What does it sound like when someone gets their finger broken? It turns out, a lot like snapping a piece of celery in half.
Foley artists are the masterminds behind every sound you hear on TV. From bones breaking, to wrestlers body-slamming to projectile vomiting, foley artists find the perfect, everyday materials to make the most realistic — and in some cases the most stomach-churning — noises for every possible scene on TV.
“Foley artists are like the divas,” Nick Caramela said. “They call themselves the artists. We’re like the lead singers and lead guitarists.”
Nick Caramela and Zack Booth are foley artists at New York’s Soundtrack F/T, an audio post production studio that works on some of the biggest movies and shows, including HBO’s “The Righteous Gemstones.” The series follows the hijinks of a family of rich televangelists and megachurch pastors, and it stars John Goodman, Danny McBride, Adam Devine and Edi Patterson. Since it’s a dark comedy, most of the scenes are played for laughs, which means Caramela and Booth get to amp up the sounds to bring out the physical humor.
Caramela and Booth broke down the best audio moments of “Righteous Gemstones” Season 2 for Variety “Artisans” presented by HBO. In a conversation with editor Jordan Moreau, the two discussed bringing sound to some of the most memorable scenes of the show’s sophomore outing, including a roller-blade accident, a cowboy dance number and a projectile vomit situation.
Booth and Caramela perform their foley work inside a special studio filled with miniature stages made from unique surfaces, which they hit in order to produce the sounds necessary for certain scenes. In a sequence where the character BJ (Tim Baltz) crashes while roller-blading, they would capture the sound of them hitting both metal and the floor in order to get the unique sounds of both impacts. For a big dance number where Lyle Lissons (Eric André) leads a congregation in song, the Booth and Caramela put on cowboy booths and started dancing to the track from the scene.
“Dancing is fun in any situation. For that we have music we would listen to that’s playing in the film that we want to match, more so than maybe what’s even on screen,” Booth said. “Because the edit can cut in weird places so you’re not exactly going to be on rhythm the entire time. So it’s sometimes better to listen and sync, rather than watch.”
One of the funniest and grossest moments of “The Righteous Gemstones” sees the Gemstone kids projectile vomiting in sequence after a particularly stressful situation. To capture that scene, Booth and Caramela had to record several sounds to accurately depict vomit.
“First of all we set up for the mess and we try to contain it in one area, but there’s always several elements to a sound that we want,” Caramela said. “We want the wet kind of sound, the mushy-gushy kind of sound, and then we want the gloops of stuff falling.”
For the scene, the foley artists would pour water and soaked bits of paper in order to capture the sound of vomit coming out of someone’s mouth. To capture the impact of the vomit, the two would hit soaked rags onto the floor, with the focus on making the sounds as loud as possible.
“It’s about enhancing what you’re saying, so even if it does not make that much noise, you make it really loud and obnoxious,” Booth said. “Because that’s funnier.”
“The Righteous Gemstones” is currently streaming on HBO Max. Watch the full Variety “Artisans” video above.