Janice Ierulli & Mark Shnuriwsky: The Sound Of Wynonna Earp

DGC Ontario Production (Post) Wynonna Earp is a supernatural western with a cult following, heading into its fourth season. We talked with JAM Post founders and DGC Ontario Supervising Sound Editors Mark Shnuriwsky and Janice Ierulli about the sound of Wynonna Earp and their ongoing 20-year creative collaboration.

How would you describe the “sound” of Wynonna Earp?

Wynonna Earp is a show that incorporates many supernatural elements but is set in a present day western small town and surrounding hills/forests. So the sound is quite diverse. Most of the episodes were shot in the winter so we use sounds that support the landscapes we see. Lonely winds, distant coyotes, occasional solitary bird calls, crows and jays which I find have a haunting sound. Even though Wynonna has her family and friends around her, being the Earp Heir is a lonely job and the sound should support that. The Earp homestead is far out of town with little around but hills and trees so it makes sense to make the overall soundscape lonely and stark. But whenever the supernatural occurs sound takes on an even bigger role. It becomes less of a supporting player and more of a driving force. From revenants to demons and vampires, the sound is demonic and horrific. For Wynonna’s gun (peacemaker) and other weapons and abilities our heros have the sound is heroic in nature, larger than life.

From the dialogue and ADR side, many challenges are presented. We strive to rely as much as possible on production audio so as to preserve the authentic performances recorded on the day and keep ADR to a minimum. However, ADR is sometimes unavoidable due to the weather conditions of filming the exteriors — the windswept foothills of Alberta in the winter. Our entire cast is extremely skilled in the art of ADR and always willing to do what is needed.

What is the most satisfying part of editing a show like Wynonna Earp?

Our producers are constantly dreaming up new supernatural elements and events in the show. The outstanding VFX department gives those ideas visual life. Finding the never before heard sound for those never before seen visuals is the most satisfying part for Mark.

On the dialogue side, we dig deep into outtakes to try to repair as many technical issues as possible that would otherwise require ADR. It is incredibly rewarding when we have been able to successfully repair a word, a line or a scene thereby removing the need for ADR. When the only option is to shoot ADR, the commitment and willingness from the entire cast inspires us to always do our very best. They are always willing to give one more take and/or try anything to enhance the show and take it to the next level.

Where do you turn for inspiration when you need to get the creative juices flowing?

I turn to my sound library and audio processing software. Sound effects editing and design is mostly listening to and finding the right sound. When I need to design something new I listen to sounds that I have recorded or designed in the past, or sounds from libraries I may have purchased. Listening to sound always gives me ideas for new sound creations, either by combining different sounds together or by twisting and processing an old sound into something new. I love using technology to manipulate sound, any time I use an audio plugin to manipulate sound I end up losing myself in the creative process, it is a great source of inspiration.

We are always inspired by what the cast is willing to endure during filming (often in harsh, windy and extremely cold conditions) to make the show the best it can be. As well, the key creatives behind the show, always inspire us to do our best work.

You have worked on productions like FlashpointSpliceHannibalFrankie Drake together, can you speak more of your ongoing creative collaboration?

We’ve known each other and have worked together for over 20 years and based on a shared vision and desire to uphold high standards for the sound on all the shows we work on, of that, JAM Post was born.

There is no better opportunity for both dialogue/ADR and Sound Effects to come together as we do for Wynonna Earp. We frequently record our actors screaming, whispering and breathing then combine those sounds with creature sounds providing us with a good foundation of sound design. We also redo many performances in ADR so that we can have complete flexibility to take those ultra-clean recordings and create the unique voices for our demon characters.

Recently fans of the show rallied to #FightforWynonna for a 4th season, what makes Wynonna Earp so special?

It’s hard to pinpoint one or two things that make this show so special to its fans, but I think a large part of it is the connection the fans feel to the characters in the show.

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