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AGE: 41
BIRTHPLACE: England
REPRESENTATION: Allegro Talent Group
BACKGROUND: child singer/pianist, Cambridge University (BA Music), Guildhall School of Music and Drama (post-graduate), choral performer in scores for Shore and Williams
ONGOING FILMMAKER RELATIONSHIPS: Richard Ayoade
 
Andrew Hewitt is yet another rising composer who is amassing an impressive body of scores without scoring any films that have broken the $1,000,000 box-office grosses mark in U.S. theaters. Like David Buckley, Hewitt had past film music experience as a score vocalist, performing as a choir member in Shore’s final two Lord of the Rings scores as well as Williams’ Revenge of the Sith and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban. After scoring the cult-hit British horror spoof series Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place, he teamed up with its writer-director-star Richard Ayoade for Ayoade’s feature filmmaking debut, the offbeat coming-of-age comedy Submarine. The pair reteamed for Ayoade’s Gilliam-esque film of Dostoyevsky’s The Double, with Hewitt’s score proving a key component in the film’s aura of droll unease, while for 2015’s gripping docudrama The Stanford Prison Experiment, he provided a suitably percussive and unsettling accompaniment. He takes a venture into horror with the film version of Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

WHAT'S NEXT: A Crooked Somebody, The Good Neighbor, Old Boys, We Have Always Lived in the Castle

JUSTIN HURWITZ
 
AGE: 31
BIRTHPLACE: California
REP: Unavailable
BACKGROUND: Harvard, sitcom writer
2 OSCARS, 3 NOMINATIONS
BEST PICTURE NOMINEES: Whiplash, La La Land
RELATIONSHIPS: Damien Chazelle
FAN FAVORITE: La La Land
TYPECAST IN: Music dramas
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. La La Land--151 (U.S. box-office in millions)
2. Whiplash--13
 
2017 wasn’t the first time a virtually unknown composer was the predictable winner of the Original Score Oscar -- after all, Steven Price managed to win for Gravity, only his third feature score, just three years ago -- but Justin Hurwitz managed to top that with an equally predictable Original Song win. Hurwitz and writer-director Damien Chazelle met as freshmen band members at Harvard, and became roommates in their sophomore year. They collaborated on a feature length student film, a black-and-white, Jacques Demy-influenced musical titled Guy and Madeleine on a Park Bench, which managed to receive a modest theatrical release.  For Chazelle’s next project, the music drama Whiplash, he took the increasingly common approach of filming a section of the script as a short film, which ultimately played at film festivals and was even submitted for Oscar consideration. Johnny Simmons played the drummer-student and J.K. Simmons (no relation) was the demanding teacher, and as the sequence focused on a pre-existingmusical piece, the short required no contribution from Hurwitz. But when it came time to make the feature version, with Miles Teller taking over the lead role, Hurwitz was the inevitable choice to write the score, expanding upon his classical background to learn jazz composition and facing the challenging task of writing music to complement the pre-existing jazz pieces as well as composing “vintage” source pieces. While the score was ultimately ineligible for Oscar consideration, the film itself became a major award contender, earning three Oscars and an additional two nominations, including Best Picture (one of the film’s co-producers was another young composer enjoying a meteoric rise, Nicholas Britell). But though Whiplash grossed only a modest $13 million in the U.S., the film’s acclaim gave Chazelle (and Hurwitz) the opportunity to make an unconventional project in the Guy and Madeleine mode -- an original, shot-on-35mm, break-into-song musical about young showbiz strivers in contemporary Los Angeles, with a Demy-esque mix of the realistic and the romanticized. The end result, Best Picture nominee (and for a few minutes, apparent Best Picture winner) La La Land, has  grossed $151 million (on an impressively modest $30 million budget), and once more proves that contemporary audiences are ready for musicals to become a familiar genre again. Hurwitz’ score is equally as important as his original songs, and this is arguably the rare occasion where a musical won the Original Score Oscar for the score’s own merits and not because voters confused it with the songs, as the incidental music is at least as prominent in the final film. Chazelle is reportedly planning a Neil Armstrong biopic to star Ryan Gosling, so this could be Hurwitz’ first chance to write a score for a film that isn’t about music.
 
AGE: 39
BIRTHPLACE: Washington DC
REP: Unavailable
BACKGROUND: cousin of writer-director Rian Johnson, frontman of band/collective The Cinematic Underground, music video director, graphic designer/photographer
RELATIONSHIPS: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rian Johnson
FAN FAVORITE: Looper
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Looper--66
2. Don Jon--24
3. The Brothers Bloom--3
4. Kill the Messenger--2
5. Brick--2
 
The upcoming Star Wars: Episode 8 will be the first feature that Rian Johnson has directed that won’t feature a score by his cousin, Nathan Johnson. (I suspect I don’t have to tell you who will be scoring it). But that should definitely not be seen as a slight to the composer, whose work has been an integral part of his cousin’s filmmaking. The two shared a remarkable feature debut in 2005 with Brick, the clever and moody teenage noir that deftly transposed the tropes of classic detective fiction to a high school setting, with Nathan’s score adding to the unnerving atmosphere and surprising emotional weight, some musical moments evoking Goldsmith’s classic Chinatown. The team moved in a markedly different direction with their next collaboration, The Brothers Bloom, a con-man comedy which felt closer to Wes Anderson-esque whimsy than to Brick’s bleak, sad world view, and Nathan’s score provided the appropriate charm. While their third feature, 2012’s time travel thriller Looper, wasn’t quite as original as Brick -- its intricate storyline evoking everything from The Terminator to DePalma’s telekinesis thrillers -- it was one of that year’s most thrilling surprises, a stylish, ingeniously plotted braintwister whose tense, varied score is an inextricable part of the film’s success.  Nathan has worked with other filmmakers, scoring the journalistic docu-thriller Kill the Messenger and writing a varied, Morricone-influenced score for the little-seen futuristic drama Young Ones, from director Jake Paltrow. Most recently, he supplied the main title music for Paltrow and Noah Baumbach ‘s excellent documentary DePalma (not surprisingly, the bulk of the film’s music comes from the likes of Herrmann, Donaggio, Williams and Morricone, all of whom are discussed on screen by DePalma himself).
 
 
AGE: 58
BIRTHPLACE: Los Angeles
REP: Fortress Talent Management
BACKGROUND: University of Michigan School of Music, Julliard (Masters & Doctoral degrees), student of Milton Babbitt, jazz musician and scat singer, Sundance Institute Composer’s Lab fellowship, TV composer
4 EMMYS, 11 NOMINATIONS
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Black Nativity--7
 
If Laura Karpman still doesn’t have many features to her credit, it may just be because she’s spent the last couple decades writing music in practically every other format imaginable. With graduate degrees from Julliard and a varied resume (how many film composers can list “scat singing” among their talents?), Karpman first gained notice as a score composer with TV projects such as the miniseries A Woman of Independent Means and the biopic Dash & Lily, though it was her score for the Steven Spielberg production Taken (no relation to the Liam Neeson action franchise) that brought her wider attention to soundtrack fans. During this period, her work on the BBC/PBS series The Living Edens earned her two News & Documentary Emmys. Her body of musical work includes videogame scores such as Everquest 2 and Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom; music for theater, including the Oscar Wilde-inspired A Wilde Affair; concert pieces, including the multimedia work “Ask Your Mama,” based on the poem cycle by Langston Hughes; and even music for political campaigns, including those for Diane Feinstein and Charles Schumer.  So far in features she’s had much more success in documentaries than in fiction, including the fascinating true crime drama The Galapagos Affair, but her profile in the film business may be on the rise -- not only was she invited to the Academy’s music branch in 2015, but just this last summer she was elected to its Board of Governors, serving alongside Charles Bernstein and Michael Giacchino. Her latest film is the romantic travelogue Paris Can Wait, starring Diane Lane and directed by Eleanor Coppola, making her fiction feature directing debut at the age of 80.

