In this Questions & Answers post, we chat with composer Adrian Ellis. He has been a good friend of mine for many years now. I look forward to any opportunity to work with him – and Out With Dad was no exception.
Through his words and his music, he offers fantastic insight into whatever project we might be working on together. Visit his website at: www.adrianelliscomposer.com, or follow Adrian on Twitter: twitter.com/Adrian_Ellis
||Q:|Heading|font_size=20|| I remember back when I first told you about this little idea I had about a teenage girl coming out to her dad and his reaction to it. But I couldn’t quite read what you were thinking at the time. I wasn’t sure if I had you hooked. What was your reaction when I first told you about Out With Dad?
||A:|Heading|font_size=20|| To be honest it took me a bit by surprise. I’ve always known you to be a Sci-fi geek, with giant blockbuster movie posters framed on your wall. The subject matter and scope differed greatly from other project ideas we’d talked about in the past. Once you told me your reasons for wanting to do OWD, and I had read the script, I was hooked.
||Q:|Heading|font_size=20|| Why did you want to become involved?
||A:|Heading|font_size=20|| A great script, a chance to help tell a great story, and of course to work with all my friends on a great project. The characters were real, relate-able, and likeable. Beyond the story, however, the social and ethical aspects add a compelling layer to the project. It’s a good feeling to know you are contributing to something positive, something that matters beyond something that is just entertaining, something that might make a difference in people’s lives.
||Q:|Heading|font_size=20|| Tell us a little about how you came to be a film composer. Why? What inspired you?
||A:|Heading|font_size=20|| My father is just retiring from a brilliant 33 year career as a french horn player in Germany. Growing up, I was exposed to a lot of opera – including of course Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle. Wagner is a massive influence on the romantic style that is really what we call “film music”, and also it immediately linked music + visuals for me. I love analysis, storytelling, and being able to really “say” something with music, and for me it was a perfect marriage. It took a while to really realize that – I studied fine art with the aim of becoming an illustrator, and then played in a band for 6 years on both coasts. When I finally started focusing on screen music, it was as if the key was finally turning in the lock. I also love that it’s not just about me, that it’s a team of passionate people I get to be involved with.
||Q:|Heading|font_size=20|| You’ve been so busy lately. What other projects have you been working on?
||A:|Heading|font_size=20|| It’s been a lot of diverse stuff – I’m in the final stages of producing and arranging OWD favourite Late July‘s new record, which is very exciting! At the same time, having recently completed the new theme for Discovery Channel’s ‘Daily Planet‘ program, I’ve been working on creating variations in every imaginable style for them. Finally, there have been some wild adventures in field recording with collaborator Drasko Vucevic (www.drasticmusic.com), where we are creating a custom boutique library of crazy sounds for production. Last weekend, we were in the studio recording rare instruments from around the word.
||Q:|Heading|font_size=20|| Producing an album vs producing a film score I imagine are quite different tasks. I wonder, how are they alike? and in what ways are they different?
||A:|Heading|font_size=20|| I suppose when I’m working on a score, I’m producing my own music – in essence, determining what the end result is going to be and then doing what it takes to get that result – anything from performing, to finding or creating a unique sound/concept, to recording with other musicians. In producing an album, the artist has already brought songs to the table, and a vision of what they want. My job is to turn that into a reality, and coordinate all the aspects. I act as an guide, arranger, idea man, musician, coach, project manager, engineer, and much more. Like film, I am working collaboratively to realize someones vision, I am acting as a translator for their ideas.
You should check out Arian’s blog post on the role of the producer.
||Q:|Heading|font_size=20|| We’ve often said to each other that each project is a new learning experience. What have you learned from OWD?
||A:|Heading|font_size=20|| Absolutely. Every project is different, and as passionate people looking to improve in our craft, we open ourselves to the learning process. For me, there is always a learning process in “finding” what the score is going to be. It’s like I have to let the score find me – I have to be very open and listen to my instincts. Figuring out how to record a concert harp on location with zero budget was a big challenge, as was coaching a young musician with no film score recording experience, which can be very intimidating. Finally, I think I had a chance to put a concept I’ve been working on understanding to work. A personal challenge for me is to write less, not to fill up every space with notes, ha ha ha – like how Hans Zimmer refers to himself as an ‘over-producer’. Rose’s coming out to Kenny at the end of season 1 is tough scoring assignment – you can ruin the moment with music very easily. Writing just enough was hard, because it’s so little and simple (notes wise) – you second guess yourself. But it’s delicate – each tiny element becomes magnified… I think I shifted the exact spot a violin note comes in about 40 times!
Here’s a link to the scene in question, Rose’s coming out.. I’d like to point out that it was Adrian’s suggestion to build up the traffic sounds.
||Q:|Heading|font_size=20|| What are your thoughts on the feedback and comments we’ve been receiving one the web?
||A:|Heading|font_size=20|| People are engaging with the characters as if they were real people… admonishing Rose for not feeling like her Dad would ‘get it’, or feeling like she should ‘dump’ Vanessa. It’s amazing to see people connecting so deeply, enough that they go through the trouble of posting a comment! I wonder about Vanessa, which means of course I wonder what you plan to do with her – will you be affected by what you read about her, make her change… will she come out, will she abandon Rose and fall into bigotry… will she confront her Mom… oh hell, there I go speculating too ha ha ha ha!
If you have questions you’d like to ask, please do! Go to About>Questions & Answers for more information. On that page you’ll find we’ve set up a Formspring account. Or you can just ask in the comments anywhere on the site.