GMS ‘Sync of the Month’ – November Issue

GMS ‘Sync of the Month’ – November Issue

By Vicky Bennett / GMS Coordinator

The next ‘Sync of The Month’ comes from Independent Music Supervisor, Claire Freeman who is also a part of our Full Working Board Committee.
As we move on to our November Issue, we were really excited to hear from Claire who reveals her ‘Sync of the Month’ which, as you can see from the above poster is, A Chiara. This Italian film was most recently on the longlist for Best International Independent Film at the BIFA’s.
Claire, speaks further on why a Sync from A Chiara stood out to her.

Claire Freeman:

Voce’ by Madame in Italian feature film ‘A Chiara’.

I watched ‘A Chiara’ recently for the BIFAs in the Best International Independent Film submissions and it
really stayed with me. A powerful, gritty coming of age story about an Italian family, told
from the viewpoint of rebellious teenager Chiara whose father goes missing, and what she
then discovers about his life and involvement with a criminal underworld.

The film has a heady and vibrant soundtrack that relentlessly drives the narrative. “Voce”
is synced over End Titles. I’ve never heard this piece of music before, but for me, it perfectly
captured the passion, guts and defiance of Chiara and her survival and success in the world
against the odds. Particularly the chorus, which really pulls at your heartstrings. It moved
me to tears, which is not something that happens very often! So, I thought, worthy of this

I don’t speak Italian, but this seemed irrelevant, as the emotions shine so clearly through
the music. Later I looked up the lyrics and it’s about a broken relationship, which is very apt
for the storyline, being that of the father/daughter separation story.

I thought it was one of the best End Titles tracks I’ve heard in a while and I would highly
recommend the film if you have an opportunity to see it.

Thank you so much Claire for sharing your Sync of the Month! You can see the song used in this sync below.

Watch this space to find out what our next Sync of the Month is!

GMS ‘Sync of the Month’ – October Issue

By Vicky Bennett / GMS Coordinator

In our October Issue, we discuss the next featured Sync moment from Music Supervisor, and one of our Full Working Board Members, Carmen Montanez-Callan of Carmen Montanez-Callan Music Supervision

We were excited to hear from Carmen who reveals her Sync of the Month which as you may see from the above clue is from the critically acclaimed Apple TV+ series, The Morning Show.
Carmen speaks further on why a Sync from it stood out to her.

Carmen Montanez-Callan:

Nemesis‘ by Benjamin Clementine in The Morning Show on Apple TV+.

I was really excited to find that when ‘The Morning Show‘ Season 2 aired in September, they had kept the title track. This is the only title sequence, apart from Game of Thrones, that I insist on watching all the way through so I can sing along dramatically. Much to the annoyance of my household of people and pets.

Good title sequence graphics were one of the first things that inspired me to explore a career in Film & TV and this is one of the best to my mind. Unfortunately, in the era of catch up and SVODs, they often get skipped. But not this one. Not in my house. 

Colourful animated spheres, like snooker balls, dance across the screen in a battle of ego and power dynamics, echoing themes of the series. The track punctuates the animation like intimidating exclamation marks. Clementine’s voice is reminiscent of a shove or a punch when paired with the animation, as the spheres knock into each other, square up to one another, or grow into threatening giants overshadowing the smaller ones as they shrink and cower away.

The “HHHRUM!” of Clementine’s vocal, along with the persistent strings and drum beat, create an urgent, threatening, almost military feel that sets the viewer on edge and hurtles the sequence forward. Finally, the solo piano accompanies the last ball as it bounces and scuttles away.

The way the track interacts with the animation brings to mind Greek Mythology where the gods watched over humans and engineered battlegrounds to their own advantage. This, of course, illustrates the Machiavellian tactics used by the characters in the series. But maybe I’ve just watched Jason and the Argonauts too many times.”

Thank you, Carmen, for sharing your Sync of the Month! You can see the Sync below.

Watch this space if you want to find out what our next Sync of the Month is!

GMS ‘Sync of the Month’

By Vicky Bennett / GMS Coordinator

We are rolling out a new monthly short feature where we hear from a selection of UK & European Music Supervisors discussing their ‘Sync of The Month’ 

For the first month, we had the pleasure to hear from Music Supervisor, Rupert Hollier at Redfive who reveals his Sync of the Month which as you may see from the above clue is from the critically acclaimed Apple TV+ series, Ted Lasso.

Rupert Hollier:
I loved the use of “I Feel Free” by Cream in the last episode of Ted Lasso on Apple TV+.

The series is a breath of fresh air given the state of the world right now (!) – it’s a joy to watch, and all the characters are on journeys of personal growth throughout the two seasons.

Nate has risen to the position of Head Coach in the face of adversity, but he is still the target of bullying a d occasionally ridicule – I Feel Free is used over the end credits of Episode 7 when he goes and confronts someone who he feels has been unkind to him, and as the song starts it feels like a new Nate is born, and that going forward he is not someone to be crossed, he feels free from the shackles of being the victim, and the song sums up his mood perfectly.

It’s obviously a vintage track, but Cream, are of course incredible, and not used enough in my opinion – the song still feels fresh and works perfectly in this episode.

Thanks, Ru for sharing this with us! We will be back next month for a highlight from September so keep your eyes peeled!

Emmy Award Nominations 2021 – Discussing the UK Music Supervisors’ Work

By Vicky Bennett / GMS Coordinator

The 73rd Primetime Emmy Award nominations were announced on the 13th of July.  We would like to congratulate all of the music supervisors who have been a pivotal part in creating and curating music for each of the various TV series that have been nominated.

In light of these nominations, we had the absolute pleasure to speak with the UK nominees for the various tv series for ‘Outstanding Music Supervision’ which feature interviews with the following:

Music Supervisor,  Sarah Bridge The Crown
Music Supervisor, Ciara Elwis & Matt Biffa I May Destroy You

We firstly spoke with Sarah Bridge who was the music supervisor for The Crown – Season 4 who dives into the episode ‘Fairytale’ which is nominated for an Emmy.

This particular episode is an especially powerful piece on a young Diana and focuses heavily on the vast transitions she went through at an early age. The music throughout the season and notably in ‘Fairytale’ is featured and used as a comforting escape for Diana from the realities of what she is living through at the time.
It was in this episode that it felt incredibly important to select the appropriate song choices that worked to heighten the emotional journey we go on with Diana.I think one of the most prominent moments that exemplify this is the use of “Song For Guy” by Elton John in episode three. It plays during scene in which Diana is feeling utterly alone and despairing, she is losing herself in dance and music – it is a bittersweet moment of sadness and empowerment.
We go on an incredibly emotional journey with Diana and sought to score this both with Martin Phipps’ original music and songs that felt true to her character.

The opening scene featuring Diana and “Edge of Seventeen”. I read the script and then made the suggestion to Ben and Peter that we look for a song that could run across the montage sequence of Diana sharing her news, celebrating her happiness and landing in the club with her and friends dancing and singing to the song. It was a lot of fun exploring options pre-filming and seeing it come together in the edit.

The opening of this episode is the happiest we see Diana in the show and director Benjamin Caron and I both felt that “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks captured the spirit of the euphoric joy that Diana was feeling in this moment.We were sent the stems for editing purposes and whilst listening through were captured by the raw beauty and haunting feel of the acapella, this led to us trying it over the end titles, it felt very significant and connected to the place of isolation where Diana finds herself at the end of the episode.

In a few words…
I am over the moon to be nominated for my music supervision work on The Crown. It is such an incredible production to be a part of and an absolute pleasure to collaborate with a wonderful and hugely talented team. This season provided an opportunity for us to experiment with a lot more commercial music as we step into the ’80s and the younger generation of the Royal Family begin to take centre stage. It was a lot of fun soundtracking this season!

Next, we spoke with Ciara Elwis & Matt Biffa for their role of music supervisor on Emmy nominated, I May Destroy You for episode 12, ‘Ego Death’.

Ciara & Matt:
This episode revolves around 3 different fantasies where Arabella explores how she might react if she came face to face with the man who assaulted her. Given that the characters, themes and location of those 3 fantasies are quite similar the music selected is key in illustrating the different tone and mood of these dream-like sequences.

Ciara & Matt:
I don’t remember there being a specific scene, but I was most aware of the repetition of certain scenes, so my mind initially went to how we would approach those ‘anchor’ moments musically given that we weren’t going to use a composer for the project. We ended up using a piece of Ionian choral music, with a different track layered over it for each of the 3 repetitions.