WHAT'S NEXT: Paris Can Wait
MARK KILIAN
 
AGE: Unavailable
BIRTHPLACE: South Africa
REP: Evolution Music Partners
BACKGROUND: Jazz piano student, USC film music studies, assistant to Christopher Young, music editor, orchestrator
RELATIONSHIPS: Gavin Hood
FAN FAVORITE: Traitor
TYPECAST IN: Terrorism-themed thrillers
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Pitch Perfect--65
2. Traitor--23
3. Eye in the Sky--18 
4. Rendition--9
5. Tsotsi--2
6. Bless Me, Ultima--1
7. Before the Rains--1
 
Mark Kilian’s breakout project was 2004’s Oscar-winning Tsotsi, the South African entry for the foreign language film award, on which the composer was partnered with his frequent collaborator and fellow South African, Paul Hepker. Ironically, it was a piece of classical music that had helped inspire Killian to become a film composer after his service in the military -- the use of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” in Platoon “specifically made me realize how powerful film music could be and how it can make you connect something to your own experience. It was perhaps the most exciting thing I’d ever felt musically and I knew from then on that that’s what I wanted to do.” He moved to Los Angeles in 1994, and took a USC film scoring class from Christopher Young, whom he described as “a truly giving teacher and kind of a crazy and eccentric character. We just loved him.” When the change in the South African exchange rate meant Kilian could no longer afford to attend USC, the composer spent the next three years as Young’s assistant, and “I honestly learned more from him during those years than any studying I had ever done.” His other projects for director Gavin Hood, scored with Hepker, typecast him in terrorism-themed thrillers (Rendition, this year’s Eye in the Sky), and the team has bemoaned not getting the chance to score Hood’s more expansive projects like Ender’s Game and the first Wolverine spinoff.  He’s had more opportunities for genre-stretching in his non-Hood films, including the period romance Before the Rains (a Merchant-Ivory presentation) and the coming-of-age drama Bless Me, Ultima, though his contribution to the first Pitch Perfect (a shared scoring credit with Christophe Beck, and his highest grosser to date) seemed minimal at best. Killian has several upcoming features lined up, though none as high-profile as the surprisingly good Eye in the Sky.
 
WHAT’S NEXT: Blood Brother, The Field, Replicas
 
AGE: Unavailable
BIRTHPLACE: Unavailable
REP: Incite Management
BACKGROUND: Berklee School of Music
RELATIONSHIPS: Christopher McQuarrie
FAN FAVORITE: Jack Reacher
TYPECAST IN: Action-thrillers
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation--195  
2. Jack Reacher--80
3. The Way of the Gun--6
 
As if more evidence was needed of the importance of a director partnership in a composer’s career, Joe Kraemer’s nearly lifelong friendship with Christopher McQuarrie led to Kraemer’s rousing score for 2015’s action-packed smash Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. The team first met as teenagers in the 1980s, when Kraemer was acting in a Super 8 film also featuring McQuarrie’s friend “a kid from New Jersey named Bryan Singer.” McQuarrie’s Oscar win for his Usual Suspects screenplay gave him the clout to make his directorial debut, 2000’s underrated noir The Way of the Gun, and McQuarrie brought along Kraemer for his first high-profile feature assignment. Kraemer’s score, an homage to the lean sound of great '70s composers like Jerry Fielding and Michael Small, was one of the film’s strongest assets, but unfortunately the film’s low-boxoffice didn’t lead to any major assignments for the composer. In the years to follow, he kept busy with independent films and TV projects, including a dreadful miniseries remake of The Poseidon Adventure, and though it took over a decade, the McQuarrie-Kraemer team made a triumphant return to the screen with the Tom Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher, and Kraemer’s tense orchestral score blended well with the film’s ‘70s-cinema sensibility. McQuarrie’s working relationship with star Tom Cruise led to his most challenging directing assignment yet, the megabudget fifth entry in the decades-long Mission: Impossible franchise. Given the frequently abbreviated post-production schedules of summer blockbusters, Kraemer was fortunate enough to have time to work at length with the director to carefully develop the score, incorporating the original Schifrin themes and passages from Nessa Dorma with his original material, and even helping coordinate the filming of the opera sequence. Even more impressively, McQuarrie uses a temp track only for preview screenings, not even for editing, so Kraemer didn’t have that kind of musical hodgepodge metaphorically looming over his shoulder. Kraemer’s upcoming slate includes the indie Blood Moon, and, with luck, McQuarrie’s return to the director’s chair for the sixth Mission: Impossible feature.

WHAT'S NEXT: Blood Moon

JED KURZEL
 
AGE: 40
BIRTHPLACE: Gawler, Australia
REP: Unavailable
BACKGROUND: Brother of writer-director Justin Kurzel, guitarist and vocalist for Australian rock band The Mess Hall, short-film composer
RELATIONSHIPS: Justin Kurzel
TYPECAST IN: Thrillers
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Assassin’s Creed-- 54
2. Macbeth--1
 
Jed Kurzel, vocalist and guitarist for the Australian band The Mess Hall, had an unusual route into film scoring -- his brother. Justin Kurzel made his feature directing debut with 2011’s Snowtown (briefly released in the U.S. as The Snowtown Murders), a harrowing docudrama based on a series of grisly murders that took place in South Australia in the 1990s. The critically acclaimed film was a formative experience for its composer, who told Film Music Magazine’s Daniel Schweiger “I think I’ll forever be chasing the experience I had on that film. I had no preconceived ideas about composing, everything was new and we worked very much from instinct rather than trying to reference other scores.” The fraternal connection led to an enviably close collaboration between composer and director, as “the music started informing the cut. The beginning and the end of the film changed completely because of the music,” Kurzel’s work was influenced by his personal connection to the project, whose events occurred near where the composer grew up. While Kurzel has managed to work in an impressive variety of genres over the course of his burgeoning career, including horror, Westerns, documentaries and Shakespeare adaptations, so far he’s been typed in dark material -- even the skateboarding documentary All This Mayhem involves drug addition, suicide and murder. His most acclaimed film to date has been the mother-son thriller The Babadook, possibly the most critically acclaimed horror film of the new century. Kurzel enjoyed another close composer-director collaboration, this time with writer-director Jennifer Kent: “She’s very much into sound design and the way music and sound can play off of each other to create a creeping, more internal horror. We avoided the usual tropes like string stabs or shock tactics often employed in horror films and went for something where you weren’t sure where the sound design finished and the music began. I ended up experimenting with my four-year old daughter’s voice, cutting, looping and delaying it to make unnerving pieces that felt like trapped voices within the mother Amelia’s head.” Other projects have included the Ewan McGregor crime drama Son of a Gun and the offbeat Western Slow West, starring Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee, while his most high-profile recent scores are two Fassbender-Marion Cotillard vehicles that reteamed with him with brother Justin -- the stylish but unsatisfying remake of Macbeth, and the 2016 feature film version of the popular game(s) Assassin’s Creed. He moves into even higher-profile territory this year, as he will follow in the esteemed footsteps of such composers as Oscar winners Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner and Elliot Goldenthal by signing on for the next Alien film, Ridley Scott’s imminent prequel/sequel Alien: Covenant.
 
WHAT’S NEXT: Alien: Covenant
 
AGE: 51
BIRTHPLACE: Lisbon, Portugal
REP: Unavailable
BACKGROUND: indie-rock bassist, founding member of band Setima Legaio, composer-musician for Portuguese band Madredeus, solo artist
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Lee Daniels’ The Butler--116
 
The Lisbon-born composer-performer first gained wide attention with his band Madredeus, but fittingly enough it was a movie that helped his music reach a larger audience, as Wim Wenders’ 1994 film Lisbon Story gave the band prominent on-screen time, with the San Francisco Chronicle’s review of the film praising them as “a Portuguese pop group whose songs make for a luscious soundtrack.”  By then Leao had already received the scoring credit on the 1991 Portuguese film Um Passo, Outro Paso e Depois (A Step, Another Step and After…), and his work in music extends far beyond his years with Madredeus -- in 1982 he helped found the rock group Setima Legiao, and he balanced work with both bands with his own solo albums. While his focus has always been more on albums and live performances than on film scoring, he’s repeatedly intersected with the worlds of film and film music, whether with his 2004 album Cinema, his backing group the Cinema Ensemble, or his collaborations with other artists who straddle the film and recording fields, like Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ludivico Einaudi, and Tindersticks’ Stuart Staples. When the previously announced Quincy Jones left the all-star historical drama Lee Daniels’ The Butler, his surprise replacement was Leao, who provided a traditionally stirring and melodic orchestral score. His only feature score since has been the 2016 Spanish film 100 Metros, but one can assume that any composer whose American film debut earns $116 million at the boxoffice can have a Hollywood scoring career if that’s what he wants.
 
