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.)(more…)
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.(more…)
2018 has blasted by in a flash! The last few months have been a whirlwind, and I realize I’ve fallen a bit behind with my blog. With this update, I plan on catching up on a few of the projects I’ve scored that have come out this summer, and I will look ahead at what is over the horizon for the rest of the year.
AURORA – QUEENDOM COME
First up, I was thrilled to collaborate with singer-songwriter AURORA to produce a Celtic-inspired version of her track “Queendom Come.” The single was used by Electronic Arts for the official E3 reveal trailer for Unravel Two.
Last spring, I got a call from my friend Steve Schnur at EA who said that the marketing team really loved this particular AURORA song, but wished it had a more acoustic, even Celtic, sound. Somehow, Steve thought of me as someone who might enjoy doing music in this style! I listened to her song and fell in love with it immediately. The harmonic progression was satisfying, the melody and vocals were haunting, and the lyrics were nostalgic and moving. I knew right away I would have a blast working on the track.(more…)
Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams is a new science fiction anthology series, making its United States debut this weekend on Amazon. The series assembled versatile writers, producers and directors (including Dick’s daughter Isa Dick Hackett), to reimagine original stories by one of the genre’s greatest authors. I was honored to join this brain trust, scoring three episodes: “Real Life,” “Impossible Planet” and “Kill All Others.”
While the series’ vision was held together by a close group of producers, each episode was treated like a stand-alone film, with unique writers, directors, and in most cases even composers. I had to reinvent my sonic and thematic palette from episode to episode, with no material carrying over from one to the next.(more…)
This weekend, I flew to New York City for a film premiere. That, by itself, is not unusual. Just a year ago, I was in the city for the world premiere of 10 Cloverfield Lane. This time, however, I was there not in support of a film I scored, but a film in which I am featured! Score: A Film Music Documentary, directed by Matthew Schrader, is the first feature-length documentary to explore the world of film music. As one of the dozens of composers featured in the film, I attended the premiere to help spread the word about this unique film.
The weekend was fun, exhausting and surprisingly illuminating. (more…)
I have long dreamed of hearing my music in a film at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. I can safely say that this last week, attending Sundance in support of not one, but three, unique films, is literally beyond my wildest dreams!
My journey to Sundance began two and a half years ago. The month my daughter was born, I realized that my career was not all I wanted it to be. My television career was at an all-time high, but my progress into in other mediums, especially film, videogames, theater, and live performance, had stalled. I partnered with Richard Kraft and Laura Engel and began pursuing every film opportunity I could. I wanted to work in new genres, to reach into both studio and independent films. (more…)
I have two new projects hitting streaming platforms this week, Black Mirror on Netflix and Chance on Hulu. These two projects mark my first foray into streaming series. Before I dive into them, I want to step back and look at the seismic shifts in the television industry that made these series possible.
By scoring the 2004 Battlestar Galactica reboot, I entered the television landscape right before it began to shift tectonically. Six years later, Battlestar ended its run at a time when fans still collected DVDs, and shared them with their friends. This feels like a lifetime ago, but I’m only talking about 2009!
What I did not realize at that time, however, was that the medium itself was about to undergo a massive transformation. Almost overnight, mobile devices, streaming services, social media and binge-watching changed the way audiences consume media. Series can now exist without the need to justify massive ratings. ‘Cool’ has become currency. How many people actually watch your favorite streaming series? It matters less now. What matters is that people are talking about the show, driving subscriptions. (more…)
I was honored last spring to be the Outstanding Alumnus and Commencement Speaker for my alma mater, the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. I took very seriously this opportunity to offer advice to a new generation of musicians, determined to communicate something practical to students they could use to kick-start their careers. In the fourteen years since I graduated from USC myself, I have learned many lessons, the most profound resulting from humiliating mistakes. From these I learned that “Attitude is Everything.” That universal message is applicable to any career in any field.
With that in mind, I am sharing my USC Thornton School of Music commencement address with you all. The following is adapted and expanded from my speech, given on May 13, 2016.
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You are about to embark upon your professional career, armed with the skills you have honed during your education. You are good at what you do. You might even be the best at what you do. Building a successful career, however, relies on more than talent or skill. Being “good” isn’t enough. Even being “the best” isn’t enough. In the music business, as in life, attitude is everything. A successful career emerges when the person with the right talent and skills also has the right attitude at all times. (more…)
Last week I had the tremendous honor of being both the Outstanding Alumnus and Commencement Speaker for the USC Thornton School of Music. It was a joyous and surreal experience to return to my alma mater in this completely new context. Seeing so many familiar faces from my past, and witnessing graduates from such a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines, put my post-college life and career into perspective.
At the Honors Convocation on Thursday, I was pleasantly surprised by a student performance of my original piece “A Hypocrite and Slanderer.” This piece for string quartet was commissioned by the Calder Quartet and the Getty Center and originally debuted at the Getty Museum in 2012. The student performers (Chiai Tajima and Margeaux Maloney, violin, Benjamin Chilton, viola, and Jonathan Dormand, cello) did a remarkable job, especially considering that the material is pretty difficult, written specifically for some of the best players I’ve ever encountered. (more…)
Ten years ago today, the world lost one of its most influential musical figures of the twentieth century: Elmer Bernstein. Most people know his music long before they ever know his name. His themes are iconic, woven into the fabric of our popular culture. To industry veterans and film aficionados, his name is legendary. Elmer was the first composer whose film career reached a fifty-year milestone, achieving success in every conceivable genre and medium along the way. He was revered by musicians, filmmakers, executives and fans alike, and was known for defining, then destroying, genre expectations. He was, truly, a titan of the industry.
To me, he was much more. Last year, I wrote a blog entry sharing my favorite quotes from my years as his student, but that did not come close to expressing how much he inspired me and impacted my life, both creatively and personally. Elmer encouraged me to pursue my dreams in Los Angeles, to become a well-trained musician, and to always write music with “personality.” He heard something in my work when I was a kid and decided to help me find my way into the business. (more…)