Ciara & Matt:
As mentioned before, we spoke with Michaela and the rest of the editorial team about the sort of mood and tone we wanted to create and also how we wanted the music to function in the sequences. There’s a lot of background bar music that needed to serve the dual purpose of working diegetically and also as an underscore to the events, so it was important for cues to have the right sort of tempo whilst also accentuating the drama. Firestarter was scripted so that had been decided before we came onto the project, so our main tasks was to find songs with a contrasting feel to the other two scenarios. That said, we also wanted all of the music to have a slightly ethereal edge to it given the fanatical theme of the episode.

Ciara & Matt:
I love the Firestarter usage firstly because of how the sequence was shot and edited – it looks like a music video(!) but also because it was a really tricky clearance situation so every time I see it I’m reminded of how worthwhile it can feel when you come out the other side with everyone happy!
I’m also really happy with our use of ‘rain comes down’ by Vince Staples as it’s a clever link lyrically to a track we seeded through the season ‘It’s gonna rain’ by Rev. Milton Brunson and the Thompson community singers – ‘it’s gonna rain’ plays during the initial sequence where Arabella is drugged, so it feels like the musical narrative changes as Arabella decides to change the narrative on her assault.

Thank you Sarah, Ciara and Matt for taking the time to speak with us here at GMS, we wish both all the best of luck in the next stage and we are excited to see what projects you will share with us in the future!

Composer Corner: Högni Egilsson Discusses Katla

By Vicky Bennett / GMS Coordinator

This month, we are excited to bring back our ‘Composer Corner‘!

We had the absolute pleasure to speak with Högni Egilsson to understand his work on the score behind the first Icelandic production for Netflix, Katla.

Högni tells us his role, process, how he ensured he enhanced the story through his music, and even gives us a sneak peek into what he is currently working on.

With this being the first Icelandic production for Netflix, How did you come to be involved with Katla and what was it that drew you towards working on the series?

Högni Egilsson:
Baltasar, the show’s creator, and I had been in touch for a while. He had shown interest in my work, listened to my albums and attended a concert of mine where I performed alongside a string quartet. One day he invited me over and showed me the mood board for the series KATLA and told me about the premise for it.  In our conversation, he emphasised that he wanted the music to have authority and presence, something to wrap the audience in mystery and hypnosis.  Baltasar’s passion was infectious and since the outlook was that KATLA would be quite a progressive piece of cinema where I had freedom to write a musical fairy-tale, I was excited from the start.  

I can imagine that this was a dark project to work on when you consider the plot of the series. Whilst listening to the soundtrack, Elegy is uplifting and feels almost angelic, but somehow still juxtaposed with fear and loss. Whereas when you move to the next song, Vivus, it feels like it is clear that there is an overcast of darkness looming closer.
— How did you find the balance of creating music that matches both the lighter and darker scenes and which instruments do you feel works best for creating these tones?

I believe that within music there should be a whole galaxy of sense and emotion and it’s beauty is due to its double entendre,  without it,  the music is worthless.  Its innate quality is its ability to portray what is behind the fleeting in this world, whether it is light or dark, and to remind us of whatever there is that might be surfacing.  
There is an agenda and a message that is still yet to unravel,  something that if successful, will never be explained.   So all efforts of using music as a brush to paint the “light” or “dark”  in the story are superfluous,  rather to use the music to help an audience or spectator make touch with the divine that is found in the piece and in the story and thus within themself.

How did you interpret what each of the directors, Baltasar Kormákur, Börkur Sigþórsson and Thora Hilmarsdottir wanted from a scene?   

I was only in touch with Baltasar and the series co-creator  Sigurjon Kjartansson.   The only real way for me to get in touch with whatever expectations they had from the music,  however intangible as it seemed, was with trial and error.  
There were certain folkloric concept attachments that I was given, but it wasn’t until I made different experimentations with tonal language,  using alternate modes of tone sequences that I got the reaction from the filmmakers I was seeking, I could really see that a certain series of notes gave them the “shivers”  and extracted the “coldness” we were looking for.   Pretty early on I saw that I needed to expand out of the common diatonic frame into a more astral plateau of musical notes.

How did you ensure that the vocals on some of these compositions complimented the music and helped enhance the story being told?  

Using my two main vehicles of composition,  counterpoint and harmony.   In the score, we decided that the voice would have two symbolic associations,  one being the voice of the mountain, portrayed by the Japanese vocalist Hatis Noit, and the other depicted the loss and seclusion of the lost mother, portrayed by the Soprano of Hallveig Runarsdottir.  So by fashion I crafted the melody when her spirit was present in the scene.

Have you ever incorporated obscure instruments or used alternative techniques with instruments in your work?

My modular synthesizer is definitely an obscure and chaotic musical instrument! I try to use the instruments that I have available in a traditional manner. I’m not so severely interested in jilted and distorted sounds, my love is for music and tonality and using musical language to write musical poems that carry a message.  If I’m to do an album of ambient music,  I let my dishwasher do all the work for me!

Are there any fellow composers, musicians and artists that you would love to collaborate with or that you look to for inspiration?

I would love to work with the wonderful Armenian Viola player Yuri Bashmet.

Are you working on anything new at the moment that you can share with us?

At the moment I am writing a Symphony to be performed by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra this November.  The program of the concert will also feature inspiring pieces of symphonic music by composers who are dear to me that I can’t wait to share with an audience.

A huge thank you to Högni for taking the time out to speak with us here at GMS, it was an absolute pleasure to dive further into the music behind Katla!

You can stream the full season of Katla now on Netflix where you can hear the full soundtrack from Högni Egilsson.

You can read more about Högni’s work at Erased Tapes, HERE

GMS Project Spotlight – Iain Cooke on 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything

By Vicky Bennett / GMS Coordinator

This month we had the absolute pleasure to speak with Music Supervisor, Iain Cooke, who takes us through the process of the new and perhaps most ambitious Documentary in terms of Music Supervision, 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything.

How did you come to be involved with ‘1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything’ and what was it that drew you towards working on it?
— Is there a certain way you prepare before working on such a music-led documentary?

Iain Cooke:
I was first made aware of the project six years ago in the summer of 2015 while I was over in Cannes for the AMY premiere. That film was made by the same team that made this documentary series. The producer James Gay-Rees told me about a book that he’d optioned a manuscript for which was 1971: Never a Dull Moment by David Hepworth, and the broad premise is that in Hepworth’s opinion, 1971 is the greatest year in music ever. 

It was a truly seminal year and for many reasons all these absolute classic and pivotal albums were being released. Everything from Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On” to Sly and the Family Stone “There’s A Riot Goin’ On”, Joni Mitchell “Blue”, Carole King “Tapestry”, Bowie “Hunky Dory”, an endless list of classics. Jame and I had some really early conversations whether a music documentary of this magnitude was even feasible and whether we’d even be likely to be able to secure the rights to all of these huge songs and copyrights.

I read the manuscript for the book at that time, and then many conversations over the years, then maybe three years later the production team started to broadly flesh out the project and tried to work out what format it would be, for example if it would be tackled chronologically like the book, and whether it would be released as several films through this year. Eventually it settled into an episodic format of 8 x 45 minutes each. 

I’d say all Music Supervisors are researchers and crate-diggers and 1971 itself is a sweet spot in my record collection and many of these albums were already inherent favourites of mine and I have been very aware of the songs on the albums and lots  of the backstories but as part of the process, I read the book, read around the era, I started to compile lists and familiarise myself with the music of the era, not just the main singles but the deeper cuts and lesser known album tracks too.

A project like this is a music lovers dream because the whole project is fascinating whilst having the opportunity work with such a great team. Asif Kapadia is one of the greatest filmmakers in the world at what he does, James Gay-Rees has such an amazing, proven track record of making these brilliant documentaries, and there was an amazing team including editor Chris King who cut Senna and Amy and Maradona. I knew the calibre of the project was promising because they’d put a incredibly strong team together.

The music is so fundamental to this story and the music team are crucial as a project like this can’t be made without the music knowledge and music rights, along with the brilliant archive team and incredible editorial team who pieced it together. 

After you first read the script and music cues, what did you look forward to working on the most?

