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Dream Teams: Long Island’s “Kindred Spirits” of Audio Production John McAdorey and Paul Weiss

Post Production
New York, USA
McCann’s director of Verizon production John “Mac” McAdorey and Sonic Union’s senior audio engineer on their proudest moments so far, finding a work-life balance and building mutual trust

When it comes to audio production dream teams, there are few people more qualified than McCann’s John "Mac" McAdorey and Sonic Union’s Paul Weiss. For over 20 years, McAdorey has been producing, engineering, and coaching audio projects of all sizes, while Weiss comes from a background of playing guitar in bands before moving into audio engineering. Together, they form a dynamic duo that is sure to get any audio project done right.

Paul and John met in mid-2017 and hit it off immediately. Paul had been mixing at Sonic Union since 2009, while Johnny, fresh off of his work at Martin/NY, was eager to get to work. The pair first collaborated on some Consumer Wireless work - quickly becoming a great team and bonding over their Long Island backgrounds.

“I didn't know Mac at all but I had other engineer friends that did,” says Paul, “and they all said he was a great guy. He came off as laid back, which is my favourite quality in other humans, as well as competent. My initial impressions proved to be correct, as he hasn’t changed a bit. I’m scared of what his first impressions of me were…”

Fortunately, John’s first impressions of Paul were equally positive. “My first impression was ‘dang, this guy has a LOT of guitars’ - but Paul knew his stuff, was funny, and super chill about all of the push and pull that happens on a typical job. Over the past five years of working together I’ve really come to trust his instincts on what works, what doesn’t, and his determination to make our spots sound perfect. He doesn’t settle for anything less.”

Already working on the “well-oiled machine” that is the Verizon account, Paul had his way of working and kept the train running while welcoming John aboard. Their first spot together featured talent on horseback in a field in Atlanta and - despite a lack of equestrian knowledge between the pair - the project resulted in a well-balanced blend between Paul’s sound design and the music and ADR reads that the McCann team wanted to integrate.

Discussing what makes the pair a “dream team”, Paul describes the relationship as an effortless partnership between “kindred spirits.” Both men draw on their humble backgrounds to stay grounded and express sincere gratitude (and almost disbelief) that they have jobs they truly enjoy. “I love my life outside of work even more [than work]. I have a wonderful family and I play in a band and I’m a cornhole champion. Seriously. I know John is the same way about his life outside of work.” John says, “We are both very quiet, hard workers that aren’t afraid to take on a challenge and can get an enormous amount of work done and we complement that with having outside interests.” 

In fact, neither of this dynamic duo can remember a single disagreement, highlighting their joint focus on family and recreational life as a shared driving force for their motivation to work smart and fast together.  

Where creative disagreements do come up, however, is often with clients - rather than in disputes within their creative partnership. Paul says, “More times than I can count someone suggested something and I instantly thought it wasn’t going to work, or would be bad. Then I try it, and it works great!. So I try everything. We compare and contrast and usually, the cream rises to the top.” Paul views his role in audio as a “tool of the creatives and client” and although his instinctual first iteration constitutes about 80% of the final product, he understands that the creative process involves many differing opinions - all with the goal of pleasing the client.

John says, “ I love Paul’s explanation because it's so very true. One of Rob Reilly’s [WPP’s global CCO] mantras was ‘hire good people, and get out of the way’. I’ve always felt that was true with Paul. It's pretty rare that something comes up that we go back on - and then it's just a matter of ‘ok, what are the other options?’ - and we work through it as a team.”

The project that the team are both proudest of is Verizon’s ‘Answering the Call’ Super Bowl campaign from 2018 - a project that connected survivors of traumatic incidents with the first responders that saved them. Under significant pressure, Paul says the teams had to get the technical elements precise every time, as the survivors surprised their heroes via Skype. “We absolutely nailed it,” he says. “I think we recorded around six of these phone calls without a hitch. And believe me when I tell you there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. This was something bigger than the normal advertising world we were a part of, and I’m incredibly grateful to have been a part of it. And the audio was turned into some pretty amazing spots that aired during the Big Game.

John adds, “We had no margin for error whatsoever since you couldn’t recreate the emotion of reuniting these two parties for the first time after their rescue. As with any great creative endeavour we were all hopeful but incredibly nervous since this hadn’t been done before.   Our director (Amir Bar-Lev) was incredible and he just let the emotion happen and then guided the stories. [It’s] one of the most moving experiences I’ve had in this business and we didn’t lose any audio on all of our calls.”

During the pandemic, the pair once again faced the creative challenge of connecting people virtually for campaigns. They recently had to set up a remote home studio in an Australian hotel room for Kate McKinnon - shipping her equipment that was controlled remotely from the US. Paul says, “I think at this point Mac knows we’re going to make it happen. And let me be clear, all of this wouldn’t be possible without Sonic Union’s beyond-amazing producers and tech teams.” John explains that throughout their time together, the two have faced no small amount of sonic challenges, such as: ‘What sound would an onion make as it peels itself?’. “Luckily we have a lot of patience, amazing producers that help us out and of course a sense of humour about the whole enterprise to keep us sane. Having perspective is a huge help.”

Persevering through the myriad challenges that arise, John and Paul have developed an acute appreciation for the creative partnership they have formed. John describes a significant benefit as the “shorthand” communication between the two that allows them to instantly understand and trust each other’s ideas and abilities. “It’s great to know that in this world of uncertainty you have someone you can rely on that has your back.” Paul agrees, concurring that “nothing is more important” than the mutual trust and respect they have fostered. “It alleviates stress knowing everyone is a pro,” he says. 

Staying motivated as a unit, through these challenges and easier times alike, is easy when you’re surrounded by fellow creatives that “bring that positive energy,” says John. “It's amazing when you run into a creative team that’s excited about the work and you feed off that energy and commitment.” Paul doubles down on this, saying, “The project/product doesn’t really matter to me. Seeing a team excited for what they’re creating gets me excited to collaborate. I don’t care if it’s a Super Bowl commercial or a 15-second web-only spot. I love this job for the people and the connections.”

After several years as creative partners, John says that one of the biggest lessons they’ve learned together is that managing work-life equilibrium is a universal key to success. Paul agrees and suggests that work and socialising should be balanced and distinct, “Neither should interfere with the other,” he says.

The senior audio engineer continues, “I always love seeing my fave clients at an industry party, or grabbing a quick drink after work. But to be 1000% honest, when I’m done with work, all I want to do is go home, hang out with my wife, two kids and dog. Also, play in my band and throw Cornhole bags. Did I mention I’m a Cornhole champion?”

John concludes, “I’ve learned that balance is a huge factor in work, sessions, and relationships. Also… that I’ll never be good at Cornhole.” 

Work from Sonic Union
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