Sound Bites

Capture Great Sound with the Sound Team of ‘The Bear’Sound & Music

Learn how 'The Bear' uses sound to raise the stakes with audio chefs Scott Smith, Evan Benjamin, and Steve "Major" Giammaria

How ironic is it that at one point in this interview, I forgot to unmute? 

It was after only the first question. In an effort to mask my dog’s plaintive whines, I killed my mic, only to forget and then have to apologize to three of TV’s most talented sound guys—Scott Smith, Evan Benjamin, and Steve “Major” Giammaria.

“We don’t mind dog barks,” Benjamin said. “That’s part of the fun.”

This trio makes up the incredible sound team on The Bear, acting as the production mixer, dialogue editor, and supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer, respectively. All of them, by the way, are Emmy winners for Season 1.

We had a chance to get on Zoom with them and discuss their stellar work on Season 2, which saw the world expand beyond the titular kitchen into Michelin-star establishments and homes across not only Chicago, but Europe too. In a series that plays with almost-constant chaos (and plenty of crosstalk), they are able to help form the sonic tapestry into gut-wrenchingly beautiful moments.

How are they capturing sound on set? What’s their best advice for beginners? They tell us.

Enjoy.

No Film School: I love The Bear. I’d love to know what is most exciting about working on this show.

Scott Smith: Oh boy. Well, it’s an interesting challenge. Every day is different and unpredictable, to say the least. The scripts are basically kind of just a guideline. It’s kind of a starting place. And what actually happens is usually very different. 

So the challenge for us is just to try and figure out what really is going to happen instead of what it says on paper. And that always makes the day interesting. We might look at a scene that’s five pages and all of a sudden turns into literally a half hour take. So it definitely gets interesting and you just have to try and anticipate what’s going to happen as best as you can. And Major and Evan get to be the recipient of all chaos. I can guarantee you that what you see on the screen is pretty much what’s going on behind the scenes, as well.

Evan Benjamin: I guess what I like about it is that you’re doing, it runs the gamut of sort of human emotion and of intensity level, which provides different for what I do, which is to take the work Scott gives me and sort that into something that Major can then mix efficiently and quickly and with minimal slowdowns for technical issues or having to deal with certain things. There’s a lot of stuff I try to make as just sort of smooth as possible. So I just like that runs the gamut from this level of crazy crosstalk that they’re famous for, which is extremely challenging to deal with from my standpoint.

And then having some of these really beautiful quiet moments, which I think that’s what the whole series depends on to some degree in my just belief that you can’t have the intensity without having the quiet moments to play off of, and that you have to means they have to make those things really sound special and sort of emotional and quiet and the other way. Just those things are emotional and intense. So I love that the back and forth and also just, it’s fun to work on something where everyone is operating at such a high level. I think that’s really fun for me.

Major Giammaria: For me, it’s the showrunners and creatives and the picture department. Everybody is working with sound in mind. You can’t just wedge in creative sound-driven scenes in post after picture’s locked, so they’re thinking of it from the ground floor.

Chris [Storer] has such a clear vision in terms of ratcheting up the tension and what sound can do to make things stressful. But what I like, you get the most delicate things. You get somebody tweezing a leaf on a thing and a really quiet moment, and then you get cars driving through houses and all of that sort of thing. And Richie singing along to Taylor Swift and jumping his car. 

There’s just so many different things, especially in Season 2 when everybody goes out on their side quests. You have kind of sonically we’re thinking about, “Okay, this is Marcus’s story over in Copenhagen. What does that sound like? We check in on The Beef via phone and we can reset ourselves into that world and it makes it, the contrast makes it even more, even more impactful how quiet and tranquil Marcus’ side is.

Read full interview

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