The Neill Blomkamp approach


I just read an article on Filmmaker Magazine which proposes some excellent examples on ways to find the right composer for a director's film. For a quick read, the article can be found here.The article, written by Alex Steyermark, speaks to the director who has never worked with a film composer and discusses ways to approach a composer that's the right fit for a director's film and/or project. It covers everything in the film scoring process from approaching a composer, meeting with him or her, spotting, exchanging ideas, and in the end, continued collaboration. As a member of the composer community, I try to pass along these ideas to directors and producers when I know that they are having a hard time expressing what they want. As part of their team, I go above and beyond in order to make the film scoring process seamless for my director since I'm as invested as they are in the project - at times, to the point of obsession since I totally dig the film or project. It's in our best interest to know the film inside out, but that's another story altogether.This is the approach that we know and there's the Neill Blomkamp approach to film scoring - which is pretty innovative and totally badass when it comes to all the studio politics involved (basically a big F-U to the studio execs who like to dictate how films are made...psst, I'll tackle this one on another day as well...moving on!)Last night, as a Society of Composers and Lyricist member, I was able to attend a screening of Elysium and Ryan Amon, the film's composer, was going to be there for a Q&A afterwards. I was totally hyped since, like many other friends of mine, we all loved District 9 - that movie showed grit, violence, and the social issue of apartheid. I was also curious to listen to this story of how Blomkamp selected him for the film.So, after the film, Amon introduced himself, and told us how Neil approached him which was basically via email and through a question asking Amon, "is this you?" followed by a link to his trailer music attached to the body. From then on it was history in the making...My question is the way the film was scored. There was no spotting session. Blomkamp told Amon to start writing music with just a movie summary and a few production stills from their location scouts. Also, Blomkamp told Amon to use his imagination on how this trans-humanist world might appear, at least musically in his mind. Oh, and the score took two years to complete. This literally lingered with me even after the Q&A. Is it possible to score a film like this without a spotting session? Without meeting the director face-to-face working solely via the internet on such a big budget studio film? With a composer who had literally no previous experience scoring any film?Of course, the answer is a resounding yes, according to Amon.  This film was literally scored with revisions done via email while Blomkamp was in British Columbia and Amon was in Washington, D.C. Amon literally didn't even have to speak to studio execs (well, maybe say for one, and it was just to congratulate him.) Plus, even though Amon had never scored a massive feature before, it was Blomkamp's perseverance of knowing what he wanted that made him go looking for Amon.Pretty cool story and I totally congratulate Amon for coming through for Neil. Hell, if it was me, I'd do the same thing: 1) shit my pants, 2) double-check that it was me they wanted, 3) get the job done. I applaud Amon and his music team for getting the job done.So, point of the story you ask? It's a sign of the times. Directors are coming up with interesting ways for composers to score their film, and not even through face-to-face meetings anymore (although it would behoove any composer to meet face-to-face with his or her director to, at least, shake his or her hand, dammit!).As 21st century composers, you better be ready when the time comes when you'll have to step up to the plate, and answer the email that appeared in your inbox last night, "Is this you?"Just don't poop your pants too much.[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]Nicolas Repetto is a composer for film, television, and multimedia and has scored a wide variety of work ranging from award-winning short films such as Ode In Blood and Cant. He also orchestrates, conducts, and teaches throughout the Los Angeles area. [/author_info] [/author][retweet][facebook]