'Sonic' Sounds: El Segundo recording studio makes noise in Hollywood

By: Michael Hixon for Beach Reporter

One of the more recognizable movie scores in film history is from “Jaws,” and John Williams’ work is a significant reason why the film has become a classic in suspense. So it almost seems fitting that Sonic Fuel Studios, which has scored hit films and television shows in recent years, has made its home in an El Segundo building where two of the mechanic sharks used in the film were reportedly built.

Composers Christopher Lennertz, a Redondo Beach resident, and Timothy Wynn, who lives in Hermosa Beach, celebrated the studio’s grand opening recently. After outgrowing various locations in the South Bay as their careers grew, they found the perfect spot and reportedly put $2 million into the 7,000-square-foot studio that was designed specifically for film, TV and video game composers.

“It got to a point where we said we can’t fit the amount of players we want to in this space. We can’t fit the amount of producers that are involved in movies now ... we needed a bigger spot and we didn’t want to do it in a lease fashion because it takes a lot of equipment, it takes a lot of planning to get a good acoustic space for recording,” Lennertz said.

“We knew we had to build it. Numerous musicians are currently hard at work on the studio’s latest project, the comedy “Identity Thief” starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, which is expected in theaters in February. “Identity Thief” reunites Lennertz with director Seth Gordon; they previously collaborated on the comedy, “Horrible Bosses,” which also starred Bateman.

Lennertz started the scoring process with Gordon when the director sent him the script earlier this year. After viewing a rough cut of the film in early September, Lennertz said, “It was at that point where I would start writing little pieces of music and showing them to Seth and say, ‘What do you think of this for Melissa’s character? What do you think of this little idea for Jason’s character?’” Lennertz said. “We would go back and forth and play stuff. At that point I would play stuff that was either created on computer or they were me playing guitar or small representation of what the music would be.”

Some musicians that worked on “Horrible Bosses” are back for “Identity Thief,” including Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney; Earth, Wind and Fire keyboardist and music director Myron McKinley; and Beastie Boys keyboardist Money Mark.

Last week, Lennertz brought together a full orchestra to record at Warner Bros. Studio. That, along with the work at Sonic Fuel, will be mixed together.

“We then give it to sound stage where they do the final mix with dialogue and sound effects so they can get it out of the door by the end of January so it will be in theaters on the 8th of February,” Lennertz said.

Lennertz also scores two hit series, “Revolution,” which is returning to NBC in March, and the long-running “Supernatural” on the CW. Over the past five or six years, with a boost from “Lost,” Lennertz feels there is a resurgence of live recorded music on TV, which also includes “Revenge” and “Once Upon a Time.”

“I think it makes the show feel more like a movie and allows people to sit in their living rooms and get a little movie every week,” Lennertz said.

He added, “I’m hoping that by building a studio and having a situation where we can record live music quickly ... it will help in terms of the quality of being what’s being put out in film, TV and in video games so five to 10 years from now we’re seeing a lot of this great live music. I think it’s a good trend that’s going in an upward direction.”

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