“High Maintenance” is a simple yet profound show built on a brilliant premise: the stories of various New Yorkers play out of various stripes are brought together via a common bond, a need for weed and therefore “The Guy” who sells it, played by co-creator and star Ben Sinclair.
HBO + NUTMEG: A JOINT VENTURE
If you didn’t catch Vimeo’s breakout hit “High Maintenance,” that’s okay. Rightly so, it got picked up by HBO and became the channel’s latest smash. But it’s that Vimeo series that led to Nutmeg’s involvement on the post-production side of things. That’s because Nutmeg’s own Andrew Guastella (sound editor/re-recording mixer) was on board from the beginning, starting with the Vimeo webisodes (as a personal passion project), and then later as a full-blown Nutmeg gig for HBO.
Like many shows based in NYC, the city itself plays a starring role. But in the case of “High Maintenance,” that role is more than just the sights. It’s also the sounds. And bringing the sounds of NYC to life in an authentic and meaningful way was job number one for Guastella.
IN THE WEEDS
With HBO in the mix, Guastella was excited to work with Nutmeg Managing Director Jon Adelman and Director of Operations Lauren Boyle to bring the show in house in order to provide a full suite of post-production capabilities for the new HBO episodes and the original 19 Vimeo episodes. Guastella’s responsibilities also increased to include foley, loop group and ADR, a 5.1 mix as well as a more comprehensive approach to sound design—all of which was performed in-house at Nutmeg.
THEY ASKED. WE DELIVERED.
“The showrunners wanted the dialogue to sound good but not necessarily immaculate,” says Guastella. “They wanted the show to sound like New York.” And if you’ve ever spent any time in New York City, you know what a wonderfully noisy, yet musical city it can be. To capture that authentic sound, creativity plays a prominent role.
“We were working on an interior scene that felt a little too quiet and I suggested having the next-door neighbors start arguing,” says Guastella. “So I recreated what had happened in my apartment, where our downstairs neighbors would just yell in the middle of the night, and then start stomping around, and their dog would start barking. It was authentic.”
Like many shows based in NYC, the city itself plays a starring role. But in the case of “High Maintenance,” that role is more than just the sights. It’s also the sounds.Nutmeg
CANINES + CANNABIS
The most talked about and critically acclaimed HBO episode was told from the perspective of a dog, which unleashed all sorts of audio challenges. To meet them head-on, Guastella compiled his own library of effects by following his own dog and his father-in-law’s two dogs around with a location recorder and boom, capturing the sound of them walking indoors on tile, hardwood and carpet, and outdoors on the grass of a dog park.
“Once I had the footsteps recorded, I spotted them in and used time compression and expansion to fit them to the dog’s movements on set.” That way, he says, he was able to achieve a more realistic sound than if he had just edited in each footstep one at a time.
But working with a dog on a set demands the presence of a trainer who is often shouting orders throughout scenes. This means lots of ADR work in post. “As great as the production sound mixer was, all you hear in the original audio is the dog trainer saying, ‘Come here, sit stay, back up, don’t move.’ So, we had to record a lot of ADR and then make that ADR fit in the environment.”
NO ONE-HIT WONDER
Helping clients and partners grow from humble beginnings into full-blown success stories is an extremely gratifying part of our jobs here at Nutmeg. And thankfully for everyone involved with “High Maintenance,” HBO picked up the show for a second season, which may mean more work for Guastella and Nutmeg.