A Day in the Life of a Sound Editor: Ron Bochar of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’

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Photo Source: Amazon Studios

When it comes to a show like Amazon Studios’ “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” every tiny detail matters. From the costumes to the sets to the specific curl of Midge’s hair, nothing is unintentional—and the same is true of every single sound you hear as a viewer. Whether it’s the punchline of a joke or the distant honk of a 50s-era taxi, no noise is inconsequential. Luckily, industry vet Ron Bochar serves as the series’ sound editor (and re-recording mixer), which means the “Maisel” soundscape is in excellent hands. 

Given that “Maisel” episodes typically feature an 80-page script that needs to be condensed to 50 minutes of television, it’s crucial that every bit of dialogue is clear and audible no matter how fast it moves. With credits that include ​“Julie & Julia,​”​ “Doubt,​” ​“Goodfellas,”​ and ​“Moneyball​” (for which he was Oscar-nominated), Bochar is no stranger to large, complicated, chaotic scenes and the sound needed to make them believable—and enjoyable—to watch and listen to.
What does a sound editor do?
In post-production, after a film or TV show is shot and edited, it then moves to the work performed by sound editors who prepare the material that will ultimately be mixed together to create the soundscape of the finished film/series.
The location production sound recordings need to be worked on to clean up noises in the recordings and to select what microphone—or combination of microphones—to use [for] the mix. Some of the noises that need cleaning are lights buzzing, knocks that disrupt the sound meant to be recorded, other actors stepping on a line, etc. Some dialogue will need to be replaced by ADR or Looping, which is an actor going into a quiet studio and redoing a line [while] trying to maintain lip-sync with the picture. Sound effects will have to be assembled and edited to play in synchrony with the production: See a door, hear a door type sounds, birds, crickets, etc. Foley editors edit foley recordings, which are everything from footsteps to beard scratches that location sound didn’t pick up. And music editors edit the music, often working with the composer to figure out the ins and outs of cues before preparing the recorded score for the mix. All [this] work is done in computers these days, with the most popular software being ProTools.
Sound editors often work under a sound supervisor or sound designer as it is best to have a unified vision of what the sound of the movie should be, as well as how the overall material should find it’s way prepared for the mix. 

How did you become a sound editor? 
I started as a sound editor while working for a movie trailer editor [who] would edit the trailers and ask me to finish by getting them ready for the mix. That led to working on “Creepshow,” first as the assistant picture editor, then as one of the sound editors. From there, I became a specialist in foley editing and ultimately was hired to sound supervise edit my first feature, a movie by Alan Pakula called “Orphans.”  

I worked my way up into that position by taking all the work offered to me, starting with that trailer editor. I learned by doing, by watching others, and by making mistakes here and there—then never doing them again!

Training was on the job. I had gone to Ithaca College and graduated with a Bachelor Of Science in cinema studies back in 1978. While at college, we made many student films and often had to finish our own projects, [which required] us to edit the sound and mix. That’s probably where it all began. But the skills that got me hired and continue to get me hired have all been built while working on the job. Every project is different and every project has its own new thing to learn.

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What does a typical day look like for you while working on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”?
Post-production sound on “Mrs. Maisel” begins with a spotting session with the directors, Amy and Dan [Sherman-Palladino], where we review the picture edit and discuss sound problems, issues, wants, and dreams. [This happens] at their cutting rooms at Steiner in Brooklyn. I am both the supervising sound editor and the re-recording mixer, which means I have a crew that supplies the material to do the mix, [and I then] combine all that work into the track heard on Amazon. As a supervisor, I relay the spotting notes as well as my own ideas to the sound editors working on dialogue, ADR, foley, and sound effects, and they have about seven days to turn a show over to me.

I work between eight- and ten-hour days, depending on the day and workload. I have an idea of what Amy and Dan want in the episode based on the picture edit and the choices made while they were working on it—music levels, crowd reactions to performances, dialogue choices. The balance of all that changes when I’m mixing because we are then working on a surround sound system, not a stereo system like their cutting room, and [because] my studio is professionally tuned with a greater dynamic range.

“I worked my way up by taking all the work offered to me.”

I’m given three days to assemble and mix all the components before I show it to Dan and Amy. [This involves] blending the music, sound effects/foley, dialogue and its ADR replacements, and adding group into a soundtrack for the episode. Then Amy and Dan give the episode a listen, give notes, and leave me alone for a day to perform those notes, which at times will have us adding to the group ADR or replacing some music cues completely. Then they come back for a final mix and when they leave, we are locked with the sound of that episode.  

What advice would you give an aspiring sound editor that you wish you'd had when you were first starting? 
I wish I understood that my opinions and aesthetics are just as valid as everyone else’s in the room. That I had worth from the very start and that trusting in my aesthetic is truly the only way to proceed. You may be asked to do something sonically that you don’t agree with and yes, you have to do it or at least try it, but you should never NOT do what you feel. What you work on—be it a film or episode of TV—tells you what to do. Trust that you know what’s right. And if it’s rejected, it’s not a comment on your aesthetic. Until something says “Directed by [your name here],” you are there for the director. Hopefully, over time, directors know your aesthetic and that’s the reason you are rehired and trusted!

What are some of your favorite moments of great sound editing? Any projects you're particularly inspired by in your work? 
The entire sound of “Apocalypse Now.” Viewing and hearing that film hooked me into the power of sound and reminded me that movies are an audio-visual form of entertainment. There’s a lesson in every single scene.

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