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ANTONY PARTOS
 
AGE: 49
BIRTHPLACE: Australia 
REPRESENTATION: Unavailable
BACKGROUND: Studies in piano, French horn and composition at Sydney Conservatorium High School; Australian Film, Television and Radio School (majoring in Sound); founder of music production houses Supersonic and Sonar Music
ONGOING FILMMAKER RELATIONSHIPS: David Michod
FAN FAVORITE: Animal Kingdom
TYPECAST IN: Drama
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. 99 Homes--1  (U.S. gross in millions)
2. The Rover--1 
3. Animal Kingdom--1 
 
Australian composer Antony Partos first gained attention in the United States with his tense, low-key score for the crime drama Animal Kingdom. Though the film earned barely over a million dollars in the U.S. it had a greater cultural impact, earning co-star Jacki Weaver an Oscar nomination and inspiring a current U.S. TV series with Ellen Barkin in the Weaver role. Partos reunited with Animal Kingdom director David Michod for the post-apocalyptic The Rover, and his output since has been impressively eclectic. He works consistently in television and on documentaries (including the stunningly photographed Sherpa) as well as in fiction features, providing nerve-jangling accompaniment to the mortgage-crisis drama 99 Homes and working with the vocals of Lisa Gerrard for the tribal tragedy Tanna, a 2016 Oscar nominee for Foreign Language Feature.  His latest film is the Australian drama Jasper Jones, starring Hugo Weaving and Pan’s Levi Miller.
 
WHAT’S NEXT: Jasper Jones 
 
AGE: Unavailable
BIRTHPLACE: Unavailable
REP: Gorfaine/Schwartz
BACKGROUND: New England Conservatory, Hochschule fur Musik (Munich), Princeton University; concert composer; protégé of orchestrator Arthur Morton; orchestrator for pretty much every top composer of the last two decades
FAN FAVORITE: Tim’s Vermeer
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. My Week with Marilyn --14
2. Tim’s Vermeer--1 
 
Conrad Pope made his way into scoring by working as an orchestrator for nearly every major film composer of the last two decades. This is not an exaggeration -- the composers and scores he has worked with/on include Horner (Patriot Games), Convertino (Santa Clause), Poledouris (Jungle Book), Silvestri (Volcano), Elfman (Sleepy Hollow), Goldsmith (Star Trek: Nemesis), Davis (Matrix Reloaded), Howard (King Kong), Isham (Bobby), Powell (Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs), Danna (Life of Pi), Shore (Hobbit 2 & 3) and numerous scores for those plucky upstarts John Williams and Alexandre Desplat. Pope has cited the advice of his mentor, orchestrator Arthur Morton: “An orchestrator has to have a good set of ears, and I don’t mean musical ears -- that’s a given. He has to be able to hear what the client needs done.” Working with such top names in film music only increased his respect for his musical collaborators, particularly Williams and Goldsmith. “I think one can always identify with the feeling one has when you’ve walked ‘off the street and onto the lot’ and find yourself side by side with men and women whose work has inspired you and has served as models of excellence. That said, I’ve always admired both John and Jerry for the men and musicians they are, rather than the celebrity they’ve attained. And for any working musician, they will attest that if the world were fair, Jerry and John’s public reputations would be even greater than they are today.” Pope has been scoring features since the 1990s, but while scores such The Rising Place and Pavilion of Women received CD releases, the films that inspired them were not widely seen. Pope’s working relationship with Desplat, which began with the composer’s epic score for The Golden Compass in 2007, helped lead to his first truly high-profile scoring assignment, My Week with Marilyn. “Desplat had written a theme for Marilyn for Harvey Weinstein, and Alexandre recommended me to Harvey to adapt his theme and write the rest of the score. A funny story: I had just returned from vacation in San Francisco with my family and found a message saying ‘Call Harvey Weinstein’s office.’ I thought it was a joke, but it turned out to be some of the best news I had ever gotten in my life.” Along with incorporating Desplat’s original theme, Pope was influenced by such masters as Barry, Lai, Legrand and Williams for his score, and labored to create music that would have the authentic feel of the film’s 1950s setting. The film earned three Oscar nominations but did only modest box-office, while Pope’s next feature score was a first-rate showcase for his composing skills.  The 2013 documentary Tim’s Vermeer, directed by Teller of Penn & Teller fame, told the story of inventor Tim Jenison, who demonstrated his theory that Johannes Vermeer used optical devices to create his paintings by reconstructing the setting of Vermeer’s “The Music Lesson” and meticulously repainting it himself. Pope’s striking orchestral score was a key factor in the film’s artistic success, Jenison’s meticulous stroke-by-stroke reproduction of the Vermeer reminding the composer of the countless notes he’s marked on paper in his decades as an orchestrator. Pope hasn’t yet had the opportunity to score another feature (though according to IMDB several projects are lined up), but he’s keeping busy at his day job, including orchestrating one of this summer’s most eagerly awaited scores, Desplat’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
 
