Randolph Zaini uses sound to perfect comedy in “Nicky Martin: Country Superstar”
When asked what he likes about sound design, Randolph Zaini responded with “I don’t like it. I love it,” with a hard emphasis on the love. Not many people speak that way about what they do, and even fewer people who love what are outstanding at it. Randolph Zaini is one of those lucky few. His commitment to his craft combined with natural talent give him a rightful spot as one of the best, and both audiences and critics around the world know he is an exceptional sound designer.
Zaini’s creativity as a sound designer shines in the film Nicky Martin: Country Superstar. The film follows Nicky, who wants to be a country music star, but doesn’t know how to sing or play guitar. He wants to be a cowboy, but he’s afraid of all four-legged animals. After hearing about a singing contest at the County Fair, Nicky gathers his cohorts and prepares for what he believes is the chance of a lifetime. The film stars Mike Bisonnette and Kevin Vaughan, and is written and directed by Andrew Elliot. Zaini’s talents were appreciated by all he worked with.
“Randolph is a professional and an energetic presence which made him a great delight to work with. In every interaction I had with him during this production, Randolph arrived early, stayed late, and demonstrated a strong competence in his arena of sound. It was, and is always, a great joy to work with Randolph,” said Kevin Vaughan. “Randolph is good at what he does quite simply because he cares a great deal about what he does. This was evident in his mixing. Sound mixing is a mountainous task that takes the patience of a saint and the expertise of a surgeon; he exemplifies each quality in spades. In all the productions that I have been lucky enough to work on with Randolph, he has always been the utmost professional and is passionate towards the art of film making.”
Nicky Martin: Country Superstar saw great success at several of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. It was awarded Best Comedy Short at the Melbourne Indie Film Festival in Australia and Best Comedy/Dramedy at Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards. Currently the film is being prepped to be played on Amazon Prime.
“Comedy is an incredibly difficult genre. I know Andy’s sense of humor from all his previous projects, and it is a humor I find very funny. Humor doesn’t always translate to general audience, however, Nicky Martin: Country Superstar was accepted to numerous festivals and won various awards in the Best Comedy category, all the way across the world to Asia. It was a testament that, no matter how hard it is to tackle comedy, when it’s done right, it can tickle about anybody’s funny bone. This being a film that relies heavily on comedic dialogues, I was very satisfied that my treatment in sound assures that all the jokes land,” said Zaini.
The film is in the style of a mockumentary, where each sound is important to still feel like a documentary, but must be in place for comedic effect. Having the right sound designer on the project was key to its success. Therefore, Andy Elliot went directly to Zaini, knowing the quality of work he would produce. The director wanted the film to stick to its realism roots, which meant that too much post-production audio could interfere with the believability of the film. It was Zaini’s primary focus to capture the sounds and dialogue through proper mic-ing, as well as using the production mixer to isolate sounds and manipulating the levels so that they were always on a level that were clean and audible.
“Randolph was able to capture clear, accurate sound every day he was on set, despite being in a difficult sound environment (high wind, desert evening). The audio he captured was the most concise on the entire shoot, and required next to no ‘sweetening’ in post-production. Randolph captured quality audio in the field, making it so less time and money was spent in post-production. He was knowledgeable of techniques, and offered advice on how to get the best sound possible,” said Elliot.
Shooting in those difficult sound environments was an easy hurtle for Zaini to jump. The climactic scene of the film takes place in the middle of the desert. When on location, Zaini had to capture heartwarming (though still comedic) lines between the two main characters, however, the desert can be a difficult noise location to capture sound. Not only were there airplanes passing by, the high desert winds were unpredictable and loud. It required a lot of manipulations, including adjusting the angle of the mic, pinpointing wind direction, then shielding the microphone from the oncoming wind, as well as mixing the frequency of the dialogue so the lines can be recorded clean and the wind noises can be cut out. Creative troubleshooting is one of Zaini’s best qualities. The resulting sound clips turned out perfectly.
“I liked the script. It was comedic and hits all the punchlines it delivers. Andy is such a good writer that you can always tell his signature comedic style in every script he writes. The energy on set with the cast and crew was also amicable. Everyone got along well, and in the veins of a comedic filmmaking, many jokes were thrown around, which in turn inspired Andy and his actors to improvise on the script to make the film even funnier. It was a laughter-filled production, yet it was creatively stimulating with everyone acting professionally,” Zaini said.
Even with the challenges, the entire experience was a good one for the sound designer.