It’s a typical Tuesday morning on the business side of Ashland Avenue. The pavement is warming up under the July sun, and a movie star just went in the front door of Dynamix Productions.
Steve Zahn enters in a striped polo shirt with his reading glasses askew on his head, ready to get to work.
But there are no lights or camera in this studio, though Zahn is working on the National Geographic channel’s “Valley of the Boom,” a docudrama series about the 1990s tech bubble that co-stars Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing”) and Lamorne Morris (“New Girl”). Neither of his co-stars are around either. It’s just Zahn, Dynamix owner Neil Kesterson, some of the show’s directors on a remote link, and one line of dialogue to record.
“In fact, I’m friendly with the Microsoft team up in Redding.”
What Zahn is doing is known as automated dialogue replacement or ADR, and appointments such as this have become routine for Dynamix. As editors put a film together, they discover portions of dialogue that need to be re-recorded for a variety of reasons, from sound issues to changes, and the actors head into recording studios to do that.
“Everything I do, usually, 99 percent of the time, requires some kind of additional, post-production work,” says Zahn, who lives on a farm just outside of Lexington. “And I do that here. I’ve done that here for 10 years.”
Zahn and Kesterson say pretty much every film Zahn has been involved with, including the TV series “The Crossing” and the feature “War for the Planet of the Apes,” has had voice work done by Zahn at Dynamix.
Kesterson opened the studio 15 years ago with an aim to do voice sound for a wide variety of projects, including audio books, commercials and radio. The studio is the current home base for the WEKU-FM public affairs program “Eastern Standard.”
Zahn was actually Kesterson’s first Hollywood booking for the 2005 animated feature “Chicken Little,” though that didn’t happen due to scheduling conflicts. But it put the studio in Hollywood’s Rolodex, and soon Kesterson got a call to record Dakota Fanning when she was in Central Kentucky working on the feature, “Dreamer.”
Since then, Kesterson had numerous celebrities through, from area residents like the late Sam Shepard — who he got to watch pick apart the script for a TV commercial — to people coming through the area on other projects like actors Malcolm McDowell and Ron Perlman, who were in Morehead shooting the feature “London Calling” when they had to do work on projects that were in post production.
“Saturday Night Live” star Chris Redd came in during a weekend of stand up at Comedy Off Broadway, and after the official work for a TV show was done, Redd asked Kesterson to record some things he wanted to send to “SNL” co-star Pete Davidson for a skit they were working on.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch the creative process,” Kesterson says.
Kesterson will recieve the dialogue the artists have to work on and will supervise the recording with directors listening in. The work can be from one line, in the case of this July session, to entire passages or, in the case of an animated film, the entire performance.
Zahn says that one of the challenges is, since this is a performance, getting back into the mood or character he was in while on set. But having an outpost like Dynamix sure beats hopping on a plane to New York or L.A. for vocal touch ups.
He says, “It’s really wonderful to be able to come in and do the same quality of work, 20 minutes from my farm.”