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The Screen Composer's Studio

Author: The Screen Composers Guild of Canada

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Welcome to The Screen Composer’s Studio, a podcast about the musical storytellers behind some of your favorite films, shows, video games, and more. In each episode we'll be taking you behind the screen and talking to the musical magicians who bring these stories to life. These hidden giants may not often bask in the limelight, but you've definitely felt the power of their work. Join us to find out how they shape emotional journeys, give color and shade to beloved characters and worlds, and enhance the viewer’s experience in a way only music can. Brought to you by The Screen Composers Guild of Canada
11 Episodes
Erica Procunier is a rising star in the screen composing scene.  After deciding early on that composing for picture was her passion, she completed a Masters in Music Composition from the University of Western.  While building her credits, she was accepted into prestigious programs like the Canadian Film Center’s Slaight Family Music Lab and the highly competitive Berlinale Talents which is held in Berlin each year.  She now splits her time composing for independent films including And Now A Word From Our Sponsor (starring Bruce Greenwood), television shows such as Apple TV+’s Emmy winning Ghostwriter, CBC’s Detention Adventure, and teaching film scoring at Humber College.  We chat about the intense sink-or-swim adventure that was her first apprenticeship, how she pushes her ideas to their full potential without worrying about getting turned down, and her thoughts on one of the big threats to screen composing and human culture in general: artificial
“You don’t need to follow all the rules to be successful.  There is a certain advantage in having an individual path that is unique”Mychael Danna is one of Canada’s most successful film composers, a national treasure and a unique talent who has reached the highest levels of global success.  His illustrious career hit a pinnacle in 2013 when he won the Oscar for his dazzling score to Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, but his path leading to that moment is rich with powerful films accompanied by equally powerful scores.  His career was kick started by early successes with Atom Egoyan, and the two would become evergreen collaborators, working on now classic indie films like Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter, and Ararat.  His integration of non-western musical colors and love of early music set him apart, and Hollywood soon came calling.  Now the list of notable films stretches on: The Ice Storm, Girl, Interrupted, 8MM, Being Julia, Capote,  Little Miss Sunshine, Moneyball… among many more.  Mychael has recently moved into scoring marquee animated films like Storks and The Good Dinosaur, often collaborating with his brother, Jeff.  We chat about his early days studying and discovering world and ancient music in Toronto, and uncover his approaches to music and storytelling.  Mychael is remarkably humble and candid, and this chat is sure to delight longtime fans as well as be an inspiration to composers at any stage in their career.
“Everyone has aspirations.  But there are things I get from my career: choice and freedom. To me, that’s everything”Over 1700 episodes of television.  150 feature films.  To call Michael Richard Plowman prolific would be an understatement.  He has also proved to be quite the nomad, setting up shop in places like Vancouver, LA, London, and the South of France.  While his portfolio is diverse, his big love is animation, and his work can be heard in hit shows like Sonic Boom, Tree Fu Tom, and George of the Jungle, among many others.  He also has a considerable list of credits in video games, and scored the first of the hugely successful Splinter Cell series, and would later work with the legendary Tommy Tallarico.  We talk about his humble beginnings in a non-musical family, how he got his first commercial credit at the age of 14 and a recording contract at 16, how he builds relationships and asks for what he wants.  As Michael says: “Just buy the lunch!”.  Indeed, this is a masterclass in creative business for the screen composer that’s sure to inspire you to think much, much
 "Your voice is precious and important, and needed. There are great stories out there that deserve your insight, your value." For Amritha Vaz, the path to becoming a screen composer was full of twists and turns. Her musical family’s ties to Bollywood had her immersed early on, but after a severe case of tendonitis cut a potential career as a violinist short, she pursued the academic path, earning degrees in poli-sci,international development, law, and more. She studied Indian classical music in India, did international development work in Sierra Leone, and finally ended up in Vancouver where a chance meeting with Mychael Danna prompted a move to LA to become his assistant. Amritha is now firmly on her own musical journey, blending the rich music of South Asia with electronic and Western classical orchestral sounds. We talk about her enchanting work on the AppleTV+ docuseries Home, and the colorful musical tapestries of Mira, Royal Detective, which she scores for Disney Junior. She also describes navigating being a visible minority in Hollywood, the challenge of finding work-life balance, and why she feels hopeful despite the current state of the world. 
"Film music always walks a fine line of needing to not draw attention to itself and away from the film and yet to also give voice to the soul of the film. Some of what I consider to be my best music cues rarely make it to my demo reel because the music sounds incomplete without the cadence of the dialog and sound fx."Judith Gruber-Stitzer is wonderfully articulate about how music affects moving images and narrative, and yet her approach is often very intuitive.  She started her journey in New York and Jersey learning harmonies by ear from her brother’s Doo-wop group before moving to Montreal to work with poet-singer Marie Savard and the band Wondeur Brass. She eventually became one of the National Film Board of Canada’s most prolific composers, scoring Oscar nominated films Animal Behaviour, Wild Life and When The Day Breaks (which also own the Palme D’Or at Cannes), among many others.  Judith is quick to point out that she does more than animation, and indeed her resume boasts many live action projects including two films by the legendary Robert Altman.  We discuss her work with that iconic director, as well as her perspectives on working both as a composer and sound designer on projects, her take on how rhythm affects audience perception, and what it means to be a woman in an industry still dominated by men.
“Composers often pressure themselves to find their “voice”.  That’s ok, but it’s a long-term ideal. You don’t need to revolutionize music with every note you write.  Instead, practice the craft and stay open.”Maxime Goulet’s work spans genres and formats, from video games to opera to weather-inspired poems set to music, but is all connected by the themes of curiosity and play.  Working as an in-house composer for Gameloft, he composed the music for a multitude of titles such as Dungeon Hunter, Amazing Spider-man 2, and Warhammer 40,000, as he adapted to the constant evolution of interactive music through ever changing mobile platforms.  His interest in games, play, and interactivity translated to his concert works such as Three Games for Orchestra and Beach Ball, and Level Up: (a concerto for Orchestra and 8 bit sounds). He brings an innovative, entrepreneurial spirit to ventures such as Symphonic Chocolates, where the audiences’ experience of each movement is heightened by a chocolate tasting.  Aiming to surprise and engage, his work is always innovative and intriguing.
“The work that you’re most nervous about presenting is always the best stuff.”Tom Third loves to push against creative limits and break convention.  Known for his modern, hybrid electronic scores, he started out as a hip-hop loving art school kid who was eventually signed to Nettwerk records, where he produced sample-heavy trip hop and drum n bass.  As a songwriter, he also co-wrote Meryn Cadell’s cult hit "The Sweater".  Transitioning from ads to film and TV, he cut his teeth on the massive hit show Queer as Folk, and is now known for his work on fan-favorite shows like The Listener and the breakout hit, Coroner.  This Gemini-winner’s working style is creative and experimental, and he loves to color outside the lines.  Whether scoring surrealist art house cinema or hit TV series, he is happiest when slightly out of his comfort zone.Visit Tom
**WARNING - this episode does contain some spicy words, so be aware if you’re listening with kids or anyone sensitive to not-so-safe-for-work language.**“If you do good work, people will always speak well about that.  That’s the best word of mouth you can get”In this episode, we speak to Darren Fung.  Born of Chinese immigrant parents, he started his musical education at a very early age, and had his first orchestral work performed when he was only 15.  He eventually found his way to Montreal where he studied at McGill University, and finally to LA where he currently makes his home.  All along the way, this savvy entrepreneur has found himself helped by many amazing mentors, and has himself long been giving back to the community that helped him get his start.  His stunning work on Niobe Thompson’s The Great Human Odyssey and Equus: Story of the Horse won him Canadian Screen awards in 2016 and 2019, and he has led orchestras across Canada in highly acclaimed concert performances of both mini-series.  We chat about the intensity and pressure of live orchestral recording sessions and what it takes to pull them off, his work on a piece of music that could have made him the most hated man in Canada, the journey that led him to Hollywood, and his thoughts about living and working in the mecca of filmmaking and music.Visit Darren
Mark Korven - The Innovator

