'Manchester by the Sea' Sound Design Was Built Around Realism

"The [characters'] words and the situation they’re in are first and foremost, but they are placed within an environment that makes sense. It had to be a place any viewer could associate with and not be pulled out of it in any kind of unorthodox way."
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The location in Kenneth Lonergan's acclaimed Manchester by the Sea is so important to the central storyline that it's in the title. As such, the Massachusetts locale affected every aspect of production, including the sound design.

"Manchester was about giving a real environment to the characters that never calls attention to itself, but really informs the dramatic situation the characters are in," says supervising sound editor Jacob Ribicoff to CineMontage. "Their words and the situation they’re in are first and foremost, but they are placed within an environment that makes sense. It had to be a place any viewer could associate with and not be pulled out of it in any kind of unorthodox way. With that, Kenny’s view of which sounds belonged in that reality and which didn’t was very specific scene to scene. And if you were going to hear an engine throttling up to full speed or a dog barking, the timing had to be exact. It would be okay for a dog to bark between two particular lines of dialogue but not between the third and fourth. So a lot of our process was going through that meticulously, with Kenny having a total awareness of his script, characters and dialogue. It was an absolute sense of the music of the environment. However you could set that up, that’s what determined the aesthetic and what the movie would sound like."

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