A huge part of our job is to help the storytellers realise their vision. A documentary such as this is very different from a TV drama or film. We were working with songs that were either recorded or released or performed live during the year 1971, and the music supervision role becomes a huge rights negotiation. You’re liaising with the editorial team and helping with ideas but if they select a particular live performance or if there’s a certain piece of archive that’s fundamental to tell in the story then that question is put to the music team to feed back very quickly whether this is going to be a viable option and potentially clearable, rather than wasting days and days cutting a sequence that isn’t going to be able to be used.

It can be argued that this has been the most ambitious music documentary ever to be made in terms of the impressive music supervision work involved for going through the volume and level of artists and songwriters.
— Can you tell us a little about your process during this project and how you worked/collaborated with the directors to ensure each song chosen was successfully placed in the documentary?

You’re right, perhaps the thing that sets this documentary aside is the level of the artists involved and I think we had over 150 songs in the series, 58 different artists, 108 different songwriters, and when you take into account that that includes the likes of The Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye, John Lennon, Carole King, Joni Mitchell,  Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, George Harrison, Bob Marley, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Miles Davis, Bill Withers, Pink Floyd and the list goes on and on, then is just amazing. One of the things we did try to do early on is have a call with the key rights holders at the record labels and publishers and introduce the project to them. They were incredibly supportive throughout the project. We let them know about our ambitions for the project, the shear scope of it and that we were hoping to tell the definitive story of 1971 and include the music that was released that year. You just hope that the bands and artists and songwriters and estates will hopefully want to be a part of that story. 

It’s a different sort of process when you’re working on a film and you’re attaching a song of theirs to a scene, whereas essentially this series was rooted in 1971. There was a lot of support for it, we were always trying to have very open, transparent conversations with the rights holders and keep them informed. 

We were incredibly lucky that early on in the editing process that we did receive blessing from both The Rolling Stones as well John Lennon’s estate which helps cement the documentary’s credentials. Even so, it was a long and intense process but there was a huge desire from all to be involved and support this project, and hopefully the end result is very rewarding for all to see.

How did you ensure you found the most original and raw pieces of music to illustrate the authenticity for the viewers watching?

Again, massive credits to the archive and editorial team, they were scouring so many archives and digging up lots of previously unseen footage. There’s a lot of live performances which was deliberate, I think there’s something very personal when you see, for example, Carole King or Joni Mitchell perform live and there’s a device really, which in 1971 a lot of the way these artists would have been seen in people’s homes were through that power of the live performance and early TV recordings too. The filmmakers wanted to almost present those songwriters in a way they would’ve been seen by the people at the time. It’s pretty mad that it is fifty years ago this year.

Were there any personal music discoveries you made whilst travelling back into this era of music?

Definitely, you could probably make another whole series with the music we weren’t able to include but again the filmmakers felt it was more important to do a deep dive into certain artists and discover their story rather than to try and cover all bases and dilute some of these stories. They really wanted to hone in on certain episodes whether it be Sly and Family Stone, or The Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye or John Lennon etc. 

I do think one of the artists that really shines through, and I was proud by how much time his music gets, was Gil Scott-Heron who’s an absolute favourite of mine. I think he’s perhaps an artist where, a lot of the viewing audience will be very aware of Marvin Gaye’s “Whats Going On” or John Lennon’s “Imagine” and I hope that this helps Gil Scott-Heron reach a new younger audience. His music was so political and it did sell a lot of albums at the time but when you hear songs such as “No-Knock” talking about where police didn’t need a reason, just to suspect and it’s scary. With the Attica Prison riots episode, Gil Scott-Heron, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, who were all part of the civil rights movement that was moving into the black power movement. You have Aretha Franklin standing side-by-side with Angela Davis offering to pay her bail bond, I just think it was an incredibly political time. 

You only have to observe the events of the last year in the US and UK to know that a lot of these historic political and social issues are still here and very prevalent today. I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways from watching the series— you’re watching these events from fifty years ago and in many ways everything’s changed but deep down nothing’s really changed.

Do you think that making sure placing such important pieces of music in there helps to tell the story better for those political events?

Definitely. Rockstars were the most influential people around and they weren’t scared to use their voice and support causes. Marvin Gaye wrote “What’s Going On” because he was upset about his brother being drafted to Vietnam. Jimmy Iovine say’s in the documentary ‘these albums were like Trojan horses, they came as beautiful music but really were delivering an incredibly political message’. You’ve got Marvin Gaye’s lyrics ‘There’s too many of you dying, war is not the answer, only love can conquer hate.’; on “Inner City Blues’: ’Rockets, moon shots, Spend it on the have nots…This ain’t livin’…Trigger-happy policing, Panic is spreading, God knows where we’re heading.’ 

John Lennon says that music reflects the state that society is in, on “Imagine” he’s writing songs like ‘All I Want is the Truth’ ‘I Don’t Want to be a Soldier Mama, I Don’t Wanna Die’. I think there’s just an incredibly political message throughout these albums. 

The series starts with Kent State Massacre, which is pre-71’, Neil Young picks up a guitar and writes ‘Ohio’, Bob Dylan writes ‘George Jackson’ in tribute to the Black Panther leader George Jackson, who had been shot and killed by guards at San Quentin Prison. 

It just feels like the songwriters and artists at the time were trying to support these causes and weren’t afraid to. That’s one of the most important things they can do is to use their voice and profile to highlight these issues and make sure we’re talking about them and also trying to do something to resolve them.

I suppose nowadays people may listen to these songs and not really understand he certain implications that came at the time so with this documentary it highlights what was actually happening in 1971 they weren’t just creating music to create music they were creating music to send a message.

Absolutely. I think in the early 1970’s a lot of the topics were about marginalised people realising that nothing is impossible and having their time and there’s a revolutionary consciousness in music and society because of that.

What was your favourite scene to watch back when final mixing took place & what was your most memorable moment/highlight of working on this documentary?

I’d say the two most memorable cues are, firstly Leonard Cohen’s “Avalanche” which plays over the sequence of the Attica Prison Riots which I think it one of the most powerful episodes and then also there’s a use of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Evil’ for some really quite harrowing scenes and when you watch the music and visuals together you can’t help but be affected. It’s difficult to pinpoint an individual highlight moment because I think the highlight is to get towards the end of this project and actually realise the ambitionse. It was over two years in the edit, and I think just to be able to actually help the filmmakers realise their vision for this unparalleled music documentary series is the highlight.

After tackling such an ambitious project, what advice would you give someone looking to become a supervisor?

All of us involved at the Guild of Music Supervisors are big advocates of helping the next generation of music supervisors develop and I would always thoroughly recommend it as a career path if you have the passion and it’s something you want to pursue. 
The 1971 project really highlights how diligent and how organised you have to be as as a music supervisor as well as forging long-lasting and trusting relationships with the Rights Holders and wider network that are based on honesty and transparency.

There are so many huge songs included and as a music supervisor you are trying to respect the copyrights and pay as much as is reasonably possible, but also taking into account the overall budget and the fact that we were trying to use over 150 of the biggest songs ever written within an eight-part series and managing that element. 

It was huge fun to work on and there was huge pressure throughout but you have to have the confidence that you can solve problems as they arise, or that you’re able to find creative solutions that don’t compromise the overall aesthetic of the film or the series. 

There is absolutely no way I could have done this project without my amazing music coordinator Estera Dabrowska and having her support, help with prepping the requests, keeping tabs on the approvals and so much more, and also my fantastic licensing colleague Pru Miller who had a gigantic mountain of paperwork to wade through. They should absolutely share in the success and enjoy their immense contributions as a vital part of this extraordinary documentary series too.

Thank you Iain for taking the time to speak with us here at GMS, it is a pleasure to be able to spotlight this project and we wish you all the best on any future projects!

You can now stream 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything on Apple TV+ now!

2021 BAFTA TV ‘Original Score’ Award Feature

By Vicky Bennett / GMS Coordinator

The BAFTA Television Craft Awards took place on the 24th of May and firstly we would like to say congratulations to all the nominees for making it this far, who have been a pivotal part in creating music for each of the various series!

A huge congratulations to the Winner, Harry Escott for his Original Score on Roadkill.

In light of this, we had the absolute pleasure to speak with all the incredibly talented Composers nominated for ‘Original Score’ to get a deeper understanding of their work on each of the series listed and expand once again on ‘Composers Corner’.