AGE: 41
BIRTHPLACE: Scotland
REP: Fortress Talent Management
BACKGROUND: Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, producer-arranger for Glasgow bands, short film and TV composer
1 EMMY NOMINATION
FAN FAVORITE: Dredd
TYPECAST IN: Thrillers
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Limitless--79
2. Walking with Dinosaurs--36
3. Dredd--13
 
The perpetually disconcerting tendency of filmmakers to replace composers at the last moment can’t make life easier for anyone in the craft, though it can have unexpected benefits for rising composers -- following Nico Muhly’s replacement on the film Limitless, Paul Leonard-Morgan went from being a young Scotsman with virtually no presence in Hollywood to the composer of a film that grossed $79 million at the U.S. boxoffice and spawned a network TV series. Leonard-Morgan’s mother was a music teacher, and he was inspired to pursue a career in film music by his love of such classic scores as Mancini’s Pink Panther and the Morricone/Leone Westerns.  While studying at the Royal Scott Academy of Music and Drama, he moonlit as an arranger and producer for Glasgow bands such as Mogwai and Belle and Sebastian. He had a career breakthrough with the 2000 short film Reflections Upon the Origin of the Pineapple, and after scoring several other short films he scored six seasons of the popular British spy series Spooks (aka MI-5). Though the surprise success of Limitless made him an employable composer in Hollywood, his style of mixing orchestra with electronica fitting well into today’s musical sensibilities, Leonard-Morgan has continued to cultivate a diverse resume -- the cult favorite 3D reboot of [Judge] Dredd, animated Minions shorts, the official US Olympic Team Anthem, a ride at Walt Disney World, and the video game Battlefield Hardline. Leonard-Morgan returned to familiar ground with the TV series version of Limitless, and even earned an Emmy nomination for its pilot score.
 
WHAT'S NEXT: Accidental Anarchist

MICA LEVI
 
AGE: 29
BIRTHPLACE: Surrey, England
REP: Unavailable
BACKGROUND: Composition studies at the Guildhall School of Music
1 OSCAR NOMINATION
FAN FAVORITE: Under the Skin
TYPECAST IN: Female-centered stories
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Jackie--13  
2. Under the Skin--2 
 
In an era where far too much film music is either nth generation imitations of traditional orchestral styles or iterations of the more contemporary style popularized by Hans Zimmer and his many colleagues and collaborators, Mica Levi has been an especially bold and refreshing new voice, and with only two scores to her credit she’s already an Oscar nominee. Trained in composition, she made her mark in the rock-pop world with her group Micachu and the Shapes, while her album Chopped and Screwed, a collaboration with the London Sinfonietta, helped pave the way for her acclaimed film work. Surprisingly (or perhaps typically, considering the lack of respect often given to traditional film music styles), according to the composer it was actually her lack of film scoring experience that recommended to director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth), whose nightmarish science-fiction thriller Under the Skin is one of the most striking films of the new century: “I think he wanted a novice -- someone who didn’t know how to write film scores. He didn’t want the score to manipulate the audience unnecessarily. I was told to write away from the picture at the beginning. It was great working with someone who isn’t talking to you specifically in musical language -- Jon is amazing at describing things.”  Levi’s chilling and distinctive score garnered rave reviews, and by working closely with sound designer Johnnie Burn she was able to integrate her music closely into the film’s soundscape in a way that most composers of today’s Hollywood blockbusters would envy.  Levi professes to have little interest in traditional film music, though surprisingly she claimed that her work on Skin was influenced by watching James Bond films -- "I couldn’t get my head out of what the music was doing." Despite the seemingly surefire box-office appeal of Scarlett Johnansson as a murderous, frequently naked alien, Under the Skin was more talked-about than widely seen, but the film’s early screening at the Venice Film Festival earned her work a new fan – Chilean director Pablo Larrain (No, Neruda). Larrain brought her on board to score his first English-language film, the nontraditional biopic Jackie, with Natalie Portman as the First Lady coping with the JFK assassination and its aftermath. Levi’s unsettling score, reminiscent of Under the Skin as well as Jonny Greenwood’s scores for Paul Thomas Anderson, paid homage to the popular orchestral music of its era – "a lot of music was quite soupy and there was a way of being indulgent and soupy by having a glissando."  Levi’s Oscar-nominated music made an indelible impact in Larrain’s film (and stood out whenever snippets were played during the recent Oscar telecast), and she has already signed on for a third feature project -- actor-turned-director Brady Corbet’s music drama Vox Lux, starring Rooney Mara with new songs by the ubiquitous Sia.

WHAT'S NEXT: Vox Lux

DOMINIC LEWIS
 
AGE: Unavailable
BIRTHPLACE: England
REP: Rain Talent
BACKGROUND:  Royal Academy of Music (cello, music composition), protégé of Rupert Gregson-Williams, orchestrator-arranger, additional composer for Jackman, Powell, Zimmer.
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Free Birds--55  
2. Money Monster--41  
3. The DUFF--34  
4. Fist Fight--32  
 
Dominic Lewis began his musical studies at the tender age of three, with an emphasis on the cello that continued with his classical training at the Royal Academy of Music. He met composer Rupert Gregson-Williams while a teenager, and at age 22 he was one of the credited composers on the romantic drama The Poet (aka Hearts of War), co-starring Daryl Hannah and Roy Scheider. As with so many of today’s rising composers, Lewis gained valuable experience working at Hans Zimmer’s Media Ventures/Remote Control, providing additional music for Ramin Djawadi, John Powell, Henry Jackman and Zimmer himself on such scores as Clash of the Titans, Rio, X-Men: First Class, Puss in Boots and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He had his first major solo score with the animated comedy Free Birds, and has balanced his solo composing with contributions to other’s scores, not only as a composer but as a cellist (on Freeheld) and vocalist (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice). Last year he had two major releases, the charming high school comedy The DUFF and the star-laden thriller Money Monster, whose score has reached the highest level of hipness -- it’s been released on vinyl. His latest film is the R-rated comedy Fist Fight, and he’s had his most prestigious project to date with Netflix’s acclaimed ongoing adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, a musical collaboration with Henry Jackman. Coming up is the dark comedy Rough Night -- basically Very Bad Things with a female cast.

WHAT'S NEXT: Henchmen, Rough Night

RYAN LOTT (Son Lux)
 
AGE:  38
BIRTHPLACE: Denver, Colorado
REP: Unavailable
BACKGROUND:  Degree in music composition at Indiana University, composer for advertising, founder of group Son Lux
FAN FAVORITE: Paper Towns
TYPECAST IN: Romance
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Paper Towns--32  
 
Ryan Lott founded his then-one-person band Son Lux in 2007, with his first LP At War with Walls and Mazes released in 2008, but by the time of his fifth album, 2015’s Bones, Son Lux has added two new members - guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and percussionist Ian Chang. While it was the popularity and acclaim for Son Lux that led to Lott’s scoring career, his musical background as a composer for advertising made him especially suitable for the craft – “It wasn’t until I was working in advertising, making music for ads, that I had to familiarize myself with a ton of stuff. My primary task for years as a staff composer at a music house was to emulate. In so doing, a gained an appreciation for things I had either dismissed early on, or had missed entirely.” Like many of today’s composers, Lott’s work straddles many genres and media, and  his collaborators include film-and-concert composer Nico Muhly. Writer-director Ned Benson’s feature debut The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby had a complicated production history. The acclaimed screenplay was originally written and even produced as two screenplays, each one showing the relationship between a separated, grieving couple from one partner’s viewpoint.  However, the film’s distributor, Harvey Weinstein, convinced Benson to combine them into a more traditional version, released as The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, followed thereafter in theaters by a smaller release of the original two-part version (subtitled Her and Him, respectively) as a double feature. Though the final film was fairly conventional, Benson was able to get a more unconventional approach from his first time composer, credited as Son Lux (and collaborating with guitarist Bhatia): “The score was one of the cooler processes I have ever been through. Ryan Lott… wanted to create music based on objects in the film. He created a wine-glass instrument that we used throughout, motifs from corrugated metal, things you would see in New York City. It was amazing.” Bhatia explained the unusual nature of their approach: “a key texture came from two-note chords that I tracked on the guitar, looped, and reversed, which Ryan then mapped to a keyboard and played back at different tempos to create a new instrument. There are traces of humanity to subconsciously cling to. Somewhere in there, you can perceive the fingers against the metal.” While credited as “Son Lux” for Rigby, Lott used his own name for his next feature, the film version of John Green’s teen romantic mystery Paper Towns, and while the film was not a box-office juggernaut like Green's The Fault in Our Stars, it was a modest success and gave Lott the chance to score successfully in a more traditional vein, “everything from scoring exhilarating, epic, coming-of-age moments to evocative, moody, mysterious and somber themes.” His most recent feature is Mean Dreams, a teen romantic thriller co-starring the late Bill Paxton.

