Earlier this year, John Krasinski surprised audiences with A Quiet Place, a stunning new horror-thriller that introduced shocking rules for survival in a believable environment: Don't make any noise, or else creatures from space will attack and devour you. But it was actually Krasinski and his creative team that was most surprised, because modern audiences played along with their concept and kept the theatrical experience relatively quiet as well -- turning A Quiet Place into a rare movie-going treat that was improved when watching it with a silent crowd.
Oscar-winning sound editors Ethan van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl said they thought long and hard about crowd noise and its impact on A Quiet Place, and actually admitted to CinemaBlend that they tweaked the film's design after seeing how it played to audiences at the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, where Krasinski's movie world premiered. The duo told us:
Erik Aadahl: What we wound up doing after the very first SXSW screening of the film -- which was the first time audiences saw it -- we actually readjusted reel one of the movie a little bit. Where... so, we started the film actually at a more traditional sound level, and then eased the audience in over a few minutes into the quiet. And that gave everyone's ears a chance to re-tune to kind of more... [of] a different experience that people might not have been used to. So we gave theatrical audiences a little bit of a chance to learn the rules, and start to put their popcorn away [laughs] and stop talking or taking texts. And that was kind of fun to, you know -- we checked it out with audiences, and it was kind of neat to see the whole audience start to learn the rules of this film. And in a way, it made them active participants with the characters in the film, which is really an exciting participatory experience for us to see.
Ethan van der Ryn: And if you think about it, like, how often does a large group of people have the chance to all be together, you know, basically focused on the same thing, and being quiet, you know, together in order to really understand what's going on. And in many ways I think it was a very rare experience for a lot of people.
These tweaks, happening after the fact, had to be crucial to A Quiet Place working as well as it did. Which made the SXSW premiere of the movie that much more valuable, because the team was able to see how an audience would do under these unusual circumstances, and then tailor the film to meet the need. Erik Aadahl and Ethan van der Ryn spoke with CinemaBlend in Minnesota, where we visited the Orfield Lab, dubbed "The Quietest Place on Earth." Catch a clip of the sound designers talking A Quiet Place with us: