When Oscars are presented April 25, at least three Minnesotans will have their fingers crossed and room ready on their mantels.
Pete Docter, Drew Kunin and Michael Scheuerman were nominated for, respectively, codirecting the animated feature "Soul," creating the sound of "Mank" and coproducing the short documentary "Hunger Ward."
Bloomington native Docter already has won twice, for "Up" and "Inside Out," but the other two would be first-time winners.
It took Kunin a while to catch up to the news when it was announced Monday. His phone was ringing off the hook but the sound guy wasn't aware for an ironic reason: His phone was on silent because he was on the set of director Darren Aronofsky's film adaptation of the play "The Whale." It's Kunin's third Oscar nomination (he took mom Anita to one of the two previous ceremonies), following nods for "Bridge of Spies" and "Life of Pi."
Scheuerman, who's relatively new to filmmaking but once acted as Robert Redford's body double on the Dominican Republic set of "Havana" (he had the same build and hair color), knew about the nomination immediately. The former "tech guy" and 1984 graduate of Stillwater High School was perched on his couch (he now lives in Oregon), awaiting the news on a Zoom call with dozens of others who put together the documentary about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The motion picture academy had announced a shortlist of 10 semifinalists in his categories, so they knew it was worth rising at 5:19 a.m. Pacific Time to see if they made the cut.
Not all of that extended team, which also has worked to get aid and food to southern Asia, will be able to attend the ceremony. But Scheuerman was notified that, while events such as a nominees' lunch have been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he will be able to attend the ceremony itself, divided between the Oscar's usual home, the Dolby Theatre, and L.A.'s Union Station.
A 1979 graduate of Washburn High School, Kunin wasn't surprised by the news — his work was cited in preliminary awards this year — but he notes that the pandemic delay of the kind of blockbusters that usually dominate his category probably helped.
"[Voters] are usually impressed by movies that are loud but this wasn't a year for loud movies," said Kunin, whispering on the phone during a brief break. "It didn't have a lot of exploding-planet movies, which tend to get the attention in the sound world. So it's nice for a dialogue-driven movie to get noticed."
Kunin thinks the specifics of "Mank," which is set in the 1940s and which director David Fincher wanted to sound like a movie that was made in the '40s, may have helped (at one point, he wanted Kunin to record with vintage microphones but the Minneapolis native convinced him that idea was a non-starter).
"A lot of effort was done in the postproduction world to make it sound old," said Kunin, including playing the finished movie in a vintage movie palace, recording that and then incorporating the echoey result into the final mix. "On my end, it was also hard because there's lots of really snappy dialogue, delivered by a lot of good actors. I think the most I had to have was, like, 19 mics in one scene, because there are so many people. It's very, very rare to see a script like this with scenes where 17 different people speak."
Kunin, who lives in New York, isn't sure if he'll be able to attend the Oscars but he's likely to have more chances. In addition to the loud movies that often get nominations, he notes that musicals do, too. And his next film just happens to be one: this summer's adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's "In the Heights."
Chris Hewitt • 612-673-4367