Doc sound mixed by Onda’s Aguilar is a Sundance hit

“Groovin’ Gary,” from “The Beaver Trilogy”

Little did Particle/Onda’s Steven Aguilar know when he was asked to handle sound for director Brad Besser’s feature doc, “Beaver Trilogies Part IV,” that it would screen at Sundance to rave reviews.     

Starting around Thanksgiving, Aguilar spent 160 hours of nights, weekends and his entire two week Christmas break to complete the sound design/mix by mid-January for Sundance.

Bill Hader (“SNL”) narrates Besser’s exploration of Trent Harris’ doc/fiction hybrid’s cult classic “Beaver Trilogy focusing on Harris’ fascination with a quirky young man, Richard Griffiths, who called himself “Groovin’ Gary, from Beaver, Utah.

Steven AguilarThe first trilogy piece was shot in 1979, when Harris, a TV producer at KUTV in Salt Lake City, Utah, was testing a video camera on a helicopter in the station’s parking and bumped into Gary, also taking pictures.

When Gary realized Harris was filming him, he does celebrity impersonations that amuse Harris.  Gary invited Harris to a community talent show in Beaver, where he performed a tribute to Olivia Newton-John in drag, that Harris filmed.

Harris edited the parking lot and talent show footage and called it “The Beaver Kid.”  It was so compelling that Harris tried to recreate it.  In 1981, it was “The Beaver Kid 2” with unknown actor Sean Penn; in 1985 as “The Orkly Kid,” with another future star, Crispin Glover. “The Beaver Kid” became in instant cult classic.

Filmmaker Trent HarrisSeveral years later, still unscreened, Harris edited his three shorts back-to-back as “The Beaver Trilogy.” When it showcased at Sundance in 2001, Indie Wire called it “so powerful you can’t imagine the pieces having ever been separate.”

Besser learned about the trilogy when he took a filmmaking class from Harris and searched to uncover what happened to Gary while going full circle charting the course of Harris’ eclectic career.

Aguilar had mixed Besser’s 2011 doc, “The World of Z,” which Aguilar says was similar to “Beaver Trilogy Part IV” since “they both needed a tremendous amount of cleanup and TLC.” Besser know Aguilar was up to the task and would feel comfortable working together. 

Richard Griffiths (Groovin' Gary)The challenge with “Beaver” “was cleaning and prepping, removing noise, blending mikes and equalizing voices for a more natural feel throughout,” Aguilar notes.

By receiving a new cut from Besser every week, “I could get a better idea of what I was working with as a whole. Every cut was different and I was getting timing changes, picture changes, and new music added regularly,” he says.

“When you trust the filmmaker, you do all you can to get their vision across.  Of course, if there is something you’re truly feeling, mention it, because maybe it does, or doesn’t work. Either way, it’s a collaborative process.”

The next Sundance “Beaver Trilogy Part IV” screenings are Tuesday, Jan. 27 and Saturday, Jan. 31.  Aguilar is in Sundance this week.