news Consider This Event: Creating Creepy ‘Stranger Things’ Sounds, and Finding Character via Music in ‘Beef’ and ‘Wednesday’

The 2022-2023 season was a very good time to be a Netflix subscriber. Returning favorites like “Stranger Things” shattered viewership records for the streaming giant, while new projects like “Wednesday” and “Beef” proved that audiences are ready to embrace the company’s next big hit.

At IndieWire’s Consider This Event in Los Angeles on Saturday, post-production artists from some of Netflix’s biggest shows got together to discuss the craftsmanship that goes into making our favorite television. The panel, moderated by IndieWire’s Jim Hemphill, featured “Stranger Things” re-recording mixer/supervising sound editor Craig Henighan, “Beef” editor Laura Zempel and composer Bobby Krlic, and “Wednesday” composer Danny Elfman, co-composer Chris Bacon, and music supervisor Jen Malone.

In the penultimate season of “Stranger Things,” the Duffer Brothers’ sci-fi blockbuster went darker than ever. Feature length episodes saw the residents of Hawkins plumb the depths of their trauma to face off against Vecna, setting up for a thrilling conclusion when the series returns for its final season.

Henighan talked about the need to “make sure the scale of the sound is matching the scale of what we’re seeing emotionally and story-wise.” He pitched down baby cries to create monster sounds, and used the sounds of insects to be the sound of flickering lights. “A lot of it is trial and error,” Henighan said. “If it’s like lights that are flickering, it’s about pushing the key or frequency of the sound to see if there’s a way to make it more unsettling.”

How you use music to create character was especially important for “Beef” and “Wednesday.”

On “Beef,” starring Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, Netflix teamed up with A24 and creator Lee Sung Jin to tell a twisty story of road rage gone very wrong. “There’s very broad comedy, there’s deep emotions, and so much anxiety,” Zempel said. “The most important thing was that the characters feel real — they go completely off the rails, but you need to understand where they’re coming from. Luckily, we got a batch of music from Bobby before we started cutting.”

For Krlic it was about finding motifs that suited each character. Yeun’s character, Danny, has a much more jagged musical accompaniment. “Danny, from the very first frame of the show, there’s all this tension all this anxiety,” Krlic said. “With Amy, her life felt much more about the façade of things, so we had softer things: glockenspiel and felt piano.”

With “Wednesday,” Tim Burton made his television debut for a clever update of “The Addams Family,” featuring Jenna Ortega in a star turn as the pigtailed teen. Music supervisor Jen Malone’s choice of “Goo Goo Muck” by The Cramps for the title character’s now-iconic dance in Episode 4 is already considered one of the all-time great needle drops.

“I’ve been a Cramps fan since forever, and when we started our Spotify playlist ‘Goo Goo Muck’ was in the first five songs we put on there,” Malone said. “They immediately came to mind because I’d say their whole catalogue is this psycho-billy, goth, dark thing that would lend itself to a dance. And everybody else loved it when we pitched it. Then it was an easy clearance process, which is always nice when that happens. And when it was cut together, I couldn’t believe it, it was so awesome. I don’t want to say it was easy, but… it was easy.”

“Wednesday” co-composer Chris Bacon spoke about how they worked to “synchronize the score with the songs” and wanted “to give a little bit more of a Gothic horror edge” to this vision of the Addams Family.

And of course, he was working with the legendary Danny Elfman, Burton’s longtime collaborator, to create unique cues. “Chris and I share responsibilities but our experiences are completely different,” Elfman said. “He’s worked with showrunners before, whereas I’ve just worked with Tim. I was kept in an isolation tank. He treated this like a Tim Burton film which means, ‘You don’t talk to anyone but me.'”

What was particularly interesting was that Burton was willing to incorporate the iconic finger-snapping theme from “The Addams Family” in the ’60s at key moments.

“Tim said on ‘Batman,’ ‘I don’t want any musical reference to the television show,'” Elfman said. “But here he was like, we can reference it. I don’t want to over-do it. He thought it was so important that the Batman movie didn’t reference this crazy, silly TV show. But I think us having both grown up with ‘The Addams Family,’ we wanted to get a little in there.”