by Richard Lightstone CAS AMPS
Marvel’s live-action Spider-Man films have grossed more than $6.3 billion to date at the global box office. The most current iteration, Spider-Man: No Way Home, is to be released on December 17, and the fan anticipation is as strong as ever. The teaser trailer alone had a record 355.5 million views in its first day!
Willie Burton CAS and Local 695 Boom Operator Adam Mohundro traveled to Fayetteville, Georgia, and the Trilith Studios to begin the film in November of 2020, wrapping at the end of March this year.
The first thing Willie encountered was that he and his crew did not get a script, as Marvel is extremely sensitive about any plot leaks.
“You don’t know what to expect, and so in prepping for the show, you take everything. You can’t leave anything out because you have to be ready for whatever they want.” Willie continues, “You don’t even know what’s going to happen until you get a call sheet. But you can’t read the script and prepare. They did give me sides, because they know that I have to follow the cues. They gave sides to my boom and utility person, but they blacked out most of the words. Anything that they thought might be plot information in the dialog was blacked out, so they had to look at my sides.”
Willie upgraded his package to a Zaxcom Deva 24 and the Mix 16 to be prepared for the additional tracks he would need. The majority of the show was shot on the sound stages and the backlot of Trilith Studios, where they had New York street sets. Willie’s key microphones are the Schoeps CMIT 5U and the Sennheiser MKH50.
“I love the MKH50 when the shots are not real wide,” says Willie. “In our ‘New York City’ portion, we’re able to boom a lot. Picture Editorial requested that we use the boom whenever we could because they wanted a good mix track. We had the wireless tracks, but they liked the mix track better with the boom. They said, ‘The more you can, use the boom. So I decided to just go with the boom. I’m old school-new school, so I always like to use the boom first.’”
This was the first time Willie worked with Director John Watts, whom he liked a lot and found him to be easy to work with. “My team worked hard and did what we needed to do. John wanted playback all the time of different sound effects, so we had to be ready. But he’s great, and we really had a great time with him.
“One day, John calls me over and says, ‘You want to be an actor today? Do you want to play a part?’ I said sure, ‘Okay, dress Willie up.’ So, I went to makeup and wardrobe and a little hair touch up. I played the nosy next-door neighbor. They gave me these grocery bags, you know, just like in New York. I’m coming in, walking down the hallway, and I hear this noise and I’m just trying to see what’s going on. The door was half-cracked open, and so I’m peeping in the door and say, ‘What’s going on in there?’ If it’s not cut out, I’m the nosy next-door neighbor!”
Willie’s walk-on became even bigger when the Post Supervisor called him to do some additional lines in ADR. He went to Disney Studios and was very pleased to have ADR legend Doc Kane recording his five additional lines.
When Tom Holland, who plays Spider-Man, was in his suit, Willie wired him with a Lectrosonics SSM. The costumers found the perfect place to put the microphone and transmitter.
Willie explains, “The Costume Department was so incredible. They were really good. We liked them so much, they assisted us with putting the mics on the costumes. At the end of the show, we gave all of the on-set costumers gift certificates. We really appreciated the work they did. They saved us because they wanted some of the actors to be wired before they come to the set. Some of the other actors would be wired on set, but between both combinations the Costume Department really worked with us, I can’t thank them enough.”
There was quit a lot of green screen and blue screen scenes, especially for Spider-Man flying through the air, as well as a great deal of stunt work and lots of camera cranes. Many of the setups had scenes with the actors running on scaffolding. Willie and crew faced a problem with the decking resonating against the scaffold rails. He ingeniously had the top of the rails layered with gaffer’s tape and voila, the distracting noise was eliminated.
The film was under strict COVID protocols. Willie continues, “The COVID compliance people were very professional, and of course, we had to wear masks all day. We tried to keep our distance from each other. Myself and the Video Playback person kept four or five feet apart, and we did everything that was required. Adam, the Boom Operator, and the local Atlanta utility also wore face shields when wiring the actors or when working on set. They tested three times a week, and I only needed to be tested twice weekly. Fortunately for us, it wasn’t too hot most of the time. The weather was pretty nice.”
Willie wraps up his experience on the show. “It was a great crew. We had a good time, we worked hard, and I think it’s going to be an incredible movie. I really like what we did.”