We spoke to the following Composers:

Harry Escott
Roadkill -The Forge Entertainment/BBC One

Cristobal Tapia de Veer
The Third Day (episode 3)- Sky Studios, Plan B Entertainment, Punchdrunk Entertainment, HBO/Sky Atlantic

H. Scott Salinas
Baghdad Central – Euston Films/Channel 4

Martin Phipps
The Crown- Left Bank Pictures in association with Sony Pictures Television/Netflix

Our first interview features Harry Escott to get a better understanding of his work on the award-winning soundtrack, Roadkill.

Within a couple of hours, Michael called back and told me he wanted me to compose the score. I was delighted, the scripts had really drawn me in and the tone of the show was exciting to me!

Vicky: How did you come to be involved with Roadkill and what was it that drew you towards working on the series? 

Harry Escott:
Remembering meeting Michael Keillor (the director) for the first time still makes me cringe a little. I thought I had fluffed it and went home feeling very despondent. I sat down at the piano and started messing around and a sort of wonky waltz began to take shape – it really was a subconscious thing, a bit of noodling, but I realised that it was a response to the Roadkill scripts so I pressed record and sent off a very rough mp3 of my dodgy piano playing. Within a couple of hours, Michael called back and told me he wanted me to compose the score. I was delighted, the scripts had really drawn me in and the tone of the show was exciting to me – at its core, Roadkill is a very dark and bleak observation but it’s done with humour, mischief and a breeziness which I thought was unusual and beguiling.  

Vicky: How do you feel that the music you composed for the main title of Roadkill, played an integral part in accompanying the audience with what they were about to watch?
— Is there a certain process you go through to ensure that the music in both the opening and end sequence best represents the sound you want to illustrate for the overall tone of the series?

The function of opening titles music is very different from end credits music. For Roadkill, we had a different piece of music to close each episode which makes sense because, for me, at the end of a story it is all about holding people in the same space and allowing them a few seconds to reflect on what they have just experienced – so it’s an extension of the score really. The opening titles is a bit more tricky, specifically for television. On the one hand, it needs to be a musical reflection of the show so that it allows the viewer a way in to what they are about to watch but, on the other, it has to sell the show and often those two things aren’t perfectly aligned. Opening credits sequences for films don’t have that pressure – you just focus on whether the music sets up the tone of the film or prepares an audience appropriately but with television, the dialogue often moves away from the director and over to the producers at that point and talk of “which channel…what the audience is likely to be…what time it is airing…” creeps in…so it’s a different beast!

Vicky: How did you interpret what the director, Michael Keillor, wanted from a scene?

Michael was very clear from the beginning that he didn’t want underscore, in fact, he didn’t want the music to follow or score the drama specifically at all: he wanted a tune and he wanted it to play alongside the visuals. “Put those interesting drones away. Give me a tune, Harry!” he would shout jovially down the phone to me. It took me a while to find what he was after –  my initial offerings were still too emotionally “zoomed in”, but then I realised that by ignoring the specifics of what is happening on screen we become much more aligned with the viewpoint of our central character, Peter Lawrence, played by Hugh Laurie. He is a sociopath, who is very good at pretending to care for and about those around him, but, in reality, he only cares about winning. And so, adding music which doesn’t get bogged down in mirroring the emotions of a scene helps us see things from his point of view: “how am I going to manage this to make me look good?” In any event, that is all he is thinking about – an alarmingly effective way of getting ahead, which I suppose is one of the darker and more bleak questions that the drama poses: is that attitude / nature a prerequisite for success in our world?  

Vicky: Can you talk a little about your role throughout the writing process? Are there any highlights for you looking back on the work?

Seeing the smiles on the musicians’ faces as they walked into Air Studios in May last year was lovely: we were still in the depths of the first lockdown at the time and it was the first session at Air for a couple of months. We really pushed hard to record this properly and I am so glad we did. Having musicians in a room with the composer and the director makes a huge difference. Being able to feedback and instantly hear the results and then keep going back and forth was a key part of the process for this score and to do that without everyone being together in a room would not have worked. I realise that this is not a very fashionable thing to say right now when we are all trying to pretend that remote working is fine, but I actually think it is a hugely positive thing to admit that for some things, it is far better to be in a room together and I can’t think of a better example then making music.

Thank you Harry, for taking the time out to speak with us!
You can listen to the full OST below:

Next we had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Cristobal Tapia de Veer to get a deeper understanding for his work on The Third Day.

The melodies for the orchestral part I sung into my phone, while out in the forest, the Laurentian Mountains, far from civilization. I wanted to capture a sense of being lost or isolated while increasing the feeling of connecting to nature and to the subconscious mind.

Vicky: How did you come to be involved with The Third Day and what was it that drew you towards working on the series?

Cristobal Tapia de Veer:
Director Marc Munden asked me to do it. I was interested in the political subtext, mainly, the references to Brexit, Trump’s America, cults and racism that were in the script.

Vicky: Understanding that this series was split into three interconnected parts, ‘Summer’ ‘Autumn’ and ‘Winter’, how did you interpret ‘Summer‘ and what was the sound you wanted to illustrate for the overall tone of this, to the audience, through the story and characters in this sequence?

I wanted to illustrate the dialogue between Sam (main character) and Osea (the island, a character on its own), which basically defines the main character’s inner struggles but leaving it open to interpretation. What’s happening could actually be happening for real, not only in his head. There is the emotional score (strings), fragile vocals, acoustic guitars, simple melodies, which connect the main character’s grief and healing process to the way he imagines things… The melodies for the orchestral part I sung into my phone, while out in the forest, the Laurentian Mountains, far from civilization. I wanted to capture a sense of being lost or isolated while increasing the feeling of connecting to nature and to the subconscious mind.
Another part is the wild score, atonal and brutal, which is or could be what’s actually happening in this world. 

Vicky: How did you interpret what the director, Marc Munden, wanted from a scene?

Emotionally, it’s the only way to interpret what anybody wants, I think.

Vicky: Can you talk a little about your role throughout the writing process? Are there any highlights for you looking back on the work?

I always work to get in character, so to speak. For this I experimented a lot in the forest, recording instruments or finding sounds, even the programming part was done on a laptop in the woods, as it can be an unfriendly place, certainly more adequate and conducive to creativity than a professional recording studio. That being said once that was composed, the orchestral parts were recorded in a proper studio.

Thank you Cristobal, for taking the time out to speak with us!
You can listen to the full OST below:

In our next interview we had the incredible opportunity to speak to H. Scott Salinas who walks us through his work on Baghdad Central.

One of my favourite parts of working on this score was travelling to Ouarzazate, Morocco to the actual set of the show. …besides being a fly on the wall I was able to do field recordings on-site and capture the raw essence of the show as it was coming together.

Vicky: How did you come to be involved with Baghdad Central, and what was it that drew you towards working on the series?

H. Scott Salinas:
Alice had heard my work on City of Ghosts, a documentary that takes place in the Middle East, and reached out for me to audition through my agent at WME. For the audition, I read the scripts of the episodes and then was asked to sketch out a piece with my interpretation of what the music of the series might entail. I was immediately drawn to the tone of the scripts. While the setting was clearly important (Iraq during the US occupation), there was also this really interesting detective component which was really unexpected and piqued my interest and in turn, fueled my early creative process. In the end, my submission really resonated with Alice and the rest of the team and so luckily I was awarded the job.

Vicky: How do you feel that the music you composed for the main title of Baghdad Central, plays an integral part in accompanying the audience with what they were about to watch?
— Is there a certain process you go through to ensure that the opening sequence best represents the sound you wanted to illustrate for the overall tone of the series?

Actually the main titles are derived directly from my original audition demo. Alice sent me two references prior to the audition, 1) a metal worker in Baghdad banging intently on a piece of metal with a mallet as he molded it into shape. 2) An old school film noir song from the 60s.
Alice was very clear that she thought the visceral essence of Baghdad coupled with classic detective music would be the perfect amalgamation for the score and would properly encapsulate the tone of the scripts. I humbly accepted the challenge and took it very seriously and low and behold I think those two references are quite clear in the main titles. The idea was that at the end of the day while the setting was crucial to the story it was also a detective story and we wanted to play on those classic tropes of mystery and the smartest person in the room uncovering that which no one else can.

Vicky: How did you interpret what the director, Alice Troughton, wanted from a scene?

Alice was always very clear on the story, mood, and character. And she managed to capture the story so expertly that it was quite clear what was needed. The hardest part of the score was capturing the tone but since we managed to do that essentially from the outset, it was a pretty smooth process to tell the story through that filter. We always had to be cognizant to maintain the balance of the detective story which has a sort of tongue in cheek quality and the ever-increasing stakes of the story.