 
AGE:  42
BIRTHPLACE: New York
REP: Unavailable
BACKGROUND: Recording artist, founder of music production company The Rumor Mill
3 OSCAR NOMINATIONS
RELATIONSHIPS: Fisher Stevens
FAN FAVORITE: Lucky Number Slevin
TYPECAST IN: Documentaries 
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Lucky Number Slevin--22
2. Meru--2  
3. Finding Vivian Maier--1
 
Melissa Etheridge’s Oscar win for her song “I Need to Wake Up” from the documentary An Inconvenient Truth – nominated against four other songs including three from Dreamgirls – was the start of a popular trend in the way documentaries were scored, as while the genre itself was booming, suddenly original songs were turning up in new documentaries right and left. Jason Ralph signed with Atlantic Records as a recording artist at the age of 22, and was a founder of the music production company The Rumor Mill. His first major feature score was for the post-Tarantino crime thriller Lucky Number Slevin, starring Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis and Ben Kingsley, but he would ultimately take a less conventional scoring path. After providing the main theme for the 2007 documentary Crazy Love, he had his first major documentary hit with the 2008 Oscar winner Man on Wire (telling the same story Robert Zemeckis re-told seven years later in The Walk). While the bulk of the film used pre-existing Michael Nyman cues (plus Erik Satie’s lovely but overused Gymnopedie No 1 -- which those of my filmgoing generation will always think of as “Theme from My Dinner with Andre”), Ralph scored the pivotal “heist” scenes. Ralph managed an unexpected two-fer by scoring the following year’s winning documentary, The Cove (like Crazy Love, from actor-turned-documentarian Fisher Stevens). While Ralph went on to score other documentaries, including Meru and Oscar nominees Hell and Back Again and Finding Vivian Maier, he’s earned even more attention for his original documentary songs. Since Etheridge’s 2006 win, there have been five documentary songs nominated for Oscars, and three of them were co-written by Ralph -- Chasing Ice’s “Before My Time” (performed in the film by Scarlett Johansson), Racing Extinction’s “Manta Ray” (performed and co-written by Anohni, aka Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons) and most recently, the simple, moving “The Empty Chair,” performed and co-written by Sting, from Jim: The James Foley Story. Ralph appears to be making a return to fiction scoring with two upcoming projects: the drama Weightless, starring Julianne Nicholson, and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, starring Annette Bening as Gloria Grahame.
 
WHAT’S NEXT: Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, Weightless

STEPHEN RENNICKS
 
AGE: Unavailable
BIRTHPLACE: Ireland
REP: Unavailable
BACKGROUND: Member punk band The Prunes
BEST PICTURE NOMINEES: Room
RELATIONSHIPS: Lenny Abrahamson
FAN FAVORITE: Room
TYPECAST IN: Drama
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Room --14  
 
Composer Stephen Rennicks journey to becoming a film composer was an unexpected one. "I don’t actually listen to a lot of music but I suppose the biggest influence in terms of understanding music would be from my background growing up singing and listening to a lot of Gospel music. And I don’t mean Aretha Franklin but Irish Protestant Baptist gospel music, choruses and hymns. With that, I was immersed in melody and harmony every week and I grew up assuming everybody was but of course they weren’t. When I got a bit older I was playing music in bands and trying to make shorts at the same time. I loved film and wanted to write and direct or be a cameraman and do everything except music or sound but I started getting hired to write music. Who knows why? Probably because I was cheap and able to deliver.” Rennicks has been scoring films for fellow Irishman Lenny Abrahamson since the director’s short 3 Joes in 1991, but Abrahamson’s early features such as Adam & Paul, Garage and What Richard Did received no significant exposure in the U.S. That relative obscurity changed with the 2014 release of Frank, the off-beat comedy drama starring Michael Fassbender as an eccentric singer-songwriter who insists on wearing an enormous fake head at all times. Rennicks’ own background as a singer-songwriter (with the punk band The Prunes) proved especially useful, as not only did he provide original score and songs for the film (including the memorable, oddly moving “I Love You All,”), he developed off-beat instruments for the actors to perform on and managed the live recordings by the performers playing the band, a mixture of real musicians and actors like Maggie Gyllenhaal. Despite its impressive cast (including the currently ubiquitous Domnhall Gleeson and Scoot McNairy), the film received only a limited release in the U.S., but Abrahamson and Rennicks made a much bigger splash with their next collaboration. Emma Donoghue’s acclaimed novel Room was the kind of book often called “unfilmable,” making it even more impressive that Abrahamson’s unshowy, moving adaptation (with Donoghue herself providing the screenplay) was a major Oscar contender in 2015, its nominations including Picture and Director, with Brie Larson winning Best Actress for her stunning performance. Rennicks' warm and melodic orchestral score should insure more mainstream assignments, if he desires them, while his most recent major project was the 2015 film Viva, the United Kingdom’s submission for the foreign language Oscar, about a young drag performer in Cuba Abrahamson’s next feature is the ghost story The Little Stranger, starring Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling, and one hopes it will allow Rennicks yet another chance to show his versatility.
 
