Film Composing

Atticus Ross

One of the staples of the Los Angeles Film Festival is the festival’s Coffee Talk series which bring together top names in the industry to discuss their craft and offer inside insights on what it is like to be a working director, screenwriter, actor, or composer. This year’s “Coffee Talks: Composers” panel featured The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo composer, Atticus Ross, John Dies at the End and Iron Man 3 composer, Brian Tyler, and Zombieland and End of Watch composer, David Sardy. It was an interesting panel with Tyler and Sardy sharing the experience of composing for big budget films while Ross had avoided some of those studio pressures to pave his own way through the industry. All three have different backgrounds with Ross coming from a band member’s perspective, Sardy a music producer’s perspective, and Tyler from an indie film into big blockbuster perspective, making the moments where the three agreed and disagreed all the more meaningful. Here are 10 things we learned.

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Phantom

Phantom tells the story of a submarine that goes rogue after a distinguished Captain is set on a mission, but joined by a group of technicians from the “Special Projects Institute,” headed by David Duchovny, who may have other motives in mind. The true nature of this mission, and why Captain Demi (Ed Harris) was selected to head it, is the question Phantom attempts to unravel. When creating the score, composer Jeff Rona visited the submarine director Todd Robinson was filming on and found himself inspired by the sub itself, discovering musical elements in the metallic valves and hydraulics. This use of “found sounds” (something greatly utilized in Nathan Johnson’s score for Looper) is not only a creative way to make a distinct score, but it helps to incorporate subconscious elements into the music that  relate back to the film itself. The sounds Rona collected while on the submarine ended up becoming the foundation of the film’s theme, and the score itself. However, technology did more than just manipulate these sounds into music; it also allowed Rona to collaborate with a fellow musician is Austria to create additional instrumentation that would round out the sound of Phantom. Go behind the scenes with Rona to see how he created the thrilling and mysterious score for Phantom.

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Often composers fall into a groove, defining themselves with a particular style and running with it across the cinematic board. Not so with Nathan Barr, whose career is speckled with comedies, horror movies and a little of everything in-between. Barr’s eclectic resume includes True Blood; Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever; Broken Lizard’s Club Dread, Beerfest and The Slammin’ Salmon; The Last Exorcism; and Ruben Fleischer’s upcoming action comedy 30 Minutes or Less. His latest, the character-driven thriller The Ledge, was picked up by IFC Films after premiering at Sundance. The movie centers on Gavin (Charlie Hunnam) who has an affair with Shana (Liv Tyler), the wife of fanatical religious man Joe (Patrick Wilson) who forces Gavin to either jump off the ledge of a building or watch him kill his wife. It’s like that middle school game “MFK,” but real. We sat down with Barr during Sundance to talk about his process as a composer, the similarities and differences between his many projects and what how each one is its own musical challenge:

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MusicHeader

Music videos are basically movies these days. More bands are working on films. Here are a few more that should definitely pick up the baton and try their hand at scoring.

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