Vicky: Can you talk a little about your role throughout the writing process? Are there any highlights for you looking back on the work?

One of my favourite parts of working on this score was travelling to Ouarzazate, Morocco to the actual set of the show. The team was very generous to send me out there and besides being a fly on the wall I was able to do field recordings on site and capture the raw essence of the show as it was coming together. Once I was back in my studio in Los Angeles, I was able to channel that feeling I had on the ground in the desert and utilize some of those sounds that I captured which really gave me the confidence that I was on the right track and that I was part of the creative process not just musically but as a storyteller.

Thank you Scott for taking the time out to speak with us!
You can listen to the full OST below:

Lastly, we had the absolute pleasure to speak with Martin Phipps about his iconic work on The Crown, season 4.

With the arrival of such strong new characters, and the shift to the vibrant 80’s the action demanded substantial new material, so the challenge was to make the new season feel fresh & updated.

Vicky: How did you come to be involved with The Crown and what was it that drew you towards working on the series?

Martin Phipps:
I met with the show runner Peter Morgan shortly after the 2nd season dropped on Netflix in 2017. He told me that, with the recasting of the show in Season 3, they wanted to try a different approach with the music. A more minimal, less bombastic approach, that hit hard emotionally & really dug under the skin of the main characters. To be honest, I was sceptical about not starting a series from the beginning & nervous about taking over from Rupert Gregson Williams & Lorne Balfe, who did an exceptional job on the first 2 seasons. However Peter assured me that he genuinely wanted something different, and that he thought I was the right person to deliver that.

Vicky: Anything different, in general, about your musical approach from Season 3 to Season 4?

 Peter Morgan was keen to keep a sense of continuity. We worked hard in Season 3 to build up a new body of sound/themes, but inevitably, with the arrival of such strong new characters, and the shift to the vibrant 80’s the action demanded substantial new material. So the challenge was to make the new season feel fresh & updated, while dropping in echoes of season 3 at regular intervals.

Vicky: How did you interpret what each of the directors, Benjamin Caron, Paul Whittington, Jessica Hobbs and Julian Jarrold, wanted from a scene?

Although I loved working with all these directors, and had some great steers from them over certain moments, they were often too tied up either filming, or engaged in the long & detailed edit that takes place for each episode on The Crown, so the main overall musical direction/decisions came from Peter himself.
During the opening weeks of the shoot, I wrote him an albums worth of new themes for Season 4. His reactions were instant & visceral – broad brush strokes – and he would divide them into “Love that” “Absolutely hate that, don’t let that near our show” and “Mmm not sure lets see”. After that, Peter worked closely with the editors & directors about which themes went where in the episodes. Once the edit of the episodes were pretty much finished, they were sent back to me, with most of the main themes roughly in place, and I would then develop, finesse & in some cases re-record teach cue.

Vicky: Can you talk a little about your role throughout the writing process? Are there any highlights for you looking back on the work?

The highlight of last season was getting back into the studio with some players, in the brief break in lockdown last summer. Composing for film & tv is a lonely job – most of my days are spent staring at a blank computer screen or keyboard, hoping something will come to me – and this was only made worse by COVID – so the chance to be back in the room with real people was fantastic.

Thank you Martin, for taking the time out to speak with us here at GMS!
You can listen to the full OST below:

Thank you to each composer for taking the time out to speak to us here at GMS about your work on each of these shows. We wish you the best in all of your future projects!

Welcome to our new Advisory Board – Get to know each member!

By The GMS Team

Since we announced our new Advisory Board Members in last months newsletter, we spoke with them to gain further insight into what they hope to achieve at GMS whilst they’re on the board.

Our newest members are:
Carmen Montanez-Callan
Claire Freeman
Catherine Grieves
Danny Layton
Ciara Elwis
Clare Everson

Our returning members for another term are:
Karen Elliott
Ian Neil
Ed Bailie
Gary Welch
Dominic Bastrya
Sarah Bridge
Dan Neale

We are delighted to have these excellent members representing us for the next term and actively involved in supporting the work of the Guild and creating awareness of the music supervision community in both the UK and Europe.

You can read each members full bio at our ABOUT section on the website.

We asked each member: ‘What are your particular areas of interest and goals that you would like to see achieved during the next 2 years whilst you are on the GMS Advisory Board?

Claire Freeman, Independent:
I have worked as a Music Supervisor for Film & TV for many years, and hope that my wealth of experience and contacts will be helpful for the GMS going forward.
In terms of goals/interests, I am keen to focus on working with the USA unions particularly with a view to creating fairer fees for lower budget projects.
I would also like to discuss with licensors a way of improving licensing agreements, with the aim of including keywording in the first instance to save so much back and forth in post.
I think this would save time on both sides, for supervisors & the rights holders legal teams.

Clare Everson, Twenty Below Music:
I look forward to joining the Advisory Board to listen to current members’ feedback, continue to develop inspiring and supportive initiatives, as well as share ideas for developing the scope and impact of the GMS. In particular, I hope to work together to diversify the opportunities and routes for career access, including increasing visibility of our sector to a wider talent pool. I hope we can take action to tackle the current diversity gap in our sector and work towards a more representative and inclusive industry.

Carmen Montanez-Callan, Independent:
My particular areas of interest within GMS are Diversity, Inclusion and Education. I’m excited to be part of a committee of people dedicated to making real and much-needed change to D&I within our industry. There is much work to be done and we all need to take action. In Education, Music Supervisors must adapt continuously to an ever-evolving media landscape and I look forward to being able to contribute to this area of GMS’s work and help increase the output of Education resources.

Catherine Grieves, Faber Music:
My particular area of interest and experience is in supervision for television and streaming services. As an area that has rapidly grown in recent years, and sees continuous change and development in requirements from producers and rights owners, the Guild can play a vital part in advising and educating on both sides, in a way that lets both industries thrive. I’d like to help encourage these conversations.

Ciara Elwis, Air-Edel:
Over the next two years, I’m hoping to help improve education about our section of the industry so as to attract talent from all backgrounds to this wonderful career path.

Danny Layton, Independent
Having managed music departments for some of the world’s largest independent production & distribution companies, I hope I can offer valuable insights & a useful perspective. As the challenges around music rights in the fast-developing media landscape continue to evolve, I am particularly interested in finding the right balance between supporting the commercial & creative ambitions of content makers & platforms, whilst ensuring music and its creators are properly valued. 

Ed Bailie, Leland Music:
Particularly with the GMS Unions Committee, I aim to seek clarity on the ever-evolving workings of our industry’s key trade unions (i.e. Musicians Union in the UK, AFM & SAG-AFTRA in the US) and share that information among the membership.  The Unions Committee’s goal is to educate the supervision community on union processes, rates, and watch-outs, to help our network of supervisors navigate the complicated world of unions. Over the next GMS term, we plan to run more panels (such as our 2020 stream with AFM / SAG-AFTRA and upcoming 2021 stream with the MU) and share detailed union reference documents with the membership via our web portal. It’s a big task but we have a brilliant team collaborating on it.

Ian Neil, Independent:
I am interested in all areas the Guild cover and look forward to helping and seeing supervisors new and old navigate the complexities of the role. I have been involved in Union issues and also some of the general workshops of which these are of particular interest, but I am happy to offer my skills wherever the Guild feel I can be of help. The Guild has ensured the world of music supervision has become a close-knit community and I hope it continues to provide the great service it has done to date. 

Karen Elliott, Warner Bros.:
I have a general belief that we are stronger together and believe that the GMS clearly enhances this.  Education is important to me sharing successes and failures so we can all learn from them.  Unions are also an area of interest to me and it would be great to think that by the end of the next 2 years we will have been involved in simplifying this minefield

Dan Neale, Native Music Soho:
It’s a real privilege to be able to continue working with the Guild and the rest of the board, and in the next two years I hope we can make film makers and agencies more aware of what it stands for. The Guild’s role in helping establish best practise within our craft continues to be exceptionally important, and the work that has been done so far to help educate new supervisors is an example of how effective the Guild can be. My personal short term goal is to continue working with the Unions committee to produce a concise, focused and up to date reference for Union fees – which is a great example of how sharing knowledge within the Guild, and with our rights holder partners, can improve our collective understanding.