AGE: 55
BIRTHPLACE: Salamanca, Spain
REP: Soundtrack Music Associates
BACKGROUND: Popular music arranger
1 EMMY, 2 NOMINATIONS
RELATIONSHIPS: Rodrigo Cortes
FAN FAVORITE: The Night Manager
TYPECAST IN: Thrillers
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Buried--1 

Spanish-born composer Victor Reyes credits his father’s LPs of Ennio Morricone’s classics Dollars scores as his earliest musical memory, describing the phrase “the original soundtrack of the film.” as “an enigma which sparked my imagination.” Reyes worked as an arranger for popular music artists in the 1990s while beginning his scoring career in 1991 with the Spanish comedy Ni se te ocurra… Working steadily in Spanish film and television for decades, his music didn’t reach U.S. shores until 2010, when Reyes scored the English-language directing debut of Rodrigo Cortes (the pair had previously teamed on 2007’s Concursante (The Contestant), the claustrophobic (to say the least) thriller Buried, starring Ryan Reynolds in a tour-de-force performance as a U.S. worker in Iraq who finds himself buried alive in the desert. With one actor, one setting and the simplest (yet most unsettling) of premises, Reyes’ orchestral score was a vital component in the film’s chilling effectiveness. The pair reunited for the supernatural mystery Red Lights (with Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver and Robert DeNiro), while Reyes had an even more enviable scoring opportunity with the 2014’s Grand Piano. The film, another thriller with a limited setting, stars Elijah Wood as an emotionally unstable piano prodigy who returns to the concert stage only to find himself tormented by an unseen figure (John Cusack) who demands that Wood play a specific and difficult piece, threatening to kill him if he gets a note wrong. The script was written by Whiplash/La La Land auteur Damien Chazelle and directed by Eugenio Mira (composer of Timecrimes), and with the story’s focus on a lengthy and complex original orchestral piece composed for the film, Reyes was able to follow in the footsteps of Bernard Herrmann’s Hangover Square, writing the film’s key concerto “La Cinquette” as well as other suspense cues. Grand Piano received only a minimal theatrical release in the U.S., but Reyes received much more attention for a made-for-TV project, the critically acclaimed miniseries adaptation of John LeCarre’s The Night Manager. Reyes not only received an Emmy nomination for his main title theme but won the Outstanding Music Composition for Limited Series, Movie or a Special award. The success of Night Manager has led to rumors of star Tom Hiddleston and director Susanne Bier as candidates for the James Bond franchise, so one can only hope it provides a similar entrée for Reyes into high-profile international filmmaking. Next up he reunites with Cortes for the English-language supernatural thriller Down a Dark Hall.

WHAT'S NEXT: Down a Dark Hall

 
AGE: 46
BIRTHPLACE: Frankfurt, Germany
REP: Evolution Music Partners
BACKGROUND: Alt-rock musician
RELATIONSHIPS: Richard Linklater
FAN FAVORITE: A Scanner Darkly
TYPECAST IN: Indie films
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Bernie--9 
2. Before Midnight--8 
3. A Scanner Darkly--5 
 