MATTHEW MARGESON
 
AGE: 36
BIRTHPLACE: Brick, New Jersey
REP: Rain Talent
BACKGROUND: Berklee College of Music
RELATIONSHIPS: Matthew Vaughn
FAN FAVORITE: Kingsman: The Secret Service
TYPECAST IN: Action, fantasy
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Kingsman: The Secret Service--128  
2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children--87  
3. Kick-Ass 2--28 
4. Rings--27  
5. Skyline--21
6. Eddie the Eagle--15  
7. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse--3  
 
A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Matthew Margeson’s name first caught the eye of film music fans with his score for the goofy but slick low-budget alien invasion thriller Skyline, but his path to that assignment was pretty typical for composers of the new century, as he served a kind of apprenticeship with composers of the Media Ventures/Remote Control cooperative.  After serving as a synth programmer and uncredited assistant for Klaus Badelt, he worked variously as a programmer and additional score composer/arranger for such composers as Rupert Gregson-Williams, Steve Jablonsky, Henry Jackman and Hans Zimmer. Jackman was one of four principal composers on director Matthew Vaughn’s R-rated superhero comedy Kick-Ass, and Margeson collaborated with Jackman on his portion of the score, forging strong partnerships with both composer and director. His next high profile score was another collaboration with both men (this time with Vaughn only as producer), the inevitable Kick-Ass 2.  According to Margeson, the two composers worked unusually closely on the sequel score – “we’re both sitting at the piano from the very beginning, so there’s a really respectful collaboration between the both of us.” While the new film was a box-office disappointment, the trio reteamed (with Vaughn back in the director’s chair) for another R-rated comics adaptation, the spy adventure Kingsmen: The Secret Service. Jackman and Margeson took care to avoid obvious pastiche: “We had to be really cautious of not making it a rip-off of a Barry score. We definitely talked quite a bit about this before we even wrote a note. For that reason alone, we never listened to those Roger Moore-era Bond films and we never dove into any other British espionage movies. Not necessarily British, but even the Bourne Identity series or Mission Impossible.” The end result proved to be a surprise box-office smash (and helped pave the way for other R-rated comic book hits like Deadpool and Logan); the composers and director return for a sequel due later this year, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, which adds Oscar winners Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore and Halle Berry to the ensemble. Working on his own, Margeson has been largely typecast in horror with projects like Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Rings, but courtesy of producer Vaughn, he had the opportunity to write an '80s pastiche with the comedic sports biopic Eddie the Eagle. And more unexpectedly, last year he became one of the very people not named “Danny Elfman” to score a Tim Burton film, collaborating with Mike Higham (a prolific music editor who had produced the music for Burton’s film of Sweeney Todd) on the lavish Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
 
WHAT’S NEXT: Kingsmen: The Golden Circle
 
AGE: 38
BIRTHPLACE: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
REP: Kraft-Engel
BACKGROUND: USC School of Music, protege of Elmer Bernstein, TV composer
1 EMMY, 4 NOMINATIONS
RELATIONSHIPS: Joe Lynch, Ronald D. Moore
FAN FAVORITE: 10 Cloverfield Lane
TYPECAST IN: Horror/thrillers
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. 10 Cloverfield Lane--72  
2. Step Up 3D--42
3. The Boy--35  
4. The Forest--26  
5. Colossal--2 (as of 5/7/17)
 
A former member of Oingo Boingo and a composer most commonly associated with comedies, Richard Gibbs was a surprising choice to score the pilot miniseries that inaugurated the new, radically reconceived SciFi Channel version of Battlestar Galactica, and even more surprising was the producers’ decision to completely avoid the symphonic style of music that had sonically defined “space operas” since John Williams scored the first Star Wars. Gibbs’ off-beat approach was continued throughout the series critically acclaimed four seasons by Bear McCreary, a former student of Elmer Bernstein who credited the master with the best advice on how to work with directors: “[he] said over and over not to talk to a filmmaker about music. He said the most important thing -- really the only thing -- you need to talk to a filmmaker about when you’re a composer is, you ask them one question: What do you want the audience to feel?” His work on Galactica led to McCreary becoming one of the most prolific and popular musical voices in episodic television, with shows like Human Target and the Galactica prequel Caprica giving him the chance to work in a satisfying orchestral and melodic vein. He earned an Emmy for Da Vinci’s Demons' main title theme, and nominations for the themes to Human Target and Black Sails and an Outlander episode score, and with such hit series as Outlander, Black Sails and especially The Walking Dead on his resume, it was only natural that he’d begin venturing into the feature world. Following direct to video thrillers like Rest Stop and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, his first major features to get a theatrical release were the underrated Step Up 3D and the intriguing but unsatisfying found-footage space travel thriller Europa Report, but it was not until last year that he started to make his presence known in features in a big way. Following the horror films The Forest and The Boy (not to be confused with the 2015 thriller of the same title, scored by Lion Oscar nominee Hauschka), he had his first genuine box-office smash with the J.J. Abrams’ production 10 Cloverfield Lane, in which McCreary’s orchestral score took a surprisingly dominant role, and even featured a welcome reappearance of Craig Huxley’s “Blaster Beam,” that electronic instrument used most famously in Goldsmith’s first Star Trek score. McCreary has long had an unusually thorough on-line presence, giving his fans step-by-step exposure to his creative process. “I started thinking about the composers I admired growing up, if they had had a blog, and I could have found them on the internet and asked them, “Why did you do that?”” And they responded to it? How cool would that have been?”  While he continues with The Walking Dead, his newest feature projects include the Salinger biopic Rebel in the Rye and the just-released giant monster comedy-drama Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway.
 
WHAT'S NEXT: Animal Crackers, Rebel in the Rye, Revolt
 
AGE: Unavailable
BIRTHPLACE: Athens, Georgia
REP: Gorfaine/Schwartz
BACKGROUND: cellist for indie rock band The Instruments, member of Elephant 6 collective
RELATIONSHIPS: Craig Zobel
FAN FAVORITE: Z for Zachariah
 
Rising indie film composer Heather McIntosh took to music early in life: "I always knew I wanted to play music. My mom taught me piano at 4. I did start playing when I was a little squirt. I started playing cello at 9. I always had music in my life.  My mom used to play organ at the church. I used to do cartwheels in the aisles... I played clarinet for a while.  Either I wanted to be a marine biologist or a synthesizer player  I took lessons in the fifth grade  I love the computer aspect of it, the creation of different sounds." While many film music fans were first exposed to the craft with the genre films of their youth, for McIntosh it was a college viewing of Mike Leigh’s Naked -- and its score by Andrew Dickson -- that began her interest in scoring. Like an increasing number of film composers, she comes not from the world of concert music but from indie rock, as she has been the cellist for her band The Instrument since 2003. Along with her instrumental experience, she has an equally strong interest in the sound design aspect of contemporary music: “I scoop out sounds that I like. Electronic music. I record everything. On my first tour, in Scandinavia, I recorded sounds and created my own non-traditional sounds. I've used random car sounds just being on tour in France. It just sounds different. And when I lived in New York City I did the same, recording train sounds in the subway.” After contributing music to the 2008 documentary Examined Life, she had her first scoring credit with filmmaker Craig Zobel’s gripping, controversial docudrama Compliance, inspired by the “strip search prank call scam.” Particularly for a first-time composer, McIntosh had an unusually close working relationship with her director, given the opportunity to develop music so early in the process that the actors were able to listen to it during filming. “I was so surprised when I visited the set and folks working on the production end were telling me they liked the music. It was rad to know the music was showing up as a character so early on.” After scoring the underrated indie romantic comedy Amira & Sam and the science-fiction thriller Honeymoon, she reunited with Zobel for a very different project -- an adaptation of the popular 70s young adult apocalypse novel Z for Zachariah. The story of an innocent young woman (Margot Robbie, playing effectively against type) not knowing which of two survivors (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine) to trust, Zachariah gave McIntosh a cinematic canvas utterly different from Compliance’s claustrophobic tension, going for “a bigger, more open pastoral feel” while using “a predominantly chamber string palette.” Robbie’s character plays a church organ, and McIntosh researched organ music and wrote an original source piece for Robbie to play in the film, and her musical challenges included not tipping the audience to favor one of the male leads over the other. Invited to join the Motion Picture Academy in 2016, her many upcoming features include a documentary on the great Hal Ashby.
 