Mark Korven - The Innovator


“It’s really all about musical freedom for me. I like to push the boundaries and take chances. I’d like to do the unexpected, and avoid clichés as much as I can. I like the wrong notes. So horror seems to be a good fit for me.” In this episode I’ll be chatting with Mark Korven, whose long and successful career recently skyrocketed with the wild success of The Witch, and more recently, The Lighthouse, both of which he worked on with filmmaking maverick, Robert Eggers.  Mark says his greatest fear is being boring, and the lengths he goes to prevent this have yielded amazing results, including his invention of a new musical instrument in The Apprehension Engine, to his recent move to “free scoring”, where he doesn’t use a metronic click or measures to guide composition.  We trace Mark’s journey from The Beatles, Punk, Prog Jazz and Pop, to Thomas Newman, from Winnipeg to Edmonton and finally Toronto where he worked on the sci-fi horror cult-hit Cube, to recent outings In The Tall Grass on Netflix, and AMC’s The Terror: Infamy.  This Gemini and Genie award winning multi-instrumentalist is blazing his own path, breaking the rules as he goes along, and creating some of the most striking scores as he does it. Korven TIFF Masterclass
 "If you can come up with music, who cares how you come up with it.  Just go for it.  Trust your instincts.  Learn the process." In this episode, we speak to Amin Bhatia, who is probably best known for his award winning work on the massive hit series’ Flashpoint, and Anne with an E, which he co-composed with his longtime writing partner, Ari Posner.  Amin’s life story is worthy of its own movie, including narrow escapes from a violent African dictator, going from being a self-proclaimed “nerd” recording analog synth epics alone in his basement in Calgary to making an appearance on one of the biggest pop albums of all time, and the truly weird, risky, and hilarious way he wrote the theme for a show that would earn him an Emmy nomination.  We chat about his ups and downs, and how this unstoppable optimist deals with disappointment, and why I end up calling him “the comeback kid”.  Passionate and humble, this talented, multiple Gemini  and Canadian Screen Award winner is also one of the kindest and generous people I know, who notes that through it all he draws strength from his actor wife, Danielle Nicole, and daughters Angie and Kel, who are also pursuing careers in music and storytelling.Follow Amin online at:www.aminbhatia.comtwitter:  @aminbhatiaFacebook/Instagram  @aminbhatiacomposer
They may not often bask in the limelight, but you've definitely felt the power of their work.  Composers for the screen are the “hidden giants” who help breathe life into the stories you love.  Join me, Adrian Ellis, as I take you behind the screen to meet the musical magicians behind some of your favorite films, shows, and video games. Why does music work the way it does?  How do composers help shape emotional journeys, give color and shade beloved characters and worlds, and enhance the viewer’s experience in a way only music can?  Find out in The Screen Composer's Studio, a new series brought to you by the Screen Composers Guild of Canada, coming soon wherever you find your favorite podcasts, and follow us @screencomposers
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