In Hollywood, when actors and writers go on strike, the repercussions are not limited to the picket lines. The effects of these dual strikes can be felt far beyond the studios, reaching the sound booths. One critical aspect of movie production that takes a hit during these strikes is ADR, which stands for automated dialogue replacement. ADR is a process where actors re-record dialogue after the initial production to fix issues like unwanted background noise or to make adjustments to the story without reshooting scenes.
The Importance of ADR in Post-Production
If you've ever watched a movie, you've probably witnessed the magic of ADR without even realizing it. When done correctly, ADR allows seamless splicing of new audio into the movie, making it appear as though it was part of the original on-set take. It ensures the dialogue is clear and crisp, free from disturbances or audio imperfections. ADR is especially valuable when a "dirty line," a dialogue contaminated by background noise, needs to be replaced.
Beyond fixing technical glitches, ADR can also serve as a last resort to preserve an actor's performance. It's a common practice when other options, like reshooting scenes, are not feasible. So, when actors are on strike, this vital process stops, affecting the entire post-production phase.
ADR Studios Overwhelmed Ahead of the Strike
As the threat of a SAG-AFTRA strike loomed, ADR studios in Hollywood faced an unprecedented booking surge. Sound supervisor Ugo Derouard, known for his work on films like "Fair Play" and "Clerks III," found himself frantically scheduling up to 10-hour ADR sessions for principal actors in three indie features. To expedite the process, these productions agreed to skip the usual dialogue edit, combing through production sound and recording ADR much earlier.
While such practices aren't uncommon when dealing with tight deadlines, the strike added immense pressure, turning the situation into a "bit of a mad house," as Derouard described. ADR studios were fully booked for weeks before the actors' strike. The studios were eerily empty once the strike hit mid-July, leaving sound engineers and mixers without work.
ADR Mixers Struggle to Stay Afloat
The strike's impact is tough on ADR mixers swamped with work in the final weeks and months before the strike began. From indie productions to major studio and network projects, everyone rushed to get their actors into the ADR booth. The chaos was heightened by requests lacking proper time codes or specific lines, leading to an added scramble to identify the necessary moments requiring additional recording. The pressure even led to requests for remote recording sessions at unusual hours, disrupting the already demanding schedules of sound mixers.
However, once the strike took effect, ADR mixers had no work to do until the strike concluded. The situation is challenging, but some hope comes from films that managed to obtain interim agreements from SAG-AFTRA, often referred to as "waivers," which might provide a bit of solace and income for these professionals.
The Struggle of ADR in Television
The impact on ADR is not limited to films. Television series have also felt the pinch, with Emmy-nominated sound supervisor Kathryn Madsen sharing her insights. In TV shows, the tight schedules make moving up ADR in the post-production process extremely challenging, except for group-dialogue recordings that don't involve principal actors. Moreover, TV ADR heavily relies on writers, as showrunners often make last-minute revisions to the script that can only be addressed through ADR. Unfortunately, these rewrites are on hold, with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) also on strike.
The Hope for Resolution
As the dual strikes persist, the impact on ADR and sound engineers in Hollywood is undeniable. Many talented professionals are out of work and concerned about the future. However, while they support the reasons behind the strikes, they also hope for a swift resolution. The strikes have affected numerous aspects of the entertainment industry, and finding common ground between the parties involved is essential to restore the normal flow of work and creativity.