As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve always loved movie soundtracks. As a teenager, my CD collection consisted of The Police and Depeche Mode, but also plenty of John Williams, John Barry, and Ennio Morricone. When I’m moved by an incredible film, I like to re-experience it through the music. We all have those special songs that take us back to a particular time or place. And I think an effective soundtrack is as distinct to the tone of a film as color can be to a painting or language can be to a poem. Film music done right finds the balance of supporting the emotional trajectory of a cinematic story without being obtrusive or glaringly manipulative. I know there are those out there who like a soundtrack that consists of no soundtrack. But me? I like hearing those ominous strings reverberate when a shark lurks deep in the water.
So, it is with much pride that I get to introduce you all to the composer for Beneath the Surface…
I met Gary through his wife Kirsten. Kirsten is actually the first bona fide friend I made in LA when I came out here almost nineteen years ago. We met when we both temped at an entertainment studio known for it’s high-pitched rodent emissary and ri-DONK-ulously profitable princess franchise. Kirsten and I were employed (sans benefits) doing data entry in the Accounts Payable department, a dreary, bureaucracy-laden division of the company that seemed to be the place where dreams go to die. As two idealistic twenty-somethings eager to take on Tinsel Town, we bonded instantly over our collective desire to find a new temp assignment.
Anyway, Kirsten eventually met a talented British trumpet player, Gary, and they got married. The high point of their wedding reception was not my father initiating his infamous “circle dance” (a phenomenon that’s sure to be discussed in a future blog post), but when Gary pulled a Chet Baker and serenaded Kirsten with “This Guy’s in Love with You.” Turns out, the Brit not only plays the horn – he can sing!
Gary and I sat down a couple of Sundays ago to talk film music. I pulled out my iPod, settled it into a docking station, and proceeded to play various soundtrack cues that I find inspiring and evocative of the tone I’d like to create for Beneath the Surface. We discussed the personalities of the various characters in the script and how they can be represented through music. We talked about the scope of the overall sound and how it shouldn’t be big since the film is a small drama. And we both agreed that Thomas Newman is a pretty awesome, versatile composer. (Newman soundtracks: The Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty, In the Bedroom…to name just a few.)
I realize it may seem premature to be addressing music at this point. Heck, you’re not supposed to worry about the film score until post-production, right? There hasn’t been a frame of footage shot yet – in fact, I still need to raise the money to rent the cameras with which to shoot said footage! But Gary is game to get involved now and he emphasized his commitment with an anecdote about a respected composer whom he recently met.
(Gary, I hope I do justice in my retelling of this story.)
Back in June, Gary attended a panel at the LA Film Festival that featured a group of prominent film composers. One of the composers speaking was Argentine guitarist Gustavo Santaolalla – he composed and won the Oscar for his score for Brokeback Mountain. Santaolalla actually brought his guitar to the panel and played some of his compositions for the audience. He also relayed a story about how he provided Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee with various music cues that he composed after familiarizing himself with the short story and script – this was long before filming had begun. Ang Lee was so moved by Santaolalla’s pieces, that he shared them with the cast, and soon Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Anne Hathaway were listening to the sparse, melancholy notes in between takes, and using the music as emotional inspiration for their work.
Now, I’m obviously not going to try to force any preparation on an actor. But it can’t hurt to have some emotional assistance on the ready, if welcomed. And, at the very least, I know that Gary’s music will help me get my head around the visceral impact I want this story to have on the audience. Gary not only appreciates music…he appreciates film. And that’s why I know he’ll be a great collaborator on Beneath the Surface.
Thanks for being on the team, Gary! Welcome!
NEXT UP: TEAM DELIBERATE! Yes, there are other victims members…whether they like it or not!