Animal Crackers

Animal Crackers, a new Netflix original movie, debuted last week, and features my first score for an animated film! My personal and creative journey with this movie is a dramatic story unto itself.

As I forged my career as a film composer, I experimented with every genre, scoring horror, comedy, science fiction, thrillers, dramas and so on. And yet, aside from two holiday episodes of Eureka, the medium of animation that I adored so much somehow always eluded me. That was until the directors of Animal Crackers gave me a shot.

MAKING NEW FRIENDS

In 2009 and 2010, I scored Human Target, a series based on the DC Comics character. Scrolling through my Twitter mentions one day in 2013, I came across a comment that read “Hey, did I ever tell you how much I LOVED your first season Human Target theme? As the character’s creator, ya done me proud.” Wow! I realized that tweet came from the legendary Len Wein, creator of Wolverine, Swamp Thing and yes, Christopher Chance aka the Human Target. Before long, I was at a party at his house where I met him and his lovely wife Christine Valada.

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Outlander: Season 5

From the bagpipes of Scotland, the baroque harpsichords of Paris, to the blistering Afro-Cuban percussion of Jamaica, my score for Outlander has continuously evolved to keep up with Claire and Jamie as they traverse both time and space. For the series’ fourth season, our heroes explored America, laying down the foundation for a new home, so I introduced to the score the twangy banjos and dulcimers of the Appalachian Mountains. Where that season explored new frontiers, Season Five plants roots, digging into themes of building community, forming civilization, expanding families, and forming allegiances. For the first time in the history of Outlander, my score for Season Five had no need to introduce bold new instruments or styles. 

Inspired by the drama, I knew it was time to plant my own musical roots, and develop the colors and themes I already had. Like the drama itself, the music for Outlander Season Five stopped expanding outward into new territories, and instead planted roots. Though the score does not introduce any new sound this season, I feel its developmental and emotional strengths make it as strong as anything I’ve written leading up to it.

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Cinematic Shrines of My Youth

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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.

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(Halloween, 1995. That’s me dressed up as Darkman, the titular character from the first major studio film directed by Sam Raimi.)

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Pick One / Child’s Play Videos

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

“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.

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Rim of the World

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ORCHESTRAL ADVENTURES

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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

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