17TH STREET — The 2013 Sundance Film Festival officially launches Thursday, and it’s not just directors and actors waiting in the wings hoping their work strikes a chord with audiences.
Michael Perricone and David Marcus own Lotus Post, a post production sound facility based on 17th Street in Santa Monica. They and their staff have put in time on five Sundance submissions, including the biopic of Apple CEO and innovator Steve Jobs, which will close out the festival.
The rest run the gamut of styles and categories like the documentary “The World According to Dick Cheney” and “Big Sur,” a movie based on a Jack Kerouac novel of the same name.
The 3-year-old firm juggles up to half a dozen films at a time in the sound rooms built through the complex Marcus and Perricone took over in 2009.
The pair, who owned and managed sound production facilities prior to Lotus Post, took over the assets of a company set to close at 26th Street and Colorado Avenue and went into business together.
Between them, Perricone and Marcus have over 70 years of experience in the industry, something that comes in handy in a world where things must be done right, and preferably the first time.
Still, the first couple of years were tough.
Lotus Post launched in the middle of one of the worst recessions the United States has ever seen, and in a bad decade for post production work.
According to a report by IBISWorld Inc., a Los Angeles-based industry research firm, roughly 43 percent of video post production companies shut down between 2000 and 2010 as technology allowed more of the work to come in-house or be done in independent filmmakers’ garages.
The sound world saw a wave of corporate consolidation as well, although it has one major advantage in that the work must be done in a professional, controlled environment.
“Robert Redford isn’t going to go to someone’s garage,” Perricone said.
Lotus Post finds its sweet spot in the larger independent film set, working with A-list actors seeking out meatier roles than they’ll find in the kind of “tent pole” films that produce revenues that keep large studios afloat.
Think Fox Searchlight’s 2007 break out hit “Juno,” starring Ellen Page, which Perricone likens to “Emanuel & the Truth About Fishes,” one of their Sundance pieces starring Jessica Biel.
The firm creates efficiencies for companies that don’t have the resources to do the work in-house or on a studio lot, but still needs professional work on movies that will hit thousands of screens across the nation.
“Those are the films we look for,” Marcus said. “Gems like ‘Juno.’”
Lotus Post’s work does more than just add a sensory experience to a movie, it enhances reality to create the immersive experience that the modern moviegoer seeks.
Every rustle of fabric, gunshot or impact of a purse hitting the ground is carefully recreated in the studio, larger than life.
“Everything is replaced, always,” Marcus said. “When you see a film, it’s an illusion.”
Methods vary, although Marcus said he’s used raw steaks and even watermelons to substitute for gruesome sounds in horror movies. Frozen chickens have also, somehow, made an appearance.
Even dialogue can be painstakingly re-recorded and tracked to the image on the screen.
Ashton Kutcher, who plays Jobs in the film, spent half a day in the studio recreating lines from the film, which have to match the cadence and lip movements originally caught on tape.
Kristen Bell, who came in to work on the 2012 movie “Hit & Run,” was one of the best Perricone had ever seen, knocking out 70 lines in three hours.
If the motion is off, it disrupts the illusion, creating a negative experience for the viewer whose brain will rebel against the slight imperfection.
Lotus Post struggles to beat out the competition in a crowded field, with several production and post production companies taking root in Santa Monica alone.
“You have to have the passion, and really pay your dues,” Marcus said.
With five films in one of the most celebrated indie film festivals around, the team thinks its young company may have done just that.