WHAT’S NEXT: Aardvark, And Then I Go, Little Bitches, New Money, Once I Was: The Hal Ashby Story, Princess Cyd, 6 Balloons, Take Me, Valley of the Moon

NATHANIEL MECHALY
 
AGE: 44
BIRTHPLACE: France
REP: Gorfaine/Schwartz
BACKGROUND: Studies at National Conservatories of Marseille, Paris and Bolougne, assistant to Gabriel Yared, composer for commercials and Israeli films
RELATIONSHIPS: Luc Besson, Olivier Megaton
FAN FAVORITE: Taken
TYPECAST IN: Action-thrillers
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Taken--145
2. Taken 2--139
3. Taken 3--89  
4. Colombiana--36
5. The Grandmaster--6
6. Shut In--6  
 
The Luc Besson-produced action-thriller Taken was originally set to have its U.S. release in August of 2008, and when it was pushed back to early the following year, one could safely expect that this Liam Neeson vehicle would ultimately come and go with little fanfare. But following a well-received commercial that played during the 2009 Super Bowl, the film opened to enormous business and began Neeson’s career as an action hero with a very particular set of skills. Its composer, the France-born Nathaniel Mechaly, got his start as an assistant to Oscar winner Gabriel Yared, and scored commercials before winning his first feature assignment, the 2004 Israeli drama Avanin. His working relationship with Besson began with the Marion Cotillard thriller The Black Box (unreleased in the U.S.) and continued with Guy Ritchie’s ambitious, much-maligned Revolver, and even though Revolver received only a cursory U.S. release two years after it was filmed, it confirmed Mechaly’s status as a valued collaborator for Besson. For the eventual megahit Taken, Melchaly felt that “Liam’s character influenced me to work much more with emotion,” and sought to write a score that would make the absent daughter emotionally present, “to see her in the eyes of her father, so that the drive and passion behind his relentless pursuit of her kidnappers would feel real and painful.” Following the Besson-produced Zoe Saldana vehicle Colombiana, Mechaly returned to the next chapter in the beleaguered life of kidnap-prone ex-spook Bryan Mills with Taken 2. Mechaly was “very conscious of making my key signature choices and arrangement in such a way as to complement and enhance the way Liam’s voice worked” and “felt that the vision of this film was larger in scope than the previous Taken, so I wanted to bring a larger, more ambitious operatic score to the table,” incorporating Arabic violin and Middle Eastern percussion to reflect the film’s exotic setting. Before returning to the inevitable Taken 3, he shared the scoring credit with Shigeru Umebayashi on Wong Kar-Wai’s exquisitely crafted martial arts biopic The Grandmaster. While Mechaly did not sign on for the current Taken prequel TV series, he did score the TV incarnation of Besson’s Transporter franchise, and his most recent U.S. release was the Naomi Watts thriller Shut In.

RYAN MILLER
 
AGE: 44
BIRTHPLACE: Lubbock, Texas
REP: Nettwerk Music Group
BACKGROUND: Taft University (religious studies), singer/guitarist for Guster
FAN FAVORITE: The Kings of Summer
TYPECAST IN: indie comedy
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Safety Not Guaranteed--4
2. In a World--2
3. The Kings of Summer--1 
 
Singer-guitarist Ryan Miler was a religious studies student at Taft University when he formed a band with fellow freshmen Adam Gardner and Bryan Rosenworcel. They originally named their band Gus, but when another Gus signed with a major label, they changed the name to Guster, recording their first independent album in 1994 while still in college. They had their first top 40 hit in 1999 with the song “Fa Fa,” while Miller made his first venture into filmmaking with the 2009 indie comedy Nobody, for which Miller provided the score as well as co-writing the script with director Rob Perez. Though the film was not widely seen, the experience inspired Miller to pursue a new musical career: “After I had worked on Nobody as a goof, I kinda got the bug. I had an epiphany: This is what I want to do with my life. I felt the real power. It played to my strengths of melody and arrangement and I really like the working relationship with directors.” The prefect opportunity came when Miller met Colin Trevorrow, at work on his low-budget romantic comedy Safety Not Guartanteed. “He was a Guster fan and the first night we met, we got drunk in Vermont. I was like, ‘Hey, can I score your movie?’ And he was like, ‘I was going to ask you if you’d be interested in scoring a movie!’ He didn’t know if I’d ever done it before and I didn’t know if he’d be amenable to it.” Miller appreciated the challenge of Trevorrow’s genre-bending romance “There’s a head-fake in this movie. It starts off and feels like a quirky, indie, mumblecore thing that you’ve seen a thousand times before. But there was something about the score not giving away what was coming. The score unfolds and culminates in place that doesn’t have anything to do with where you started.” Filmmaker Trevorrow was impressed with Miller’s skill utilizing the limited resources of the film’s budget. “He had to build from a couple of instruments in his recording studio to doubling, tripling and quadrupling them. We got a French horn because the violinist’s girlfriend played French horn. It was that kind of thing.” While Safety Not Guaranteed was only a modest boxoffice success (its $4 million U.S. gross is still impressive for a film that reportedly only cost $750,000), it led to more indie projects for Miller -- Jordan Vogt-Roberts charming teen comedy The Kings of Summer, and actress Lake Bell’s impressive writing-directing debut In a World… While Miller has yet to break into the big (studio) leagues, he’s seemed to be a good luck charm for his directors -- Trevorrow went onto make Jurassic World (and is in pre-production for Star Wars: Episode Nine) and Vogt-Roberts has Kong: Skull Island in theaters. Other projects like the documentary Tig (about comedian Tig Notaro) and the Paul Rudd comedy The Fundamentals of Caring (released by Netflix) were less widely seen, and he returns to indie comedy with Mr. Roosevelt, a writing-directing-starring venture for actress-comedian Noel Wells.
 
WHAT'S NEXT: Mr. Roosevelt
 
AGE: 42
BIRTHPLACE: Houston, Texas
REP: Unavailable
BACKGROUND: Manhattan School of Music, jazz pianist/bandleader
BEST PICTURE NOMINEES: Selma
RELATIONSHIPS: Ava DuVernay
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1.Selma--52  
 
Jason Moran may have had only a few documentary scores under his belt when he signed on to score 2014 Best Picture nominee Selma, but in the non-film world he had a resume that any composer would envy. The Houston-born pianist-composer made his way through the New York jazz scene to become an acclaimed bandleader as well as solo artist, lecturer/instructor at such prestigious universities as Yale and Dartmouth, and artistic director at the Kennedy Center for Jazz. Moran got involved in Selma through his friend, the film’s cinematographer Bradford Young (a 2016 Oscar nominee for Arrival), who recommended him to director Ava DuVernay. Moran and DuVernay developed “a close relationship through conversations about our intentions as young artists, especially related to history. That’s a big part of what I do as a jazz musician. It’s really kind of how to re-conceptualize history and make it somehow resonate in today’s society. I’m dedicated to that craft of looking back, in order to expose something for the future. So we found a common language that way, which made it a real joy to work with Ava on this.” Moran credited orchestrator/score producer Matthias “Teese” Gohl (a frequent collaborator with Elliot Goldenthal) as an enormous help in making the transition to large-scale orchestral film scoring, and he also benefited from his enviably close working relationship with his director. He began by scoring one of the film’s most challenging scenes, MLK’s final speech, and he was originally relieved to learn he wouldn’t have to score one of the film’s most historically pivotal setpieces, the ill-fated march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, but DuVernay changed her mind and Moran wrote a powerful cue that encompassed the drama and violence of the sequence. Moran’s score has been disappointingly hard to track down apart from the film -- though his music was eligible for an Oscar nomination, no For Your Consideration CD was released, and the film’s download-only soundtrack release featured only three score cues totaling less than 10 minutes of Moran music. Moran reteamed with DuVernay for her Oscar-nominated documentary 13th, and it would be nice to see what he could do if given the opportunity to score her next project, an adaptation of the young adult sci-fi classic A Wrinkle in Time.
 
