The DGC Ontario Production 8-Bit Christmas recently dropped on HBO Max just in time for the holiday season. 8-Bit Christmas, helmed by Canadian Director Michael Dowse (Stuber, Goon, What If), tells the story of Jake, played by Winslow Fegley as a preteen and Neil Patrick Harris as an adult. In present-day, adult Jake tells the epic story of how, in 1980’s Chicago, he and his friends went on a quest to acquire the generation’s greatest Christmas gift: a Nintendo Entertainment System.
Tell us how you became involved with the production.
Adam Stein: I became involved with the production through Nelson Ferreira at Sound Dogs Toronto.
Claudia Pinto: Nelson Ferreira asked if I’d like to help out on this production and I was sold as soon as he said “Christmas”. I’ve always enjoyed working on holiday movies so I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work on 8-Bit Christmas. It’s not only a great film but we also all had an absolute blast working on it, so I’m excited for everyone to hopefully have a chance to watch it this holiday season.
8-Bit Christmas is set in suburban Chicago in the late 80s, as one teen boy goes on a quest to acquire a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. How did you make sure the film sounded like this specific period in time?
AS: Michael Dowse, our Director, wanted to be immersed in the sounds of suburban and urban Chicago; the L-Trains of Damen Avenue, the busy street corners of Randolph and Madison, the back alleys of the West side, and the bucket drummers of State Street. There were “Platoon” like war sequences, laser-covered reveals, and of course, there was the Nintendo Entertainment System. That was probably the most fun aspect of the sound for me. It’s funny how quickly you’re taken back to a certain period in your life when you’re immersed in something you did so often within that time. The sounds of the old Nintendo and Midway Games really provoked that. The gameplay and visuals are forever timeless and iconic, but there’s something about the 8-bit sounds that teleport you back. Using the NES and an Elgato system to pull the sounds from the games, pretending like I was actually working, was a pretty cool process.
CP: My role on this film was to create background ambiences that would not only fit the mood of the scene but also the era. In order to craft background ambiences to fit a specific era, you have to consider things like the type of cars people drove around that time, or what type of technology was available in the 80s; even the smallest details make the biggest difference in authenticity.
Along with being a nostalgic look at the 80s, this is also a holiday film. What can you tell us about what goes into sound editing for this specific genre of film?
CP: While there are always things I associate with winter holiday films such as whistling winds, cars driving by in the snow, or even jingle bells from mall Santas, everything needs to take the scene and story into account. There’s a time and place for every sound element and no one size fits all. The most important question I ask myself whenever I edit backgrounds is how can I support the story here?
AS: In a comedic genre film like this one, our job on the FX side of things is to let the dialogue and music tell the story. We don’t want to step on any jokes or interrupt any flow or cadence. There are obvious moments of grand explosions and chases. However, FX has to wait for their moment, not bump themselves in all the time.
What was your collaborative process like with the rest of the Sound Editing and Post Production team?
CP: The whole team was absolutely top-notch phenomenal. Adam Stein was the incredibly talented Supervising Sound Effects Editor/Designer for this project. Together, we worked to plan out how to make these ambiences sound as dynamic as possible and effectively bring the story to life. Most of that collaboration took place on the phone to discuss new ideas or any notes that background ambiences would need to incorporate. Overall, everyone was on top of communication so it was a smooth process when it came to working remotely.
AS: It was pretty much an open-door policy when it came to ideas and creation. Having worked with almost every part of this team in the past, it made the process that much smoother. Eve Correa-Guedes, Rose Gregoris, Claudia Pinto, Randy Wilson, Justin Helle, Delphine Measroch, Phil Stilman, Mark Zsifkovits, Gavin Fernandes, Lee Armstrong, Harrison Perez, and Trevor Ambrose really made this film what it was from the post side of things. Mark Dejczak, our other Supervising Sound Editor, would attest to the fact that, after being separated from the mix process for almost 2 years because of the pandemic, when you’re immersed into temp mixes and several weeks of a final mix with your friends and colleagues again, you are revitalized and even more inspired.
What is your favourite thing about working in Toronto/Ontario?
CP: My favourite thing about working in Toronto is definitely the diversity of talent we have. Talented crew from all around the world come to work here in the city. With them, they bring their amazing, beautiful, creative ideas to the table, which makes collaborating with new people so exciting.
AS: Aside from my colleagues, friends, and working with some of the best professionals in the business, I would have to say the food. The pandemic hit this city’s restaurant industry hard. Having restaurants open again makes walks at lunch that much better, and makes those long nights in dark rooms ordering in food, whether alone or together, that much better.