Flashback: The Smashing Machine



The first time I worked with director, John Hyams, was on the documentary film The Smashing Machine. This film was the story of the Ultimate Fighter, Mark Kerr. It documented his initial rise to stardom, a long undefeated run at the top, then his demise into drug addiction, and then a comeback that was less than complete. It is a compelling story and Mark Kerr's eloquence and charismatic personality are remarkable. 


It was decided early on in the sound spotting session that we would be doing a complete Foley FX pass for the fight sequences.  We wanted to cover both foot movement, and the punching and kicking action. John and his producing crew, John Greenhalgh and Neil Fazzari, had asked if I minded if they brought some raw steaks to the Foley session.  I said I didn't mind but that we should ask the Foley artist if he was cool with beating on some raw meat. We sent him a cut of the film and told him we wanted home to punch some meat. The Foley artist was a great guy named Jay Peck. He checked it out and agreed.


The day came for the big foley session and John Hyams and John Greenhalgh came walking into the studio, not with some steaks but with an entire side of beef that they had just purchased in the meat packing district. It was so big that the two of them struggled to carry it in on their shoulders. They also had a baseball bat and a crowbar.  They had some violent plans for that beef. Jay was willing to go along with this crazy scheme, and we got to work. They had Jay beat on that meat with everything they could think of. They broke the bones and pulverized that thing, and we got some good sounds out of it. The only drawback, which was fairly big, was that the Foley room smelled like stinky meat for about a week after that day. Even though the side of beef was just in there for 8 hours and then hauled off to the dumpsters down on the ground floor loading dock. 


The meat sounds were then handed off to the Sound Designer, Nick Montgomery, who edited and layered them up with other hit sounds to create a beefy (sorry couldn't resist) set of punch and impact FX to be used in all the fight sequences.   The goal was to create FX that sounded real and not overly dramatic like so many Hollywood library FX sound. 


I think it really worked out. The film had a great ambient style score that worked amazingly well and created a different feeling than one might expect from a film about fighting and fighters. It was picked up by HBO and had a decent run.


We have continued to work on the sound for John Hyams subsequent films: Rank, a bullfighting documentary, and Universal Soldier Regeneration, which features some awesome MMA style hand to hand combat sequences. We are currently waiting to start work on Universal Soldier 4.  It will no doubt have some great fight FX.

Thomas Efinger