 
AGE: 46
BIRTHPLACE: London, Canada
REP: Gorfaine/Schwartz
BACKGROUND: Child violin student and composer, Fanshawe College, composer for commercials
2 EMMYS, 5 NOMINATIONS
FAN FAVORITE: Immortals
TYPECAST IN: Action-adventure
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Olympus Has Fallen--98
2. Immortals--83
3. London Has Fallen--62  
4. Brick Mansions--20
5. The Hills Have Eyes 2--20
 
Toronto’s Trevor Morris had his music performed at an unusually young age -- at only 13, he was paid $50 to compose a piece for his school’s graduating class in honor of Pope John Paul’s Canadian visit, with lyrics adapted from the Pope’s book Beloved Young People. After graduating from the “Music Industry Arts” program of Ontario’s Fanshawe College, Morris worked in music production and became a composer for commercials, before making the big step of relocating to Los Angeles. He worked as an assistant to James Newton Howard, whose music he is still a particular fan of: “His writing has an elegance and intelligence to it, and is often hybrid in nature without being so for its own sake. He is really ‘The Man’ to me.” Morris had an equally important working relationship with Hans Zimmer, serving in such varied capacities as additional composer, music editor, score consultant and technical music advisor on many Zimmer scores in the first years of the new century, including The Ring, The Last Samurai and Something’s Gotta Give. His first major studio score was for the horror sequel The Hills Have Eyes 2, and while he’s had box-office hits with Immortals and Olympus Has Fallen, he’s received even more acclaim for his television work, receiving five Emmy nominations and winning for his main title themes to The Tudors and The Borgias. Since last year’s London Has Fallen, he’s been concentrating largely on television, including the weekly version of Taken and Marvel’s Iron Fist, while his latest feature is actor Jay Baruchel’s directorial debut, the comedy sequel Goon: Last of the Enforcers.

WHAT'S NEXT: Goon: Last of the Enforcers

WALTER MURPHY
 
AGE: 64
BIRTHPLACE: New York City
REP: Unavailable
BACKGROUND: Manhattan School of Music (jazz and classical piano)
1 OSCAR NOMINATION
1 EMMY, 5 NOMINATIONS
RELATIONSHIPS: Seth MacFarlane
FAN FAVORITE: Ted
TYPECAST IN: Comedy
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Ted--218
2. Ted 2--81   
 
It’s fitting that one of Walter Murphy’s most recent projects is a movie titled The Late Bloomer, since Murphy had his own breakout feature film success relatively late in life. The Manhattan School of Music graduate had his first hit single at the age of 23, with the disco hit “A Fifth of Beethoven,” which was later included in the record-breaking Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Soon after he was balancing his career as a recording artist with work as a composer on made-for-TV movies like The Savage Bees and The Night They Took Miss Beautiful. He became a regular collaborator for TV writer-producer Stephen J. Cannell, scoring such series as Stingray and Hunter, but it may have been Cannell’s groundbreaking Wiseguy that paved the way for one of Murphy’s most popular projects, as Wiseguy’s multi-episode villain arcs (involving impressive guest stars like Kevin Spacey and Stanley Tucci) was a major inspiration for Joss Whedon’s beloved Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, and Murphy was hired as Buffy’s first season composer (followed in later seasons by Christophe Beck and Thomas Wanker/Wander). The most important of Murphy’s collaborations began in 1999, when Murphy scored the pilot episode for Seth Macfarlane’s Family Guy and also co-wrote its theme song. It wasn’t until the show began re-running on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim that it turned into a pop culture juggernaut, making Macfarlane a household name and spawning additional animated series like American Dad! and The Cleveland Show, both also scored by Murphy. Murphy has earned an Emmy and five nominations for his animated TV projects, four of them for Family Guy, and when Macfarlane made the inevitable leap to the big screen with 2012’s smash hit comedy Ted, Murphy provided the light-hearted orchestral score, and the pair shared an Original Song Oscar nomination for the main title song “Everybody Needs a Best Friend.” Their longtime collaboration made the experience a snap for the composer: “[Macfarlane’s] an easy guy to work for because he really knows what he’s looking for. It’s always a pleasure to work with someone like that because it makes your job easy - you just have to go do it. I would write and demo segments of the film and send it to him, or he’d come over and look at it and make comments about this or that, and I’d tweak it. There are segments that we really tweaked a lot, and there are portions of it that I grasped on to very quickly. But it was definitely a collaboration.” As has become the trend for comedy sequels, the inevitable Ted 2 (again scored by Murphy and with a new original song, “Mean Ol’ Moon”) grossed only a fraction of the original’s take, but Murphy and Macfarlane keep busy together with the still running Family Guy.

JOHN NAU/ANDREW FELTENSTEIN
 
AGE: Unavailable
BIRTHPLACE: Unavailable
REP: Unavailable
BACKGROUND: Commercials composers, Funny or Die videos
1 EMMY NOMINATION
RELATIONSHIPS: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay
FAN FAVORITE: Casa de Mi Padre
TYPECAST IN: Comedy
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues--127
2. Casa de Mi Padre--5
 
Popular entertainment has seen plenty of comedy teams, but it is unusual to find a team of comedy film composers. John Nau and Andrew Feltenstein met in Venice, California and formed their own studio, Beacon Street. After working as composers for commercials, they had a career breakthrough with the on-line “Funny or Die” videos, demonstrating their gift for straight-faced musical pastiche on projects like “Brick Novax’s Diary” and “The Carpet Brothers.” Funny or Die founders Will Ferrell and Adam McKay brought the team on to score their big screen projects (They had already scored the 2004 direct-to-video sequel Wild Things 2, which reunited zero members of the original cast) Bachelorette and Casa de Mi Padre, with Ferrell himself performing trumpet for the latter. Though neither film caused much of a ripple at the boxoffice, Ferrell and McKay brought them on board for a much higher-profile project, the all-star sequel Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Nau and Feltenstein have cited Elmer Bernstein’s classic Animal House score as a favorite, and took a similarly sober approach: “We read the scripts individually -- and came away with a melodramatic feel to the story. Ron is uber everything. So the music needed to reflect that. Again we didn’t score the comedy -- we played for the heavy dramatic moments. The comedy comes in the set-up.” The sequel was an even bigger hit than the original Anchorman, and the team received an Emmy nomination for their droll theme to the Ferrell/McKay produced miniseries parodyThe Spoils of Babylon. Their next film with Ferrell is The House, a comedy about a couple who turn their home into a casino to put their daughter through college.
 
WHAT’S NEXT: The House

THE NEWTON BROTHERS (Andy Grush/Taylor Stewart)
 
AGE: Unavailable
BIRTHPLACE: Unavailable
REP: Kraft-Engel
BACKGROUND: Collaborations with Hans Zimmer, tomandandy
RELATIONSHIPS: Mike Flanagan
FAN FAVORITE: Oculus
TYPECAST IN: Horror
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Ouija: Origin of Evil--34  
2. Oculus--27
3. The Bye Bye Man-- 22 
 