Gary Welch, Independent:
I feel honoured to move into a second term on the Advisory Board. Continuing work on the Unions committee as well as expanding on the events offered to the community. First up is a series of Meet The Platforms to bring closer together film/TV and music industry people and create a better understanding of the evolving film and TV market.  It is more important now than ever to bring our community together as much as possible and work positively to ensure it is inclusive, transparent, diverse and engaging.

Sarah Bridge, Independent:
I am really pleased to see the ongoing sense of community that the Guild has brought to the music supervision and synch industry.
I am keen to see an increase in masterclasses and looking forward to seeing clarity on some of the key issues we have been discussing to date.

Dominic Bastyra, Wake The Town:
I am extremely excited to continue my work with UK & European Guild of Music Supervisors. I aim to help champion the vision that the Guild was set up for, and personally, I am looking to concentrate on the educational aspects of the Guilds work.

We look forward to developing and achieving these goals for The UK & European Guild of Music Supervisors and hope you enjoy being alongside us for this journey.

2021 BAFTA – Celebrating the UK & European Composers on the Longlist for ‘Original Score’

By Vicky Bennett / GMS Coordinator

The BAFTA Longlist for ‘Original Score’ was announced on the 4th of February.  We would like to firstly congratulate all of the composers who have been a pivotal part in creating music for each of the various films.

Since these were announced we had the absolute pleasure to speak with the incredibly talented UK & European Composers on the longlist for ‘Original Score’ to get a deeper understanding of their work on each of the films listed and expand on ‘Composers Corner‘.

The Composers we spoke with are:
Adam Janota Bzowski
Steven Price
Daniel Pemberton
Volker Bertelmann & Dustin O’Halloran

We first spoke with Adam Janota Bzowski Composer of the film, Saint Maud, to get a better understanding of his work.

Photo credit: Anna Peftieva.

The key note that came back was ‘go weirder, go stranger’. That was a pivotal moment that gave me the thrust I needed. From there I generated a wide selection of textures, noises and drones in a folder I called a colour box.

How did you come to be involved with Saint Maud and what was it that drew you towards working on the film?

Adam Janota Bzowski:
A serendipitous encounter with Oliver Kassman (SAINT MAUD producer) at a party was the genesis. After successfully hassling him, he sent on the treatment for SAINT MAUD which contained a loose synopsis of the movie alongside plenty of bloody imagery and gruesome photographs. I spent a few weeks creating a 40 minute music demo which eventually secured me the job as composer. When I went to meet Rose and the team for the first time I could hear through the walls they were already using my demos in the editing suite which was somewhat surreal as by that stage I still hadn’t been told if i had the job.

Initially, I didn’t have a lot to go on but there was certainly a mystical, unearthly quality to the ideas presented in the treatment that lured me in. I had watched Rose’s short films and enjoyed her work, they were filled with a kind of ambiguous supernatural sensuality which I was absolutely into.

What was your preparation process for scoring the film & were there any challenges involved going forward?

After reading the script I met up with Rose in a Soho coffee shop to talk it over in quite broad impressionistic terms, focusing more on the movies themes and the characters themselves. Once the edit was in a good shape I was tasked with scoring the whole movie as I interpreted it, to see what my initial ideas were against the picture. The first pass was far more melodic and luxurious than what we ended up with, I was pushing more towards highlighting the relationship between Maud and Amanda, but this was rightfully scrapped. Sometimes when you watch a scene repeatedly in isolation you can lose the bigger picture. 

The key note that came back was ‘go weirder, go stranger’. That was a pivotal moment that gave me the thrust I needed. From there I generated a wide selection of textures, noises and drones in a folder I called a colour box. Rose and the editor Mark Towns had this big palette of assets to create a roadmap of music across the scenes which meant I was rarely having to compete with temp scores, I just had to connect the dots.

How did you interpret what the director, Rose Glass, wanted from a scene?

Rose mainly used metaphors to describe what she was searching for, such as, ‘it needs to sounds like a warm bath’. It takes trial and error when finding common ground with musical language, not everyone’s bath sounds the same. However, with each round of feedback, I gained greater clarity on what Rose was looking for. It was very important to her the score not to sound traditional, we were trying to encapsulate the sounds inside the protagonist’s head so I tried to achieve a very claustrophobic, swampy texture to everything – akin to when running in a dream feels like running in treacle.

Can you talk a little about your role throughout the writing process? Are there any highlights for you looking back on the work?

Composing is strangely isolating. You work alone and are generally brought in quite late to the process, so by this stage most of the crew have a strong bond with each other which can feel difficult to socially crowbar into. I was very fortunate to be given free rein to experiment and explore on my own terms which would then be shaped and carved by Rose’s excellent direction. I remember feeling a self-imposed pressure on myself because it was my first film score but looking back it was an incredibly effortless process working on SAINT MAUD. The day we went to Goldcrest studios to listen to the final mix was a highlight. Cinema size screen and bone shatteringly loudspeakers, I felt very exposed, my music being so deafening but it was truly awesome. I am very grateful.

Thank you, Adam, for taking the time out to speak with us!
You can hear the full OST to Saint Maud below.

Next, we spoke with Steven Price, Academy & BAFTA Award-winning Composer, who walks us through his experience when working on the Documentary, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet.

Photo credit: Benjamin Ealovega

The challenge was often in reworking pieces many times until they felt like they supported his words just right… supporting in a hopefully moving way but whilst still carrying that sense of dignity that Sir David embodies.

How did you come to be involved with David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet and what was it that drew you towards working on the documentary?

Steven Price:
I’d been fortunate enough to work with the director and producers of the film before most recently on a Netflix Original Documentary series OUR PLANET. Towards the end of that production, which ran through much of 2018, they told me that they were working on this new film, and that it would be the first time Sir David had really told his story and given his “witness statement” about the way the world had changed during his time. Where he had more traditionally acted as a narrator, on this occasion Sir David would be directly addressing his audience, talking about his life, the things he’s seen, and sharing his fears and sadness about the state we’re in.

They asked if I would like to work on it, and of course I was honoured. Sir David has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember… I recall watching his shows with my parents as a child, and his voice must be one of the most trusted and respected in the world. The fact this film wasn’t going to hold back in showing the realities of the crisis we are faced with meant that this felt like a hugely important project to be involved with. I think everyone in the crew felt the same.

What was your preparation process for scoring the documentary & were there any challenges involved going forward?

The key thing for me was that this was a very personal project for Sir David, and so I wanted to make sure the music felt like it belonged to him. Some of my previous work in Natural History had been quite sweeping and epic in scale, reflecting the incredible images that the filmmakers capture, but this needed to feel more personal. Speaking to people involved who have been working with Sir David for many years, I learnt that his own musical tastes leant more towards chamber music, so that was the direction I headed in.

In the end, we recorded with a small hand-picked ensemble of musicians at Abbey Road in London. These were all players I have worked with many times before, and so as I was writing I could really specifically write for each player, hearing in my head the way they would elevate the material.
I spent a long time sketching themes that felt like they could go on the journey of Sir David’s life, from his early years as an adventurer often being one of the first to visit distant environments, through his career on television, and his dawning realisation about what was happening to the planet, his sadness about where we are but his hope for the future. The challenge was often in reworking pieces many times until they felt like they supported his words just right… supporting in a hopefully moving way but whilst still carrying that sense of dignity that Sir David embodies.

How did you interpret what each of the directors, Alastair Fothergill, Jonathan Hughes & Keith Scholey, wanted from a scene?

One of the great things about working with Alastair, Jonnie and Keith is that we’ve all done quite a lot together in recent years, so the dialogue is very free and honest. At the start of the process we talked about their hopes for the score, and Jonnie and I went through the whole film with him describing his hopes for each scene.
What I found was that I had to write a lot of music before playing them anything… I needed to be able to get far enough into the movie to know that the musical ideas I was planting at the start of the film really would develop as I hoped they would. When I’d got far enough into the film to feel like I had material I was proud of, I would send QuickTime movies showing the film with my demos incorporated to the directors. They would listen and share their thoughts with each other before presenting me with unified comments. We managed to avoid the situation of conflicting notes and it was one of those lovely projects where the notes really helped me to push the score to new places.
In a couple of spots, Jonnie was very specific about how he wanted themes to return, and those became some of my favourite parts of the film. Where we did initially see a scene slightly differently, we would tend to find a new solution to problems that were different to what either party would have expected or hoped for at the start of the process, so it felt like a very healthy collaboration. I should say… they are REALLY great at what they do, so really I felt my process could flow in the way it does when a film is beautifully constructed… it all felt very natural and like the film just kept telling me which way to go in a very satisfying way.