From his 1991 debut film Slacker to the present, Richard Linklater has never been a conventional filmmaker, so it is not surprising that he should take a non-traditional approach to film music. Except for the period caper biopic The Newton Boys, most of his early films went without original scores, but for his animated 2006 adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly he hired Austin-based Graham Reynolds. Reynolds had the kind of eclectic background which has become increasingly common among composers rising through independent cinema. Born in Frankfurt to American parents, Reynolds was inspired to pursue music at an early age when his mother took piano lessons, and as an adult he played what he termed “jazz-classical-rock-improv instrumental music” in Austin punk rock clubs. With a resume that included ballet, theater and experimental films, he wrote his first feature score for the 2001 indie Western The Journeyman, and his first collaboration with Linklater was the short Live from Shiva’s Dance Floor, featuring Timothy “Speed” Levitch, the subject of Bennett Miller’s 1998 documentary The Cruise. For Scanner, whose typically surreal PKD plot involves paranoia and drug addiction, Reynolds benefited from his close working relationship with the filmmaker. “Sometimes it takes a while to hone in on the right sound. Scanner was one that took a while, but fortunately we had the time. I started with only acoustic instruments, thinking that it would contrast and ground the animation and futuristic elements, but it wasn’t quite working. The rotoscoping technique involves shooting live action then animating on top so that’s in essence what I tried to do to the instruments. I processed the acoustic instruments through effects and digital plug-ins to transform them into something more distinct. And finally, I added electric guitar and that really helped put the whole thing together.” Their next film together was the true crime dark comedy Bernie, starring Jack Black as a young mortician who kills his elderly benefactor (Shirley MacLaine) before assuming her identity, and Reynolds worked with Linklater and Black to research the hymnals Black would perform in the film, and strove to achieve a tonal continuity between the source pieces and his original score cues. Linklater discreetly used Fred Frith music for his 1995 classic Before Sunrise and no original score for its equally acclaimed followup, Before Sunset, but for the third in the series, 2012’s Before Midnight, Linklater hired Reynolds to create an appropriately subtle yet emotional musical accompaniment for such a relentlessly dialogue-driven project: "There wasn’t a huge musical trail to pick up and my main concern was not to intrude too much into an already complete and successful world…No big strings and very, very little music under dialogue. A delicate touch was the goal…Rick wanted a clear and strong theme. So, I went to work and created five. I sent them along to him and editor Sandra Adair and the report came back with this choice. The others weren’t radically different. All were simple piano themes. But this one had the waltz feel to give it a bit of lightness and motion, and the chords alternate between major and minor to give a bit of balance.” Linklater’s next films, the Oscar-winning Boyhood and the college comedy Everybody Wants Some! both went without score, while Reynolds paid homage to his collaborator by scoring last year’s documentary Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny. Reynolds has been announced to score Linklater’s latest film, a followup to the '70s classic The Last Detail titled Last Flag Flying, starring Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne.
 
WHAT’S NEXT: Last Flag Flying
 
AGE: 51
BIRTHPLACE: Hamelin, Germany
REP: Gorfaine/Schwartz
BACKGROUND: Composition and piano studies at University of Edinburgh, Royal Academy of Music; studies with Luciano Berio; co-founded contemporary classical ensemble Piano Circus; pianist for group Future Sound of London; contemporary concert composer
1 EMMY NOMINATION
1 GRAMMY NOMINATION
RELATIONSHIPS: Ritesh Batra, Ari Folman
FAN FAVORITE: The Leftovers
TYPECAST IN: International drama
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Sarah’s Key--7 
2. The Lunchbox--4 
3. Morgan--3   
4. Miss Sloane--3 
5. Waltz with Bashir--2 
6. Testament of Youth--1 
7. Disconnect--1 
8. Wadjda--1 
9. The Sense of an Ending--1 
 
