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Wonderland Sound Posts Debate Documentary

Wonderland Sound, No Wonder Music and Wonderland Productions’ services (NYC) were called upon by the College Sports Television Network (CSTV), for its new documentary about the high-pressure world of “The National Collegiate Debate Championship.”

The CSTV documentary took maximum advantage of the Wonderland entities’ collaborative approach. Composer, sound designer and audio engineer, John Wiggins, and producer/director McCullough, co-composed the film’s score under the banner of the their original music house, No Wonder Music. CNN’s Aaron Brown’s narration of the film complemented No Wonder’s soundtrack, which conveyed a quirkiness reminiscent of Thomas Newman’s soundtrack for “American Beauty.” The Roger Lynn-designed Adrenaline, a drum machine with arpeggios that can plug into a guitar, gave them just the sound they were looking for.

Wiggins then created the sound design and provided audio post services for the film. “Our crews had to be so mobile and low-profile around the debaters that we couldn’t use boom mics,” McCullough says. “We weren’t always in the best locations to get pristine audio and had a lot of background noise. But John was a master at EQ’ing, notching out noises and cleaning the audio.”

“Never in its 58 year history has the National Collegiate Debate Championship received national television coverage of this magnitude,” notes Andy Regal, vice president of original programming at the CSTV. “When I saw a preliminary debate at defending champion Northwestern University it sparked the idea that a documentary on the tourney could catch the imagination of the public much the same way the hit feature doc ‘Spellbound,’ about the 1999 National Spelling Bee, did.”

Six camera crews followed debate teams from Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley, The University of Louisville (Ky.), Northwestern, Michigan State and Cal State/Fullerton during the four-day tournament, which was held at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill and Catholic University in Washington, D.C. last April. Sony PD-150 cameras were used for the guerilla-style production, following the students virtually around the clock during the competition.

The documentary’s story centers on the debaters and their coaches. Debaters speak at a rate of 400 words a minute, and each debate is two-and-a-half hours long. As it was difficult to follow such rapid speech about a subject -US foreign policy in European relations, the audio-post phase of the production was critical.

After the shoot the project returned to Soho-based Wonderland where McCullough collaborated with Wiggins and CSTV senior producer, Gary Cohen, to handle scoring, sound designing, mixing, editing and finishing the documentary.

The “National Collegiate Debate Championship” premiered on September 1 on CSTV with subsequent airings scheduled throughout the fall.

For more information about Wonderland Productions, visit