds, much of which were captured at the Hagerstown house. While there, the team not only performed location Foley, but also sound-stripping, a process by which they combed the location for all the sound to collect the personality of the environment. Some of these recordings included door hinges, creaky floors and squeaky beds, which actually appear in the film and happen to belong to the woman who owns the house.

“It was during this phase that we really started delving into the psychology of the film," says Davies. "We were conscious of all of the things that would put the characters—and, as a result, the audience—on edge, and we knew that if incorporated properly, the creaking and the settling of the floors, scratches and bumps, and different tones could make a big impact."

Adds Hills, "There were sounds that we captured that would make an audience member wonder if it was mice they were hearing running behind the walls or if it was actually the demon lurking nearby and taunting the characters.”

In addition, sound was used to create a sense of place and capture how the creature would sound when it would move throughout the house, if it was visible. “In the majority of modern thriller-type films, the audience gets to see the creature full-length," says Davies. "There aren’t many films anymore that allow the audience to fill in the shadows with their own imagination, which can sometimes be scarier than what you can physically see."

Says Hill, “We wanted to play on that and on the idea that the audience would constantly be trying to figure out what this thing was, where it would pop up next and give them a perspective of how it would feel to be sitting in a room alongside a character and experience the ‘thing’ coming up the stairs and sneaking up on them."

A meeting with Sanchez and the film’s producer, Andy Jenkins, enabled the team to dig even deeper into the film’s psychology. It was during that meeting that the discussion turned to Molly’s deceased father, his back story behaviors and the fact that he was not such a great guy. This discovery gave the team information they needed to depict what the father would have done and sounded like in the house as a living human. They first determined if he would be humming, talking or whistling, and then worked toward combining this characteristic with an element within the house. Artifacts that the team uncovered while walking through the house revealed Irish roots, and they wanted to weave some element of this nationality into the father’s ghost. Hill began searching for music that could represent this finding and hit the jackpot.

“I found an old Celtic song called 'Molly, Lovely Molly,' and when I started listening to it, it gave me chills,” says Hill. “I really felt it could be a winning addition.” While the song tells the sweet story about falling in love with a girl named Molly, it took on an entirely different meaning when the “ghost” father character began singing it to Molly.

“When we first incorporated the tune, we buried it a bit and didn’t use all of the lyrics,” recalls Davies, “but as we kept working, we felt like there was something missing, and we decided that it would be more effective if the song was emphasized.” In the end, the incorporation of the song and the way the ghost of Molly’s father sings it to her helps create an impression that he is crazy. “The incorporation of the song became a really crucial sound element for us,” says Davies. “It wasn’t brought in until the 11th hour, but it made the whole thing come together and solidify it into a strong concept from start to finish.” In fact, the title of the movie was born from the last-minute incorporation.

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