Friday, May 21, 2021


What would be of Halloween without the famous lurking musical tone that eclipsed us created with simple notes by John Carpenter or the that bump we heard from the sea that screamed to us that an unnoticeable lurking beast was about to jump out and devour everything in front of it or the tense score by Bernard herrmann in Psycho and that way we can recite countless of examples about the importance that music has performed and will still have on films in general but more important on horror genre. The music itself conveys us to the mind to the core of the film and allow us to feel the fear that characters are sensing during the film or allows us to burst in joy when they finally get victorious on the final battle.

That take me to the interviewee of this week, the film composer ANDREW SCOTT BELL. Andrew has a vast experience scoring short films and now he has beginning his, for sure, rumbling ascendant career with feature films, we talked about his career and more specific about his last work  "WITNESS INFECTION" an indie  comedy-horror (You can check HERE) where he displays all his talent presenting us an amuse and thrill music fitted with the movie story.

Andrew shared to us a valuable, smart, interesenting and teaching words, talking about how he approaches every project, the day to day creation process and a littl bit about his upcoming works.

Please , Join us and read this great interview, I know you will like it and you will learned a bunch of valuable information.

EFF: First, let me thank you for letting me interview you and learn a little bit more about you and your work. Now, let's commence with a simple question, where are you from?
ASB: It’s absolutely my pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Well, I was born in the village of Horseheads, NY and my family moved to Virginia Beach when I was thirteen. Now I live and work in Los Angeles but since my childhood and adolescence, two very important parts of how we develop and learn who we are, were in two drastically different places, I feel as though parts of me are from both New York and Virginia.
EFF: How did you get interested in music and how were your first steps into this industry?
ASB: I’ve always had a love for music. I remember a time in second grade I was humming the Imperial March by John Williams to myself and the teacher asked if I was a fan of Star Wars. My little mind was blown that she knew what it was from. That memory stands out to me because I think it’s a great example of the awesome power music has to connect and communicate with one another. 
As far as my first steps in the industry, they were honestly made on Craigslist. Around 2010 there wasn’t much in the way of social media to connect with filmmakers, so I searched casting calls on Craigslist looking for work. I ended up scoring a few early short films from people I met through those cold emails and then my career started branching out from there. Now that social media has really blossomed, I think it’s much easier to connect and collaborate with people and I’m excited to see how new sites and apps evolve and make networking even more fluid and natural, like Clubhouse for example.
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EFF: Did you always want to be a film composer? Or was it gaining over the time?
ASB: I think I always wanted to tell, or be part of telling, stories. I first remember wanting to be a comic strip artist, the kind that has daily or weekend cartoons in the funny pages. Then when my interest turned to movies, I wanted to be a director. My friends and I would make short films with our parents' home video cameras. 
When I was about seven or eight years old, Forrest Gump came out in theaters. Alan Silvestri’s score for that film really changed my life. My parents had the two disc soundtrack album from the movie, most of which were popular songs from the 60’s and 70’s. The last track on the second disc was a suite of themes from the film’s score. I was entranced by the music. I learned to play the suite on the piano by ear. I remember I’d come home from school and head straight to the piano where I had set-up my bedroom CD player on the back of the upright. Having that kind of playful connection with music at that young age was the spark that grew overtime and led me to pursuing this career.
EFF: Let's get the hands on the dough. You are the composer of the horror film "Witness Infection". How were you drawn into the project?
ASB: Hands on the dough! Let’s make pizza. I love pizza. I also loved working on Witness Infection. Director Andy Palmer gave me a sprawling sandbox to create in and find the tone for that score. He really made space for our collaboration to bloom and I loved working with him. Andy had seen a short film I scored called The Springfield Three by Samuel Gonzalez Jr., and I believe that’s what led him to call me for Witness Infection. He described Witness Infection to me on that first call and I knew immediately I wanted to be involved. There’s such a crazy, fun energy in the film. It’s a horror comedy so it’s gory, funny, and was just such a blast to score.
EFF: How did you plan the approach of the score? I mean, what kind of style or feelings you wanted to stamp in the film? What indications the director gave you? 
ASB: Since the film is a comedy, we chose to play the music big and serious – leaning into the overly dramatic styles prevalent in horror scores from the early-mid 20th century. I think if we had tried to write “funny” music, the score might not have worked as well in the film. So Andy and I talked a lot about the classic monster movie scores by composers like Frank Skinner, Max Steiner, and Franz Waxman, and how playing it big and leaning hard on that sound could really add to the comedy. We also often said “Godfather, but make it horror” in reference to the mob family element in the characters. I think the real challenge was writing motifs that could work in both of those musical landscapes. I tried to write with a harmonic language that would sound natural played on a mandolin as well as an enormous low brass section. I think what we ended up with is kind of an odd combination of flavors, but it’s an Italian American mob comedy with flesh eating zombies so… buon appetito!
EFF: Did you take out inspirations from other composer works, maybe certain references from other movies? Which ones?
ASB: Absolutely! Andy and I talked a lot about Max Steiner, Frank Skinner, and Nino Rota’s amazing work in The Godfather. People have told me a lot of my music has a flare of Christopher Young – especially his scores in the Hellraiser series and Drag Me to Hell which features some really wonderful poly-chords. Chris is a massive talent and a huge inspiration in my orchestral writing. I greatly admire his work so it makes sense that some of that bleeds through in my own writing.
Andrew Scot Bell

