DGC Ontario Sound Editor Nelson Ferreira On Creature-Feature Antlers

The eagerly-awaited DGC Ontario Production (Post) film Antlers, directed by Scott Cooper and produced by Guillermo del Toro and long-time Guild Member J. Miles Dale, hits theatres this Friday.

Based on a short story by writer Nick Antosca, Antlers follows small-town schoolteacher Julia (Keri Russell) and her sheriff brother Paul (Jesse Plemons), who discover one of Julia’s students (Jeremy T. Thomas) is secretly keeping a supernatural creature inside his house. 

Ahead of the theatrical premiere of Antlers, we spoke to DGC Ontario Sound Editor Nelson Ferreira about his work on the production, the role of sound in horror, what inspired the sound design of the film’s central creature, and more. 

Tell us how you became involved with this production.

Our team had worked with Producer/Director Guillermo del Toro since The Strain TV series back in 2014.  We’ve also worked with Producer J. Miles Dale on and off since the 90’s.  Both are great collaborators and supporters of our work, which culminated in The Shape of Water in 2018 and more recently, [del Toro’s upcoming film] Nightmare Alley.

Jeremy T. Thomas and Keri Russell in the film ANTLERS. Photo by Kimberley French. © 2021 20th Century Studios
Jeremy T. Thomas and Keri Russell in the film ANTLERS. Photo by Kimberley French. © 2021 20th Century Studios

How do you use sound editing to heighten suspense and scares in a horror production, especially one that features a mysterious creature?

The Picture Editor typically sets the pace and we help set the tone.  In both cases, don’t give up too much too soon.  Suspense and the art of “hiding in the weeds” is the common denominator in horror. It’s the springboard from which good scares jump.  Once it’s revealed itself, a believable and elegant-sounding creature is the payoff that follows a suspenseful set up.

A hand-drawn sketch of a scene from from the film Antlers.
ANTLERS (2021)

Antlers draws inspiration from the wendigo, a mythological creature that originates from Algonquin folklore. How did that play into designing sound for the film?

The wendigo creature has popped up in a few projects recently and it’s never portrayed the same way.  As such we take our lead from what the characters tell us about it.  In Antlers, Graham Greene’s character describes the Wendigo as an eternally starving creature, desperate and panicked.  Sound Designer Nathan Robitaille is a great researcher, and like any great Sound Designer, he found and made the best human and animal recordings from which he could draw sounds that evoked this feeling.

What was your collaborative process with the rest of the DGC Ontario sound team that worked on the film? 

Our team consisted of Sound Designer Nathan Robitaille, FX Editor Tyler Whitham, Dialogue Editor John D. Smith and myself as Sound Supervisor.  Josh Brown was our Assistant and is now a great FX Editor himself.  The project presented many challenges creatively and logistically, especially given the melding of human and animal worlds. Nathan and I have now had a few opportunities to do the “human to creature” handoff and have gotten pretty good at it. Without providing any spoilers, let’s just say that this process on Antlers was especially transformative. 

What do you love most about working in Toronto/Ontario?

Toronto has a robust industry with some great talent and as a result, draws in some really interesting projects that in turn require very extensive and creative sound work.  The Sound Editing community has blossomed in recent years with a brilliant group of young people establishing themselves in this craft, and bringing with them fresh ideas and aesthetics.  I love offering these individuals what I can in terms of experience and opportunities and in turn, I learn a lot from them in terms of working smart, enthusiastically and keeping it fun!

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