To bring up the most obvious point first -- the composing team that bills themselves as “The Newton Brothers” are neither brothers nor named Newton. They took their name from the scientist Isaac Newton, only later learning of the band of robbers with the same name who were the subject of director Richard Linklater’s 1998 caper/biopic The Newton Boys. Both of them were inspired as children by classic John Williams scores -- for Andy Grush, it was his uncle Dennis teaching him to play the Star Wars main title on a piano, while for Taylor Stewart a childhood viewing of E.T. ultimately made him realize “it was the combination of music and visuals that so impactful.” The pair met through a mutual friend in 2001 and began collaborating soon after. Stewart had an apprenticeship with Hans Zimmer at Remote Control, and the experience was instructive for him: “The business side of things is what ultimately allows your career to grow. Just writing music alone isn’t enough. You’re dealing with people, collaborating, sharing ideas. With themes I learned simplicity is key. It can be a very complex piece. But at the heart it’s simple and hopefully memorable;” Grush had a similarly educational experience working with tomandandy on the scores for The Mothman Prophecies and The Rules of Attraction. While the team has worked in a variety of genres -- director Tony Kaye’s high school drama Detachment, the marijuana comedy High School, the political drama The Runner, the underrated Elmore Leonard adaptation Life of Crime (a prequel to Jackie Brown) -- they have become most associated with horror films, especially those from rising genre auteur Mike Flanagan. Their first collaboration with Flanagan was 2013’s haunted-mirror thriller Oculus, where the team worked closely with their director on the film’s musical approach. According to Stewart, Flanagan originally “wanted the score to be more tonal. But I think once we combined the orchestra with the synths and samples it really brought it to that cinematic level and gave it its own identity.” The team had an enviable musical challenge with their next Flanagan thriller Hush, as its imperiled protagonist was a deaf-mute woman, and the collaboration remained close: “We talked about it with Mike, the general tone and feel. But he gave us the freedom to develop our own sound. We knew we wanted chimes and bells to make you feel calm almost like it was part of nature and cold harsh sounds for more of the cat and mouse sequences.” Hush received first-rate reviews at film festivals but ultimately bypassed a theatrical release in favor of Netflix steaming, while the next Newton/Flanagan project, Before I Wake (in which the team worked with original themes by Danny Elfman) was a casualty of its distributor’s financial difficulties (it was scheduled for release last fall only to have The Disappointments Room take its place on the schedule) and still has not seen a U.S. theatrical release, though the score received a limited edition CD release from Varese. Their fourth film together, the prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil, fared much better -- a modest box-office hit, and a much better followup than the original film deserved. The “brothers” were even able to record their appealingly orchestral score in the appropriately atmospheric environment of an old church. Their latest feature was the less satisfying horror film The Bye Bye Man, while their next project with Flanagan is the film version of Stephen King’s claustrophobic thriller Gerald’s Game.

WHAT'S NEXT: Cage Dive, Gerald's Game
 
AGE: 45
BIRTHPLACE: Phoenix, Arizona
REP: Allegro Talent Group
BACKGROUND: Santa Monica College (art studies), founder of indie rock band Devics, solo recording artist (piano)
1 OSCAR NOMINATION
1 EMMY
BEST PICTURE NOMINEES: Lion
RELATIONSHIPS: Drake Doremus
FAN FAVORITE: Lion
TYPECAST IN: Indie drama
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Lion--51
2. Like Crazy--3
 
Dustin O’Halloran was exposed to music at an early age, hearing the classical pieces his ballet dancer mother would perform to. He was an art student at Santa Monica College when he met singer Sara Lov, the pair forming the indie rock band Devics in 1993. Joined by three other musicals, Devics produced albums through 2006, while O’Halloran began his own career as a solo recording artist with his 2004 album Piano Solos.  He had an unusual entrée into the film business by working as a “foley walker,” but had his first venture into film music when he recorded some pieces for Sofia Coppola’s lavish biopic Marie Antoinette. His Opuses 17, 23 and 36 were used in the final film, and he released all of the pieces he'd composed for the film as his album Piano Solos 2. After scoring the indies Remember the Daze and An American Affair, he formed an important partnership with director Drake Doremus which began with the Anton Yelchin-Felicity Jones romance Like Crazy (co-starring a pre-fame Jennifer Lawrence) and continued with Breathe In, for which O’Halloran also composed original pieces for the lead actors to perform on-screen. While the Doremus films were key steps in O’Halloran’s development as a film composer (and he also shared the scoring credit on Doremus’ futuristic romance Equals, pairing Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult), he has received much wider attention for two other projects. O’Halloran has provided sparing and sensitive musical accompaniment for Jill Soloway’s critically acclaimed Amazon series Transparent, and him bittersweet, movingly simple main theme earned him an Emmy award.  It was director Garth Davis that had the idea to hire both O’Halloran and German composer Volker Bertelmann to write the score for the biographical drama Lion, but while Davis first envisioned the composers working on separate parts of the film, with O’Halloran to score the opening section focusing on the lost Saroo’s danger-plagued childhood, and Bertelmann scoring the adult Saroo’s search for his family. Instead, the pair ended up collaborating on the entire score, with O’Halloran working from Los Angeles and his counterpart in Germany. O’Halloran felt that Davis was a key contributor in conceiving the film’s score:  “He thought so much about where every point should connect musically. Beyond just writing the music, we also had to connect a spiritual timeline and a physical timeline across the two halves of the film. It was like looking at a map and drawing lines between all of these different points, and how we were going to musically create this subconscious journey. It was a three-dimensional way of making it.” The end result earned each composer their first Oscar nomination, and next up, O’Halloran and his Winged Victory for the Sullen partner Adam Wiltzie have the criticially acclaimed British drama God’s Own Country, for which Variety praised the “sparse, shivering score.”
 
WHAT’S NEXT: God’s Own Country
 
AGE: 39 
BIRTHPLACE: Birmingham, Michigan
REP: Greenspan Kohan
BACKGROUND: child music student, Berklee College of Music, composer for direct-to-video features
RELATIONSHIPS: Wes Ball, Steven DeKnight
FAN FAVORITE: Daredevil [TV]
TYPECAST IN: Action-adventure, sports
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. The Maze Runner--102
2. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials--81  
3. Almost Christmas--42
4. When the Game Stands Tall--30
5. My All-American--2  
 
As with so many current film composers, it was the scores of John Williams that helped inspire John Paesano to pursue the craft, but for Paesano it was not Jaws or Star Wars but Empire of the Sun: “I was so amazed how John Williams was able to use his music to show the viewer how a 10-year-old boy would view the events of that war versus how an adult would, and how the music functioned in that film -- how integral it was in order to help the viewer see this story unfold through Jim’s eyes. The score really grabbed me and I remember having a conversation with myself saying, ‘that’s what I want to try to do when I get older!’" Following his education at Berklee, he began on what he called “a very premeditated music journey, it was never about anything else besides scoring film.”  His scoring career commenced with direct-to-video productions like Another Cinderella Story, where he found challenges that would prepare him for a career in features: “Working on direct to DVD films can be much more challenging than some studio features, just for the sheer fact that more times than not you have to do EVERYTHING yourself. You become your own music editor, you are you own orchestrator, do all your programming, sometimes you even have to mix and deliver your own score to the dub. Not to mention, there is just as much politics to navigate, and the expectations are still the same as they are on studio features, just a lot less money to get to the finish line!! I feel you learn a lot on direct-to-DVD and small budget films, possibly more than you will ever learn on big Hollywood productions.” A next important step was the daunting prospect of following John Powell’s Oscar-nominated music for the How to Train Your Dragon TV spinoff Dragons: Riders of Berk: “When I initially got it, my first thought was, ‘I’m so excited. I get to be like John Powell. I get to work with all this music that I love.’ The immediate thought after that was, ‘Oh s**t, I have to deliver music like John Powell!’ It was one of those things -- be careful what you wish for!” Paesano was a fan of the short film Ruin, directed by visual effects artist Wes Ball, and lobbied to get the job of scoring Ball’s feature directing debut, The Maze Runner. Paesano developed a close working relationship with Ball, beginning work on his score only two weeks after filming finished, and the result was a box-office smash that spawned a nearly-as-successful sequel (the third chapter, The Death Cure, had its release postponed to early next year due to star Dylan O’Brien falling victim to a serious on-set accident). Paesano has so far been able to resist being type-cast in young adult adventures -- he’s also scored two true-life sports dramas (including the directing debut of Hoosiers/Rudy writer Angelo Pizzo) as well as the holiday dramedy Almost Christmas. He faces an intriguing musical challenge with the upcoming Tupac biopic All Eyez on Me, and following his well-regarded work on Netflix’ Daredevil, he reteams with its showrunner, Steven DeKnight, for the eagerly awaited Pacific Rim 2.
 
