The 2022-2023 season was a great time to be a Netflix subscriber. The return of favorites like ‘Stranger Things’ has shattered viewership records for the streaming giant, while new projects like ‘Wednesday’ and ‘Beef’ have shown that audiences are ready to embrace the company’s next big hit.
At IndieWire’s Consider This Event in Los Angeles on Saturday, post-production artists from some of Netflix’s biggest shows gathered to discuss the craftsmanship that goes into making our favorite television. The panel, moderated by IndieWire’s Jim Hemphill, featured Stranger Things mixer/supervising sound editor Craig Henighan, “Beef” editor Laura Zempel and composer Bobby Krlic, and “Wednesday” composer Danny Elfman, by co-composer Chris Bacon, and music supervisor Jen Malone.
In the penultimate season of “Stranger Things,” the Duffer Brothers’ sci-fi blockbuster has gone darker than ever. The feature-length episodes saw the residents of Hawkins plumbing the depths of their trauma to confront Vecna, preparing for a thrilling conclusion when the series returns for its final season.
Henighan spoke of the need to “make sure the scale of sound matches the scale of what we’re seeing emotionally and story-wise.” She made the cries of babies to create monster sounds and used insect sounds to be the sound of flickering lights. “A lot of it is trial and error,” Henighan said. “If it’s like lights flickering, it’s about pushing the key or frequency of the sound to see if there’s a way to make it creepier.”
How you use music to create character was especially important for “Beef” and “Wednesday.”
In “Beef,” starring Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, Netflix has teamed up with A24 and creator Lee Sung Jin to tell a twisty tale of road rage gone very wrong. “There’s a lot of broad comedy, there’s deep emotion and a lot of anxiety,” said Zempel. “The most important thing is that the characters feel real: they go completely off the rails, but you have to understand where they come from. Luckily, we got a batch of music from Bobby before we started cutting.
For Krlic it was about finding motifs that fit each character. Yeun’s character Danny has a much more jagged musical accompaniment. “Danny, from the very first frame of the show, there’s all this tension all this anxiety,” Krlic said. “With Amy, her life was much more about the facade of things, so we had softer things: glockenspiel and felt piano.”
With ‘Wednesday,’ Tim Burton made his television debut for a clever update of ‘The Addams Family,’ starring Jenna Ortega in an all-star turn as the pigtailed teenager. Music supervisor Jen Malone’s choice of The Cramps’ “Goo Goo Muck” for the title character’s now-iconic dance in Episode 4 is already considered one of the greatest needle drops of all time.
“I’ve been a Cramps fan forever and when we started our Spotify playlist ‘Goo Goo Muck’ it was in the top five songs we put there,” said Malone. “It immediately came to me why I would say their entire catalog is this psychopathic, gothic, dark thing that lends itself to a dance. And everyone else loved it when we launched it. So it was an easy liquidation process, which is always nice when that happens. And when it was cut together, I couldn’t believe it, it was amazing. I don’t want to say it was easy, but…it was easy.”
“Wednesday” co-composer Chris Bacon spoke about how they worked to “synchronize the score with the songs” and wanted to “put a little more of a gothic horror edge” on this vision of the Addams Family.
And, of course, he was working with the legendary Danny Elfman, a longtime Burton collaborator, to create one-of-a-kind cues. “Chris and I share responsibilities, but our experiences are completely different,” Elfman said. “He’s already worked with the showrunners and I’ve just worked with Tim. I was kept in an isolation tank. He treated it like a Tim Burton movie, which means, ‘You don’t talk to anyone but me.’”
What’s especially interesting is that Burton wanted to incorporate the iconic ’60s Addams Family snap at key moments.
“Tim said in ‘Batman,’ ‘I don’t want any musical references to the TV show,'” Elfman said. “But here it was like, can we relate to that. I don’t want to exaggerate. He thought it was so important that the Batman movie didn’t reference this crazy stupid TV show. But I think having both grown up with ‘The Addams Family’, we wanted to go in there a little bit.”