When I was growing up, film scores and movies were my religion, and the local cineplexes and video rental stores were my holy sites. Every weekend, I made pilgrimages to these communal spaces to soak in new movies and cement social bonds with my friends and family. After a recent trip to my hometown of Bellingham, Washington, I realized my childhood’s sacred places had closed, enveloped by merging media conglomerates, or made irrelevant by streaming digital content.
(Halloween, 1995. That’s me dressed up as Darkman, the titular character from the first major studio film directed by Sam Raimi.)
In addition to writing music, I spent last spring writing, producing, and directing videos to help get that music out into the world. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of my three recent shorts: “Pick One,” “Theme from Child’s Play (Official Music Video)” and “Child’s Play Announcement.”
“Pick One” is the most cinematically and narratively ambitious short film I’ve tackled in a while. The film originated from a conversation with my friend and agent Richard Kraft in early May in which we strategized how to get the message out into the film industry that I scored four recent films in disparate genres and mediums.
LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD: In the new Netflix film Rim of the World, four kids meet at the titular summer camp before an alien invasion plunges the world into chaos. They must overcome their differences and embark on a journey to transport a vital cryptokey to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with the fate of humanity in the balance. The film combines action, comedy, science fiction, and horror, with a coming-of-age story, and serves as an homage to the kid-centered adventure films popularized in the 1980s. I set out to compose an energetic, orchestral score in the style of my childhood heroes who were the masters of the genre, including Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Elmer Bernstein, Alan Silvestri, and James Horner.
Screenwriter Zack Stentz and I have been friends ever since we worked together on the short-lived yet beloved series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Zack sent me the script for Rim of the World in an early stage, and I was charmed by its adventurous spirit. My imagination went into overdrive and I immediately heard soaring French horns and swirling string orchestra textures! Acclaimed director McG eventually came on board the film and invited me to join his crew as composer for Rim of the World.
Chucky, the demented doll and horror icon with the devilish little face, peered out at me from a torn VHS cover at my local video store and haunted my dreams as a kid. Now, thirty years later, I found a surprising opportunity to contribute to his cinematic legacy, by scoring director Lars Klevberg’s imaginative new spin on the classic, Child’s Play. This film gave me the chance to assemble a unique “toy orchestra,” use my own voice to create a “kids choir,” and collaborate closely with legendary actor Mark Hamill, who sang my tune for the film, “The Buddi Song.” Child’s Play opened theatrically this week, and my soundtrack album is available now!
When I first watched the new film in an early cut, I was shocked by its sophisticated and surprisingly emotional storytelling. Stripped of the original film’s supernatural voodoo origins, this version of Child’s Play drew from contemporary fears of cloud-based computing, automation, loss of privacy, corporate irresponsibility, and the risks of smart-home convenience. The film drips with tonal references to many of my favorite 1980s films, incorporating Verhoeven’s satirical humor, Spielberg’s childhood wonder, and Kubrick’s existential dread – equal parts horror, science fiction, thriller, and classic Amblin-style childhood adventure. With these influences in mind, I dove into creating a musical voice for this new vision of the classic tale.
Godzilla has permeated global popular culture for over six decades. His first cinematic appearance in 1954’s Gojira launched the kaiju film genre, “kaiju,” translating literally to “strange beast.” This summer, he has returned to the big screen in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and I am honored to have composed the score for this next entry in cinema’s longest running franchise. Like many fans in the West, I knew Godzilla through television broadcasts of Japanese films and ubiquitous media culture. However, the film that actually introduced me to Godzilla and Ghidorah was not one of the Toho Co. classics scored by Akira Ifukube, but Peewee’s Big Adventure, a quirky American comedy scored by my childhood hero, Danny Elfman.
Nearly thirty years later, Godzilla would emerge into my life again and once again Danny Elfman’s music was playing. I invited a few friends to join me at the Hollywood Bowl performance of Danny Elfman’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, withElfman himself on stage singing the songs. One of those friends was Michael Dougherty, with whom I share a mutual love of all things “scifi, fantasy, horror genre.” That night, Michael told me he was writing and directing the new Godzilla film, the sequel to the 2014 film, Godzilla, and I thought Warner Bros. and Legendary could not have picked a better guy to expand their “MonsterVerse” cinematic universe.