WHAT'S NEXT: All Eyez on Me, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, Pacific Rim 2 

I would like to acknowledge the following sources (most of whom are Daniel Schweiger) for the invaluable quotes they (unwittingly) provided for this column:

Mark Killian
"Interview with Paul Hepker and Mark Kilian," by Daniel Schweiger; Film Music Magazine, March 2, 2016
Jed Kurzel
"Interview with Jed Kurzel,"
by Daniel Schweiger; Film Music Magazine, May 20, 2015
Mica Levi
"Away from the Picture: Mica Levi on Her Under the Skin Score,"
by Jonathan Romney; Sight and Sound, April 2014
"Mica Levi on Jackie and how to soundtrack grief," by Claire Lobenfeld; FACT, December 5, 2016
Ryan Lott
"And Then There Were Three: An Interview with Son Lux,"
by Jose Solis; Pop Matters, February 24, 2016
"With Paper Towns, Son Lux Goes to the Movies,"
by David Lindquist, IndyStar, July 23, 2015
Matthew Margeson
"Kingsman: Manners Maketh Margeson," by Kristen Romanelli; FSM Online, February 2015
Bear McCreary
"The Walking Dead and Outlander would be too quiet without Bear McCreary,"
by Alex McLevy; The Onion AV Club, May 16, 2016
Heather McIntosh
"Glockenspiel, Movie, Clef Note, Magic: That's The Sound Of Heather McIntosh Composing, Not Complying,"
by Omar P.L. Moore, The Popcorn Reel, August 21, 2012
"Interview with Heather McIntosh,"
by Daniel Schweiger; Film Music Magazine, August 25, 2015
Nathaniel Mechaly
"Interview with Nathaniel Mechaly,"
by Daniel Schweiger; Film Music Magazine, October 2, 2012
Ryan Miller
"Safety Not Guaranteed Soundtrack: How Guster's Ryan Miller Made an Indie Score Worthy of John Wiliams,"
by Christopher Rosen; Huffington Post, June 5, 2012
Jason Moran
"Interview with Jason Moran,"
by Daniel Schweiger; Film Music Magazine, December 19, 2014
Trevor Morris
"Interview...Film/TV Composer Trevor Morris Talks Vikings, Action and Video Games,"
by Marc Ciafardini; Goseetalk, July 2, 2014
Walter Murphy
"Walter Murphy Talks Ted," by Etan Rosenbloom; We Create Music Blog [ascap.com], June 28, 2012
John Nau/Andrew Feltenstein
"Interview with Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau,"
by Daniel Schweiger; Film Music Magazine, January 21, 2014
The Newton Brothers
"Interview with The Newton Brothers," by Daniel Schweiger; Film Music Magazine, April 8, 2014
"Interview with The Newton Brothers,"
by Marine Wong Kwok Cheung; Score It Magazine, June 15, 2016
Dustin O'Halloran
"How Composers Hauschka And Dustin O'Halloran Helped 'Lion' Find Its Way Home - Consider This,"
by David Ehrlich; Indiewire, November 30, 2016
John Paesano
"Interview with John Paesano,"
by Daniel Schweiger; Film Music Magazine, September 9, 2015
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Comments (11):Log in or register to post your own comments
2017 wasn’t the first time a virtually unknown composer was the predictable winner of the Original Score Oscar -- after all, Steven Price managed to win for Gravity, only his third feature score, just three years ago

Except that you predicted John Williams would win for THE BOOK THIEF! Ha -- gotcha!

I'm surprised John Carpenter's The Ward wasn't mentioned among Mark Kilian's credits and bio...?

HUGE omission here -- MICHAEL ABELS, who burst out onto the scoring scene with a HUGE hit, Get Out:
http://filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?threadID=119182&forumID=1&archive=0

Excellent and creative debut orchestral score for an excellent and creative film.

Yavar

HUGE omission here -- MICHAEL ABELS, who burst out onto the scoring scene with a HUGE hit, Get Out:
http://filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?threadID=119182&forumID=1&archive=0

Excellent and creative debut orchestral score for an excellent and creative film.

Yavar


I'd already done a column with the A's before Get Out came out -- this series is taking me long enough of finish without adding composers earlier in the alphabet.

And where did anyone get the idea I thought Book Thief would win Best Score for 2013; I would have voted for it myself, but I can't find any record I predicted it would win. Gravity seemed the shoo-in once it got nominated.

HUGE omission here -- MICHAEL ABELS, who burst out onto the scoring scene with a HUGE hit, Get Out:
http://filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?threadID=119182&forumID=1&archive=0

Excellent and creative debut orchestral score for an excellent and creative film.

Yavar


I'd already done a column with the A's before Get Out came out -- this series is taking me long enough of finish without adding composers earlier in the alphabet.

And where did anyone get the idea I thought Book Thief would win Best Score for 2013; I would have voted for it myself, but I can't find any record I predicted it would win. Gravity seemed the shoo-in once it got nominated.


2 out of 3.

And Mark Kilian's The Ward?



2 out of 3.

And Mark Kilian's The Ward?


It didn't make enough money to show up on his box-office list (it's not even listed on Box Office Mojo). And given how many composers I'm covering in these three "composers on the rise" entries, I don't think I can be faulted for not discussing every one of their works, even an interesting entry like The Ward (the rare orchestral score for a Carpenter film along with a score Carpenter himself didn't compose).



2 out of 3.

And Mark Kilian's The Ward?


It didn't make enough money to show up on his box-office list (it's not even listed on Box Office Mojo). And given how many composers I'm covering in these three "composers on the rise" entries, I don't think I can be faulted for not discussing every one of their works, even an interesting entry like The Ward (the rare orchestral score for a Carpenter film along with a score Carpenter himself didn't compose).


I'm not faulting you, I was just curious why it didn't show up on the list or rank higher than two films I'd never heard of that didn't make more than a mil a piece. Thanks for the info.

It's not surprising that The Ward isn't even listed on Box Office Mojo,since I had to go all the way to Santa Monica to catch it at one of those multiplexes (now closed, I think) that I'd go to mostly to see films that weren't playing anywhere else (like Ironclad, High School, A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy). The Laemmle Monica currently has that role -- it's where I caught Walter Hill's The Assignment and Brady Corbet's The Childhood of a Leader.

The other one like that nearby is the AMC Burbank Town Center 8 -- it's where I saw Wild Card, Bone Tomahawk, Jessabelle and Atlas Shrugged 3 (don't ask -- actually that should have been the title Atlas Shrugged 3: Don't Ask).

It's not surprising that The Ward isn't even listed on Box Office Mojo,since I had to go all the way to Santa Monica to catch it at one of those multiplexes (now closed, I think) that I'd go to mostly to see films that weren't playing anywhere else (like Ironclad, High School, A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy). The Laemmle Monica currently has that role -- it's where I caught Walter Hill's The Assignment and Brady Corbet's The Childhood of a Leader.

The other one like that nearby is the AMC Burbank Town Center 8 -- it's where I saw Wild Card, Bone Tomahawk, Jessabelle and Atlas Shrugged 3 (don't ask -- actually that should have been the title Atlas Shrugged 3: Don't Ask).


Such a travesty when films like Bone Tomahawk are buried like that. I had to chase it down.

Maybe the sequel to Atlas Shrugged 3: Don't Ask will be Atlas Shrugged 4: Scott Shrugged Whatever.

HUGE omission here -- MICHAEL ABELS, who burst out onto the scoring scene with a HUGE hit, Get Out:
http://filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?threadID=119182&forumID=1&archive=0

Excellent and creative debut orchestral score for an excellent and creative film.

Yavar


I'd already done a column with the A's before Get Out came out -- this series is taking me long enough of finish without adding composers earlier in the alphabet.

And where did anyone get the idea I thought Book Thief would win Best Score for 2013; I would have voted for it myself, but I can't find any record I predicted it would win. Gravity seemed the shoo-in once it got nominated.


Granted these predictions are in in alphabetical order (so forgive me) but then again GRAVITY doesn't make an appearance.


ORIGINAL SCORE

THE BOOK THIEF - John Williams
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS - Henry Jackman
PHILOMENA - Alexandre Desplat
SAVING MR. BANKS - Thomas Newman
12 YEARS A SLAVE - Hans Zimmer

THE BOOK THIEF - John Williams
ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW - Abel Korzeniowski
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG - Howard Shore
PHILOMENA - Alexandre Desplat
TIM’S VERMEER - Conrad Pope

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