Can you talk a little about your role throughout the writing process? Are there any highlights for you looking back on the work?

My job is not only to write the music, collaborating with the filmmakers to ensure they feel the score is supporting their movie in hopefully the best way it can be, but also to produce the final score that you hear.

At the end of the demo process, I work with my orchestrator to bring the parts to life, and then produce the recording sessions themselves, working alongside my engineer to ensure we get the performances from the amazing musicians, and that the recordings themselves really capture the spirit of the work.
On this occasion, the sessions themselves were really the highlight for me. We had such brilliant musicians for every part, and because the film captures such a journey of a man’s life I made the decision that we would record the score in sequence. Often in film sessions, you may leap around the timeline rather, maybe recording music out of order if it helps the momentum of the session. With this, it felt like we really went through the arc of the film. At the end of the first day when we reached the darkest material as we see the dangers the world is facing it really did feel hugely sad in the room.
But the following day when we reached the part of the film when Sir David describes his hopes for the future, and some of the exciting and positive innovations that are starting to happen, you could really feel the hope in the studio.

Amazingly, it was at this point that Sir David himself came to the sessions, and took the time to speak to the musicians. The take that followed his speech was one of the most moving performances I could have hoped for. The memory of that will live with me for a long time. It’s a project I’m just so proud to be a part of, and I hope that people keep on finding it and watching it, as I really do believe it is such an important film.

Thank you, Steven, for taking the time out to speak with us here at GMS, it has been a pleasure.
You can listen to the full OST for David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, below.

In our next interview, we had the incredible opportunity to speak with Composer, Daniel Pemberton, to discuss his work on The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Photo credits for left photo: Tristan Bejawn for Composer Magazine

As a Composer, it’s really exciting because it’s quite rare for a director to have already envisaged the power of music and what it can bring to a certain scene and be bold enough to hold back on the score and use it at full power at a few key moments.

How did you come to be involved with The Trial of the Chicago 7 and what was it that drew you towards working on the film?

Daniel Pemberton:
I worked with Aaron Sorkin on Mollys’ game for his directing debut but I actually met him before as I scored Steve jobs, which was directed by Danny Boyle but based on an Aaron Sorkin Script. So I met him through that, weirdly, at the Golden Globes as he was actually sitting next to me.
We got on really well and he told me he really liked the music I did for Steve Jobs, and he was working that time just on his new project which was Molly’s game and he asked if I would be interested in doing the music and I told him ‘of course, I would love to!’
He’s an amazing writer, and that’s how that came about, soon after he started his new film. His work and scripts are always fantastic and you know you’re going to get something different to work with that’s going to be original and exciting and for me I like working on projects thats not just another generic film, it’s something thats got an individuality to it.
So it was a very easy thing to agree to do.

What was your preparation process for scoring the film & were there any challenges involved going forward?

This one was pretty tricky in terms of recording in the sense that it was one of the first recording sessions in the UK after lockdown.
I wrote and finished this score over lockdown and it was the last piece of the puzzle of the movie that needed finishing.
The whole film had been done so they were just waiting for the music and it was quite stressful just because of the fact that I always want to record with real musicians, I didn’t want to use samples, and it was really important that we had live string players and the band on it and at the time that was impossible due to lockdown but of course, it was the same all over the world and there was this crazy moment where we were literally just trying to phone around anywhere in the world to find countries that might be able to record string music. But eventually, it got to the stage where there was a window where some restrictions were lifted and we finally managed to record it in London at Abbey Road Air.

How did you interpret what the director, Aaron Sorkin, wanted from a scene?

I met up with Aaron last year in a cocktail bar in Los Angeles and it ended up being the only physical meeting I had with anyone on the entire film process because of lockdown.
When we got together, he told me what he wanted to be done in the movie, musically, and one of the things that was quite interesting is that he had already sketched out the four big key moments of the film.
These were: the opening, the two riots and the ending.
He wanted these moments to have the music take over them and be a big part of those scenes, and as a composer it’s really exciting because it’s quite rare for a director to have already envisaged the power of music and what it can bring to a certain scene and to be bold enough to hold back on the score and use it at full power at a few key moments.
I believe cinema is a lot more exciting when theres less music but when it does come in, it really counts.
So that was the first discussion, but then I started to look at cuts and working to those and working out where we would go and there was a lot of back and forth between me and the edits, and as they were based in America whilst I was back here in the UK, we just ended up doing the whole thing over Zoom and Skype.

Can you talk a little about your role throughout the writing process, (I know that you had also co-wrote the films focus track ‘Hear My Voice’ with Celeste, maybe you could touch a little bit on working with Celeste on this? 

The song is the key part of the score and I really wanted the song to feel like it was an integral part of the film and not something that was just put on at the end.
I started writing that song a third of the way through the process and I started it off with an idea and the phrase – the thing that is actually quite hard when you’re writing a song is just trying to find ‘how do you encapsulate an idea of a film into one song, one idea’ and I just asked myself, ‘What is this film about?’ Well, the film is about democracy and protests. ‘Why do people protest?’ They protest because they have no other place to go, it’s the only way to get their voice heard.
Once I got that and this simple line of ‘Hear My Voice’, I thought wow that’s actually really strong! So I starting working that into a simple idea of melody and chords and that if I really want to turn this into song, I really need to find someone to finish it off and work with.
I was a big fan of Celeste and her work already, she is a fantastic singer and really contemporary and I think she has such a beautiful voice. It’s hard to find people who have got the kind of voices and range that you want as a more traditional film composer that have really got a melodic sensibility, so I reached out to her and she was really up for being involved.
We then finished the song off over the crazy lockdown of her sending WhatsApp messages, trading things and doing FaceTime’s, when she started to record vocals she did it over WhatsApp messages, but we knew that we needed to record this with better quality and so we managed to get her equipment and I gave Logic tutorials to her over the phone before we finally got to meet up in person and finish the song.
So we worked mostly on that remotely to get the song over the finish line, but the thing that is really important about the song is that I reversed engineered the melody throughout the film so the idea is, when you get to that song at the end it’s a really cathartic moment.
Aaron always wanted that to be a moment of hope and optimism and leave you on a lighter feeling at the end and I always wanted it to feel like an integral part of the movie.
The melody is reworked in many different ways throughout the score in minor keys, references to it in lots of cues so that when you get to the end you feel like it’s already a part of the fabric of the film.
For me, that’s a really important thing to have songs and score that really are integral and not just shoved in.

Similarly, I did Birds of Prey earlier this year and we did the same thing where we did score elements and song but they were both of the same worlds, so I would co-write on the songs, for reference, ’Jokes on You’ by Charlotte Lawrence. This and the other songs would be based on thematic ideas from the score and for me, that’s a thing that is really exciting because you create these unique worlds for film whether that’s visually or sonically. It always seems weird to me that with songs so often, they just put on a song into the soundtrack that has nothing to do with the world of the film you’re creating and so I believe doing it this way makes way more sense. For me, that’s a really exciting development that I hope happens a bit more often on projects.

Are there any highlights for you looking back on the work?

The thing I’m most proud of is the song, ‘Hear My Voice’, and another thing that’s really fascinating about the song is when we wrote that, by the time we finished it, the world around us had changed.
That song was written for the events that happened in ’68/’69 depicted in the film but by the time we had gotten it out, protest movements in America had totally flourished and it’s really fascinating to write something that you’re trying to capture some truth about when you’re doing it for this film, but then the ideas behind it become so relevant to today and I love the fact that the score and the song are intertwined all through the film.
Celeste bookends the film, she opens and ends it and I’m really proud of the fact that we’ve created this musical story arc through the score and the song all throughout the film and I think that’s one of the reasons people are connecting with the film so well.
Aaron Sorkin has really thought about the music in there and has also given me the freedom to make more exciting decisions and I think that’s why it’s getting such a great reaction.

Thank you Daniel for taking the time out to speak with us here at GMS, it was a pleasure to delve further into your work on The Trial of the Chicago 7

Want to learn more about the process of one of the key score moments Daniel worked on? CLICK HERE to watch ‘Daniel Pemberton: Orchestrating Chaos‘. You can also listen to the full OST below.

