Few cinematic franchises have had such a massive impact on the pop culture landscape as the cinematic juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This year, as the MCU began its foray into its ambitious Phase 4 plans post-Avengers: Endgame, Marvel Studios also stretched its wings into an entirely new style of content. While Marvel has previously found success with its streaming television content, such as Daredevil and The Punisher on Netflix, this year saw the first-ever officially MCU connected series make their debut on Disney+.
The first Disney+ series to come from the minds of the MCU masterminds was the critically acclaimed WandaVision, set three weeks after the cataclysmic finale of Endgame. We were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to catch up with Chris Giles, WandaVision’s production sound-mixer, who recently earned his first coveted Emmy nomination for his work on the groundbreaking series, and who has also just wrapped filming on the upcoming Ms. Marvel.
Calling the Emmy nomination “a very pleasant surprise”, Giles recalls that when the news finally reached him he had just returned from filming Ms. Marvel in Thailand and his phone unexpectedly started blowing up.
“It’s one of those moments where you need some positive news out of nowhere,” he tells. “‘Congratulations,’ I see on my phone, I’m like, ‘Congratulations for what?’
“‘Congratulations,’ ‘Congratulations,’ ‘Congratulations.’ I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘For WandaVision.’
“I dig deeper and we chit chat back and forth, and they’re like, ‘Oh, you were nominated for an Emmy.’ I quite literally jumped up and got all excited, told my wife, and she, you know, got extremely ecstatic.”
Describing himself as “a starving musician for lack of better phraseology” who “was looking for a method of helping to tell stories”, Giles recalls it was a matter of chance that led him into his current profession, when he was invited out onto set on an independent film his wife was involved with.
“I met the sound guy on set and I was like, ‘Oh wait, there’s a whole new universe here, and it kind of fits into what I want to do.’”
Since then, Giles has managed to find his way toward working on number of high-profile projects, not only within the Marvel Universe. He’s also applied his talents to The Conjuring franchise, firstly working on additional reshoots for Annabelle Comes Home before working on the main shoot for The Conjuring 3.
“There were certain elements in it that I thought were just fascinating,” he says.
“It’s kind of like the crew’s sitting around at a campfire, you know, serving the proverbial s’mores or, you know, roasting marshmallows and telling stories sometimes. And other days it’s just work like usual, but there are those moments where things, the entire atmosphere, is a little extra creepy and a little extra; you’re in the element of a horror film. And I think they did a fantastic job with it.”
The MCU provided Giles with a few extra challenges beyond the normal production processes. Fans who have devoured the behind-the-scenes Marvel Assembled documentary on Disney+ will already be familiar with WandaVision’s use of a live studio audience for their first episode.
“That may seem very commonplace, if, you know, you’ve been watching television or whatever for years and years, but it’s really not done much anymore, and certainly not on this type of project,” he explains.
“We ended up having to do large portions of the 1950s-type flashbacks in front of a live studio audience and all had to be on point, because you couldn’t say, ‘Hey, we’re having a problem here. Let’s pause for a second.’
“Now you have all your Disney executives and your Marvel executives and all their friends and families of cast and everything, they’re all sitting up there, and they’re literally listening to everything that you’re capturing and producing right there in real-time.
“So it was pressure on the camera teams, and the directorial teams, the choreography. The fantastic part is, it went off in my perception without a hitch… I think you could say the entire thing is a challenge, but it’s not a negative challenge. It’s something that you hope in this career pursuit that you get the chance to actually take part in. And I did.”
Beyond the practical demands imposed by WandaVision’s unique approach, Giles admits that working on an MCU project brings with it its own set of nerves when it comes to keeping important details under wraps. When asked if he ever got nervous that he may accidentally reveal something he shouldn’t, he admitted that he’s conscious of the need for secrecy “virtually every time I talk about it”.
“Even ’til this moment, and it’s like, ‘Wait, I’m clear, it’s been out there in the public everybody’s been able to watch it and everything else.’ And I’m still nervous whenever I say things like, ‘Oh, you know, we had a challenge with XYZ thing.’
“It’s like, ‘Oh, wait, did I violate anything that I agreed to here?’ And it’s not just from like a legal thing, I feel like it’s an element of trust; you have something that’s super important, especially for the audiences, you don’t want those things scattered out there in the universe, where it ruins the surprise if nothing else. But yeah, I’m very, very conscious of it.
With this in mind, Giles was careful he didn’t let anything important slip about the upcoming Ms. Marvel series starring newcomer Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan a.k.a. Ms. Marvel, a devoted fan of Captain Marvel who develops her own shape-shifting abilities.
“It was very different,” he tells. “In essence because this is a newer section of the universe as far as the MCU cinematic portion. You know, I had a perception of who Wanda and Vision were because I’ve seen them on the big screen a few times, or a dozen times or whatever the case is… this, I wasn’t certain what I was getting into.
“I wasn’t privy to the entire Ms. Marvel Universe. So, as soon as I even heard whisperings that it came was coming to town, I literally looked for all the comics, and I read through them and I’m like, ‘Okay, this is cool, this is interesting, I like this, I like where this could be going.’
He added: “It’s a different story type… so it was a very different experience. I thought it was really cool.”
Giles’ Emmy nomination for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie, alongside his colleagues Danielle Dupre, Doc Kane, and Casey Stone, was recently decided at the Creative Arts Emmys held on Saturday, September 12. While Giles and his fellow sound engineers didn’t manage to walk away with the gong, which was ultimately taken home by the crew from Queen’s Gambit, as Giles himself had intimated, just being nominated was an “enormous honour”.
However, WandaVision still has a few more nominations still yet to be decided at the Primetime Emmy Awards due to be held on Sunday, September 19, including Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series and individual nominations for Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany and Kathryn Hahn. We’ll be sure to keep our fingers crossed!
LEAD IMAGE: Chris Giles on set.