Five Questions With... Michael Tyburski (THE SOUND OF SILENCE)

In Spotlight Film THE SOUND OF SILENCE, a successful "house tuner," who calibrates the sound in people's homes in order to adjust their moods, meets a client with a problem he can't solve. Featuring Peter Sarsgaard, Rashida Jones, and Austin Pendleton.

Read more about the film with writer/director Michael Tyburski, and see it on Sat, June 22 at 11:30am and Sun, June 23 at 12:15pm!

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NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for both the script and the visual/aural palette of the film?

MICHAEL: Well, it started with a short film that I made called PALIMPSEST, which I wrote with my friend Ben Nabors. And I think after making the short, we both realized that we wanted to do more with the “house tuner” character, who is introduced in that film. He’s the perfect conduit in which to tell a larger story about sound and the way it influences people. The feature script was really inspired by our collective experiences living in a noisy city. Aurally, I wanted sound to be represented as an ever present, but invisible character on screen too. We used a lot of static frames in the film, and my cinematographer and I played with negative space so that we could leave physical room for this unseen presence that is mostly portrayed sonically. As far as the visual palette, it’s a modern set film, but told from the point-of-view of a character who operates in a slightly dated New York, aesthetically. So we had that spirit in mind while shooting. I suppose I wanted to try my hand at making my own version of a love letter to New York City too. It’s such an inherently cinematic setting, and I have a lot of romantic feelings about the city.

NFF: Did making the film heighten your own sense of sound in your home (and everywhere else)?

MICHAEL: Very much so, yes. I did a lot of research into sound science and noise leading up to production. I’m typically hyper aware of the sounds around me, but making this film certainly escalated my sensitivity. I don’t think it was a conscious decision at the time, but when we were in post-production, I actually moved homes within New York City for the first time in a decade of living here. I moved from an apartment on a pretty busy commercial street, to the much quieter block I currently reside on. And like the main character in the film, my personal office is now literally located in a subterranean room in my home, away from the noise on the ground level. I love silence and appreciate having as much control as I can over the sounds that come into my space.

NFF: How did the collaboration work between your sound mixer, composer, and editor?

MICHAEL: It was designed to work very in-tandem in our case. And it’s an interesting question, because more often on an independent film budget, it’s unfortunately typical for these departments to work separately from one another. But it was really important for me from the beginning to make sure there was a dialogue between everybody. Because sound itself is really its own character in the story, it was necessary to be actively thinking about that unseen element while we were editing picture. Our sound team came into the edit to review early cuts, and even created temp sounds for us so we could use them prior to getting into the actual sound mix. Once we were mixing, our designers were working in parallel with our composer too. I personally think sound design and score are at their best when they can become one and the same.

NFF: What are you working on currently, and/or where can we see more of your work?

MICHAEL: I’m spending a lot of time writing these days. I’ve been dreaming of doing something that takes place in the past, so I’ve been doing a bit of time traveling to long gone eras as of late. As far as where you can see more of my work, a lot of my short films are easily tracked down and available to screen on the old world wide web.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

MICHAEL: I'm excited to screen as much as I can while I’m on the island. Presenting work to a live audience in a movie theater is one of my favorite things. So I’m really just looking forward to the opportunity to share a good story that hopefully resonates.