Lastly, we got the opportunity to speak with both Volker Bertelmann & Dustin O’Halloran, Composers for the film, Ammonite

Pictured on red carpet, Left: Dustin O’Halloran, Right: Volker Bertelmann

Francis gave us a lot of freedom musically, and never really questioned our approach or instrumentation, but we were very specific about finding these delicate and fragile emotions, which can be hard to capture. Making things big is easier in a way.

How did you come to be involved with Ammonite and what was it that drew you towards working on the film?

Dustin O’Halloran:
Francis used some music of mine from my project A Winged Victory For The Sullen in his first film “God’s Own Country”, so this was our first collaboration and what brought us in contact years ago. These were existing pieces of music though and for Ammonite, it would be the first time he would work with composers on a film, so it was a new experience for him. See Saw Films produced this film, as well as Lion, which Volker and I collaborated on, and this brought it all together. I knew Francis was an incredibly sensitive and unique filmmaker and when we saw the first cut of Ammonite, it was obvious that it would be something special.

What was your preparation process for scoring the film & were there any challenges involved going forward?

Volker Bertelmann:
Once we watched the film it was pretty clear that there were not much music to be written and very specific spots that Francis had in mind for music. When Dustin and I work on a film, we both start at the same time on different parts, but if it feels right we also change direction and I take a cue that Dustin started with or the other way round. So it is a pretty fluid process. I think it’s a great advantage to see what he is coming up with and it is always very inspiring to see a different approach.

Francis had a very clear idea that the music would be minimal but vital where it needed to be. So our biggest challenge was making these moments really mean something and say something about the emotion and the unspoken feelings.

How did you interpret what the director, Francis Lee, wanted from a scene?

Francis gave us a lot of freedom musically, and never really questioned our approach or instrumentation, but we were very specific about finding these delicate and fragile emotions, which can be hard to capture. Making things big is easier in a way.
Finding the quiet and intimate spaces that have big emotions is a challenge. Francis was also really clear on which scenes need music, so we already knew that it would be a vital score. I love limitations and I think it can produce great work, as everything has to be essential and you can’t waste notes or time. It made us dig deeper and find the layers of the film that were very internal.

Can you talk a little about your role throughout the writing process when working alongside each other?

I think we both have every role and leave it open to which cue is the strongest… sometimes Dustin writes a cue and in the discussion process we need something else and sometimes his first draft is the best. The same is happening with my writing process, and you can find in the score a bunch of the first ideas. Of course, sometimes, because scenes are changing in length, you have to adjust the music to it, and it either works or we have to write a whole new composition.

I have been lucky enough to find such a great writing partner with Volker. Collaborations can be tricky, but we put egos aside and really work for the best of the film. Having done so many films together we already have a strong flow and ways to exchange ideas, so we work quickly sometimes. And above all, we really value each other’s feedback and it can help for making stronger work as there is a process of examining things before we send them off to the director.

Are there any highlights for you looking back on the work?

For me, the conversations between the three of us were always great, because Francis was so passionate about his film, and when he was describing the music or giving comments about it, the conversation was always uplifting and inspiring for the process. It is a gift for a composer to work with a director like Francis.

I agree with that! Sometimes you get so lucky to work with someone who you really feel understands your work and you understand theirs, and we are all fighting for the same thing. And I really felt that in this film no one wanted to compromise the art and it was a rare experience.

Thank you so much to both Volker and Dustin for taking the time out to speak to us here, it has been wonderful listening to your work together on this film!
You can listen to the full OST below.

Thank you to each Composer who took the time to speak with us for this insightful feature, we only wish the best for you all in all your future projects.

Composer Corner: Tom Hodge Discusses The Mauritanian

By Vicky Bennett / GMS Administrator

Photo Credits: David Titlow

This month, we are excited to bring back our ‘Composer Corner‘!

We had the absolute pleasure to speak with Tom Hodge to understand his work on the score behind The Mauritanian.

The Mauritanian delves into the true story of Mohamedou Ould Salahi, a suspected 9/11 terrorist who is imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for six years by a defense attorney, her associate and a military prosecutor.

Tom tells us his role, process, challenges and highlights that came with his work and even gives us a sneak peek into what he is currently working on.

The way any composer hopes it might happen really! My agent called and said, “We have a project you might be interested in!…” I then spoke to Kevin on the telephone, did some fairly detailed concept demos and we were into it not long after! Very different to the usually long drawn out process really…

And as to what drew me to it? Well it’s a Kevin Macdonald movie with Jodie Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tahar Rahim in the lead roles! It was a wonderful opportunity to be a part of something special.

Time was tight. Almost a full hour of the score had to completed, recorded and mixed in 5.1, in six weeks, and there was really only about a week between knowing about the project and being on the project!
So the preparation process was somewhat curtailed.

What made it flow actually was realising that Kevin was looking for strong themes to attach to his central characters. Looking back now, I think without this, the deadline would have been pretty perilous! 

But as a result, we were able to really focus on finding music that felt like it was landing just right in certain key scenes and then roll it out throughout the narrative. It was a surprisingly ‘classic’ approach really. (As composers, we probably spend as much of our time avoiding leitmotifs now, as we do writing them!)
For Mohamedou’s theme, I sat at the piano late at night on ‘day one’ searching for a melodic/harmonic answer that I felt would be robust enough to cope with the extraordinary journey he was going on.

We talked a lot actually! He came to the studio two or three times a week- as luck would have it, we live quite close. That was incredibly helpful.
I was lucky that the edit was done, completely locked. Time with the director is so often hard to come by and it’s certainly easier to read the emotional temperature of the scene when you are in the same room!
I spoke with Kevin’s editor Justine a fair bit too and that was extremely helpful- the handful of top editors I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with, tend to be extremely musical in the way they shape things, so that’s always an education!

Being ahead of the deadline was probably the main highlight! But really the process felt quite calm and was extremely rewarding. Because it was such a thematic approach, each scene was like a brand new little adventure in how I might manipulate the existing material to reflect the emotional arc.
The film plotlines start out running in parallel and gradually merge together and the score reflects this also. 

It’s always wonderful hearing the orchestra at the end of the process. Recording strings remotely was a first time for me. We used the Max Steiner Orchestra is Vienna, who did a great job but it felt strange sitting in my studio in London and not being there!

Overall I’m really pleased with the score’s diversity- I had to cover a lot of ground from classic piano and string scoring for Mohamedou, to something a little more Hollywood legal thriller for Nancy, to a kind of progressive hybrid sound for Couch, and some pretty esoteric electronic sound world creation for the Guantanamo scenes. 

My clarinet playing can be a bit obscure I guess!
But seriously, yes I am always exploring. It is an important part of finding a fresh approach for each project. But obscurity is always a question of balance. Does it actually sound meaningful? There is no point in saying ‘Look, I made some music from just banging on a tin or whatever..’ If it sounds great, then fine you are on to a winner! But newness for newness sake or the current vogue of sacrificing substance at the altar of a concept is not really my thing. 

The extended technique in string writing is a fairly natural part of my approach now. I have been working a lot with Robert Ames in recent times and I feel there is a very interesting language there which bridges the acoustic and electronic in a very visceral way.

I love collaborating and have spent much of my career doing so! It is absolutely the source of much inspiration.
I realise as I write this, all of my collaborations are still kind of on-going! Franz Kirmann, Floex, Max Cooper, Eivør, various others. It’s not just about the excitement of starting something fresh, it is also the fascinating process of deepening the language in which you are communicating.
Every collaboration- with musician or director- is about learning a new language basically. 

It’s great when you find an ‘excuse’ to work with someone. I brought jazz drummer Ollie Howell on board for some percussion and electronics in The Mauritanian for example- I’d had an eye out for something for us to do together for a while! 

I wrote a ballet back in 2014 for Thüringenstaatsballet in Germany and I definitely have a taste for that. I’d love to collaborate with a choreographer again. 

Yes, lots of new stuff in the works.
I’m deep in research for what appears to be Spring documentary season! Rise of the Nazis is coming back for another 3 episodes. I am working on another historical documentary with Julian Jones as well. And a fascinating documentary with Barbie MacLaurin about the racing driver, Michele Mouton.

And after that, well I’m just keeping my fingers crossed for a big multi-episode drama.. or two…

Thank you once again to Tom for taking the time out to speak with us here at GMS, we can’t wait to see what your future work brings!

You can now listen to the OST of The Mauritanian, available below!