EFF: Did you have full freedom or indications were strictly needed to do the job?
ASB: Andy Palmer gave me a lot of creative freedom on the score to Witness Infection. Every director has their own personal style in how they collaborate with their composer(s). Andy seemed to take a more hands off approach than I’m used to, but I enjoyed that tremendously. There was of course a lot of discussion about the music before I started writing. We talked in great detail about the kind of tone the music should set and we had a pretty long spotting session for the film so I had a lot of confidence that Andy and I were on the same page.
EFF: What obstacles you had to overcome?
ASB: Working in the film and TV industry presents all of us obstacles on a daily basis. There’s a lot of rejection and that sometimes feels connected to ourselves as people, not just our work. I have worked incredibly hard in my career, mostly because I care deeply not to waste a single opportunity or connection, and I still have so many more miles to travel before I feel like I’ve truly “made it.” These feelings of self doubt, the pressures of deadlines, and the constant tightening and squeezing of music budgets are all prevalent obstacles for composers.
I personally live with ADHD. I struggle with it almost daily but if I’m being honest, my ADHD is also a huge part of how I write music. I’ve worked hard to create coping mechanisms and allow myself time to get lost in my writing. One of the side effects of having ADHD is something called hyperfocus. Hyperfocus is the ability to zero in intensely on a project or activity for hours at a time. It’s not something we can always control, but a large part of my working with and not against my ADHD has been teaching myself to bring my mind into a state of hyperfocus while working on a score. I think of it as being similar to the phrase, “courting the muse.” In that way, I see ADHD as a superpower, not a weakness.
EFF: How it was your creation process. After you get the indications, how do you set up your day a day creation process?
ASB: On any project I work on, I spend a lot of time talking with my director before writing a single note of music. I like to do that because I like to feel like I’m on the same page emotionally with the film and the director. So communication, for me, comes first. After I feel I can fully see the director’s vision, I can start building a template of sounds I’d like to use to craft the score. That part of the process feels to me like a painter gathering their paints and supplies. I’m making choices for the textures I want to create and how I’ll go about creating them. I’m also planning out the harmonic language I want to use in the music, and starting to write themes to use throughout the film. Then, the day to day on a project is really about writing each musical cue to picture and developing those themes through the narrative story arc. If I do my job at the beginning well, if I’ve chosen the right paint and brushes, the actual painting of the picture feels quite natural and my writing can flow.
EFF: Glancing over your works, you have done many short films from different genres, Which one do you think is better for you and why?
ASB: I don’t really take different approaches to scoring different genres of film. The techniques I use in my music might differ, but I think film scoring really boils down to a composer helping to tell the story and writing music to service the film. I will say I do really enjoy writing for horror films because they almost invite or call for big, bold musical choices, but it’s really important to me personally that I don’t only write in one genre of film.

EFF: What can you tell me from your other works and your upcoming films? You did a short film with Patrick Rea, a friend of this blog. Tell us those experiences in a brief way. 
ASB: Patrick is a tremendous talent. I’ve wanted to work with him for quite some time. He reached out to me at the start of the pandemic to score a short film he had just finished called Spiritual Practice. It’s a fun short film that really sets up a larger world. The movie called for an ambient, synth score. I had a lot of fun working on it.
In terms of other projects, I can tell you I’m set to score Shudder’s upcoming and still untitled queer horror documentary directed by Sam Wineman. I’m currently scoring a super fun feature film titled Psycho Storm Chaser by Buz Wallick which is an edge of your seat adventure slasher set during a hurricane. I can’t wait for people to see it.
I’ve also been commissioned to write an opera based on a play The Trial of God by Nobel Peace Prize winning author Elie Wiesel. That has been a colossal undertaking, but is such a rich and rewarding experience and I’m honored to adapt his incredible and profoundly enriching play into music. That work will premiere in November, 2021.

EFF: Could you tell us what exactly a composer does in a film? 
ASB: The composer is just like any other crew member in that we use our talent, skills, and expertise to service the film and assist in the telling of its story. I often think of film composers as needing to be fluent in two languages – the language of film and of storytelling, and the language of music. Our job is to translate what the director is asking for, the emotional needs of the film, into music. Music is an incredibly powerful tool that a composer brings to a film. It can really affect the audience in ways no other part of the filmmaking process don’t. That’s not to say I think it’s most important. Every piece of the puzzle is integral to its completion and the same is true in film. Every part of the process, every crew member, plays an essential role to the production.
EFF: What is about horror films that draw your attention the most?
ASB: I think horror, and genre films in general, is a really fun sandbox to play in. There’s so much room for the music to be big and bold and I just have so much fun being messy and making fun, crazy sounds in the score. I’m such a fan of the more classic brand of horror music, and directors seem really excited when I bring that energy to their films. That doesn’t happen too often in other film genres. For whatever reason, a more melodic and harmonically rich score in a horror film can really work!
EFF: What advice would you give for those want-to-be horror composers?
ASB: I’d say get messy. Step away from your computer and make and record real sounds in your studio. You don’t have to hire an orchestra to write sounds that terrify people. I was working on a film a few weeks ago and I literally played pots and pans in the score. I felt like a kid again, and I think that joy comes through in the music. 
So I’d say invest in some great microphones and just set yourself loose. I think it’s time composers stop relying on their sample libraries, especially in the horror genre.
Andrew Scott Bell

EFF: If a producer gives you a chance to score a horror film remake, what would it be and why? 
ASB: Oh wow, this is a fun question! It’s hard to choose. So many come to mind but I think a remake of Don’t Look Now from 1973 could be a really powerful and rewarding film to score, if done right. That’s not to say I think it should be remade. Pino Donaggio’s original score is incredible.
EFF : Something you would like to say?
ASB: I’d just like to thank you for taking the time in doing this interview, and for thinking of such thoughtful and perceptive questions. I appreciate you and the work you do for the horror community. Cheers!

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