1) JOHN, OUT OF ALL THE FINE PEOPLE WE HAVE INTERVIEWED HERE YOU ARE IN A UNIQUE POSITION WHERE YOU NOT ONLY COMPOSE FOR FILMS BUT YOU ALSO EDIT. AS COMPOSER OR EDITOR, IS IT HARD TO DETACH YOURSELF FROM EACH ATTRIBUTE WHEN YOU WORK ON A PROJECT? SOMETIMES YOU HAVE DONE BOTH!
I tend to compartmentalize and separate the two tasks. The editing and management of every facet of the film is the editor’s responsibility and never ends until the final day of the final mix, So in a sense I always have my editor hat on. When I’m initially constructing the movie, I don’t really know what I’m going to compose. All I know is the style of music I want to do, the mood and approach. The eventual overlap between the two tasks is especially deadly for me. It’s when all things are colliding at once, and my time to write the score is always divided between countless responsibilities on the movie. It becomes like a giant whack-a-mole game for me.
2) YOU HAVE COLLABORATED REPEATEDLY WITH DIRECTORS SUCH AS BRYAN SINGER AND SHANE BLACK, AMONG OTHERS. WHAT MAKES DIRECTORS COME BACK TO YOU OVER AND OVER AGAIN. IT’S NOT JUST GREAT MUSIC, RIGHT?
Well, trust, personality and a film-making camaraderie is what a lot of directors appreciate. I mean, I guess they could always tolerate a composer who’s an asshole. But I think a big part of the equation is the ease of the relationship. Directors have a lot on their plate at that phase of a production, and the more they can feel at ease there’s a composer taking care of their needs and dedicated to the project, they’re going to hire that composer again. The music itself, of course, should be the overriding factor in all of this.
3) HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TEMP SCORES? HAVE WE REACHED THE POINT WHERE WE ARE JUST RECYCLING MUSIC OVER?
That’s a huge answer to an ongoing issue. Temp scores are valuable in establishing for the studio the musical approach for the movie, and also helping make the film work for the executives or test audiences. The problem is that many film editors are not musically inclined. In trying to sell their cuts, they’ll just haphazardly throw some music on a scene to perpetuate the rhythm or something. Unfortunately, at that very moment, an association is forever established and cemented in between the picture and that music, And very few people can step back and assess the fact that the music is actually wrong, soul less or lacking great potential. Then the composer is brought in. If the film had good test screenings, they feel like there can be no other approached than that temp music. The composer then just rips it off and that score becomes a bastard child of the previous score, and then it gets used in the next temp. This, of course, keeps lowering the bar and limiting the potential of good thoughtful scores. Good scores are really at the mercy of a director or editor with musical taste and a composer who has opinions, a thirst for telling an actual musical story and a film-making sense.
4) GROWING UP IN SAN JOSE HAD A BIG IMPACT IN YOUR MUSICAL TRAINING. CAN YOU PLEASE ELABORATE ON YOUR EARLY YEARS?
Well, I played clarinet in high school band, and would also go to the local symphony there to watch my favorite classical pieces get performed. Prior to this I had gone to Tower Records and asked the classical music guy to give me every symphony that sounded like a film score. I memorized those and I would watch them at the San Jose Symphony to see how they were being produced musically. I sort of internalized that and learned a lot from watching. My other sensibilities, such as insisting on themes and motives, were gained from watching the original “Star Trek” series as a kid. I also made lots of movies and use scores from Goldsmith, Williams and Horner. So I was sort of temping and using them as my final scores! This taught me a lot about how to make scenes work and create a narrative fluidity with the music.
5) YOU HAVE COMPOSED, EDITED AND CO PRODUCED EVEN SOME HUGE FILMS. GIVEN THE RIGHT PROJECT, DO YOU SEE YOURSELF DIRECTING A MOVIE AGAIN (LIKE YOU DID WITH ‘URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUT’) IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
That’s the key phrase, finding the right project. I’m at a place in my life where I don’t have a lot to prove in terms of calling myself a film director or some other label. If I were 30 years old I would jump at the chance just to direct anything. But at this point, it has to be something that really gets me out of bed every day because I’m the kind of person who will destroy my personal life and work every ounce of my time on whatever movie that is. So it has to be something I really believe in. But yes, I have really have been wanting to break things up. I’m always looking for new ventures instead of getting stuck in the same rut. So I’m keeping my eyes out for something that would inspire me to direct.