‘Basterd’ Sounds: Wylie Stateman and Harry Cohen

September-October 2009 : Volume 30, Number 5

From hyper-real audio effects to vintage-sounding equipment, the sound in a Quentin Tarantino film is always distinctive.  And from his Kill Bill: Vol. 1 in 2003 up to the current Inglourious Bast-erds, it has been the handiwork of supervising sound editor Wylie Stateman and sound designer Harry Cohen, MPSE, both of whom relish the experience of working with the director.

“Quentin is one of the most stylistically unique filmmakers of our generation,” says Stateman.  “He is an auteur-type filmmaker––meaning he’s a writer, director, producer and truly a visionary type.”

Part of Tarantino’s distinct style, says Stateman, is his relationship with his long-time editor, Sally Menke, A.C.E.  “Sally has been a consistent part of Quentin’s method over the years, helping to explore his intentions as a storyteller,” he says.  Cohen agrees, observing that he and Stateman are part of that process.  “We figure out what works for Quentin and Sally and their process,” he adds.

That process is just a little bit different from the way many other films are done, according to Cohen.  “We do as much of the work as we can upfront and try to get it to them so they can put it in the Avid and get comfortable with specific creative ideas,” he says.  “This is an ideal way to start the dialogue between the filmmakers and sound.”  As in any relationship with a director, it’s also about learning his or her personal preferences.  Over the years, Stateman and Cohen certainly have learned Tarantino’s.  “For instance, when Quentin wants something big, he isn’t necessarily talking about low end,” says Cohen.  “He likes a wide dynamic range…”

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