Charlie Campbell & 009-1by Zac Bertschy, Jun 22nd 2007
ANN: So tell me about this show, 009-1.
CAMPBELL: 009 is a really exciting kind of James Bond-ish show; it has a fantastic soundtrack and great visuals. It's like if you took a James Bond movie, made the main character a woman, added a little bit of Charlie's Angels in there, and a little bit of the Fembots – from the first Austin Powers film, you remember – not the silliness of it, but the machine gun tits [laughs]…
Yeah, I've been told that's the selling point on this show.
For you this is another action show, and looking at your profile, you've done a lot of these; Guyver, etc. Was there anything particularly challenging about this series for you?
This one was actually really easy for me because the show's done so well; it's fully animated, so it's not just a series of moving stills. They're actually moving, and it's a newer show, even though it's done in a retro style. I guess the most challenging thing about it is – since the show is this east vs. west Cold War thing, even though it's set in the future – there are a lot of accents, a lot of Russian accents and British and Irish accents. You can do a lot with these characters.
Do you find that it pushes the limitations of your actors when you ask them to do accents?
Sometimes. I try to choose people who already know what they're doing. I let them know up front it's an accent-heavy show, and I ask them what accents they're best at, and then cast accordingly. Sometimes we'll say “Well, we don't really know where this character is from, so make one up.” So long as it doesn't sound normal, that can be fun.
Did you write the English script for this show?
Nope. It was written by George Manley.
When you do the recording, how close do you stick to that English script you're given?
It depends on the show; there are many times where a joke just doesn't translate, so you have to adapt it to make it funny. In this show, if we decide someone's from a certain place, we'll use colloquialisms from that place to make it more fun. If someone's British, they'll use “bloody” or “cheers”, things like that. I usually just use the script I have; the way it's set up, you have both a direct translation and the English screenwriter's rewrite, so if I don't understand what the writer's trying to say, I can look at the direct translation and say “Okay, now I know what they're going for”.
How closely do you pay attention to fan reaction?
I usually check pretty often, actually; I go to Amazon.com a lot, since I figure those people are just regular joes watching the show. Back when I started, as a sound engineer on Evangelion back in 1995… back then, so many people were anti-dub. It's nice now that people are opening up a little bit to the concept of English dubs. I know they were worse back then, because the technology was suffering, but I read what people think now and depending on who's saying what I give it the appropriate amount of weight.
I do enjoy getting feedback; It's great when we show anime at the Alamo Drafthouse, and I can actually get a crowd reaction, which sitting in the studio you don't get. If they laugh at the jokes, it's great.
At the end of the day you can't change the story. You're stuck with the animation, and you're stuck with what they started with. But if I get a show that I think is a little weak, I always try and choose an interesting vocal cast, just to help make it a little better. If the jokes are falling flat, then I try and hire funny people, so we can work with it a little bit.
With a show like this, though, it's already very well done – this show and Guyver – the stories are already so interesting that I don't feel the need to tweak it.
You've been working in this industry a long time now, and you mentioned that you've been handed something that's a little weak. Have you ever been handed something you simply didn't like?
Yep! There have been times…
Is it harder to work on something like that?
It's only harder if I don't hire a cast that I really like. If I get a show that I really hate, I think about who my favorite people are to work with, and who would work in the show? Hopefully we'll get a good writer, and I can turn it into something I could watch. There haven't been too many. I've been very lucky, but there were a few where I thought “Oh, god. What am I going to do with this?”
When I was done, I'd always think “Well, I didn't change the story but at least it's interesting to listen to.”
Have you ever gone back and watched something that you did in the past and thought “Man, I wish I'd done it this way?”
Yeah, that normally happens with a really long series. When you're at the very beginning, the actors are still trying to find the character; once you get a few volumes in, people just have it down. You wish you could go back once they have it down and change a few lines here and there.
If there's one show you could've worked on in the history of anime, what would that've been?
A few years ago I would've told you Gatchaman, and I got to work on that show, so that was awesome. The only other one I could think of would be Star Blazers, or maybe Speed Racer – the stuff I grew up with. I got to do MazinKaiser, too.
So doing things you can personally relate to, shows you have a connection with, that makes a big difference?
Absolutely. When it's something you love, you have a serious drive to get it absolutely perfect.
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