Max Richter has become such a major figure in the world of contemporary concert music that it’s a little bit remarkable that he’s able to maintain such a prolific career as a film and television composer. His first solo album, Memoryhouse, was released in 2002 to raves like “a landmark work of contemporary classical music” and “a masterpiece in neo-classical composition,” but early in his scoring career he became a victim of a particularly unusual case of composer replacement. The 2007 indie drama Grace Is Gone, starring John Cuscak as a man who takes his daughters on a vacation to put off telling them that their soldier mother has died in Iraq, was Richter’s first score for a U.S. feature, but unexpectedly, his score was thrown out and replaced by an original score by another composer -- Clint Eastwood. Grace proved to be one of those Sundance Film Festival high-profile sales that was largely ignored upon theatrical release, but Richter had much better luck with his next feature to be released in the U.S., Ari Folman’s groundbreaking animated documentary-memoir Waltz with Bashir. Folman told Richter that “that he wrote the screenplay during four days in the desert, holed up in a little house, listening to my record The Blue Notebooks on a continuous loop.” Richter responded to Folman’s off-beat approach, and had an enviably collaborative relationship with his director: “What I can say is that when I saw the material I was convinced that this was some sort of landmark project --– a completely new way to tell stories and I was thrilled to be part of that. I immediately had a sense of how the music could play a part in this and decided to treat it from a score perspective as though it were not animated. In other words 'everything we are seeing is completely real' was the guiding principle for me…. He gave me enormous freedom to pursue whatever direction I wanted to take with the project -- and very little changed from that initial delivery. There wasn’t a temp score apart from a few pieces from my albums, and the music was finished way before the film, so Ari could mould the picture edit around it.” The film earned an Oscar nomination for Foreign Language Film, and was instrumental in launching Richter’s film scoring career. In the nearly ten years since, he’s scored an impressive variety of projects, from Holocaust-themed stories (Lore, Sarah’s Key) to English literary adaptations (Testament of Youth, The Sense of an Ending), contemporary drama (Disconnect, Miss Sloane), and sci-fi horror (The Last Days on Mars, Morgan), and he also scores the critically acclaimed cable series The Leftovers. Even his concert pieces have had unexpected impact on film scoring -- his “On the Nature of Daylight” has been used in Stranger Than Fiction, Shutter Island, Disconnect, The Face of an Angel and, most prominently, Arrival, where its memorable accompaniment to the film’s opening and closing montages is almost certainly the reason Johann Johannsson’s score was disqualified for Oscar consideration. His non-scoring work continues with ambitious pieces like the eight-hour Sleep (designed to be listened to while you sleep), while his next feature puts him in an entirely new milieu with Hostiles, a Western from director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Black Mass), starring Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike.

WHAT'S NEXT: Hostiles
 
AGE: 46
BIRTHPLACE: North Vancouver
REP:  First Artists
BACKGROUND: Member of instrumental rock trio, Assistant to Canadian TV composer Terry Frewer
BEST PICTURE NOMINEES: District 9
RELATIONSHIPS: Baltasar Kormakur
FAN FAVORITE: District 9
TYPECAST IN: Thrillers
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. District 9--115
2. 2 Guns--75
3. Contraband--66 
4. Pompeii--23
 
Clinton Shorter was majoring in Jazz in college when he left school to work with his experimental rock trio, but his interest in film music began suddenly when he first heard Mark Isham’s score for Never Cry Wolf: “It really resonated with me at the time. I didn’t realize the film was dictating what he wrote as I thought he was writing free form, but that was all I really wanted to do so the band ended quite soon after that.” Shorter gained valuable experience in the five years he spent working as an assistant to Canadian TV composer Terry Frewer: “After a couple of years of shadowing him he had series that wouldn’t put temp music in the cuts so he would have me watch the episode and draft up a cue sheet based on where I thought music should be. That’s a huge aspect of the craft knowing when and where to have music, then what mood and how to get in and out gracefully. The cool part was that I was able to hear exactly what he would do in those scenes. It was immensely educational.” His first feature score was for the 2001 Canadian comedy-drama Come Together, but it was his introduction to a young visual effects artist and aspiring director named Neill Blomkamp that would ultimately launch the composer into the big leagues. Shorter scored Blomkamp’s 2005 science-fiction short Alive in Joburg, and when the director developed a feature-length version, Shorter was brought on board to provide the film’s score. For Blomkamp’s tale of aliens living in a South African slum, Shorter “spent the first several weeks experimenting with every African instrument I could think of. We incorporated African male vocals with some percussion from the region combined with other elements to give the film the darkness and edge it required. I knew from the beginning that I was going to go with more of a hybrid score of live and synthesized instruments. There’s a 'mutation' of sorts in the film and I wanted to have that mirrored in the music.” The end result, District 9, was a surprise smash hit and an even more surprising Best Picture nominee. While Shorter ended up not scoring Blomkamp’s next two sci-fi features, Elysium and Chappie, he had two hit thrillers with Mark Wahlberg and Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur, Contraband and 2 Guns, and got to work in a more traditional scoring style for Paul W.S. Anderson’s underrated 3D disaster epic Pompeii. Shorter hasn’t scored a feature since Pompeii, but has been exceptionally busy in episodic television, scoring multiple current shows including the medical drama Code Black and the sci-fi thrillers Colony and The Expanse.
 
 
AGE: 46
BIRTHPLACE: Wimbledon, England
REP: Greenspan Kohan
BACKGROUND: Composition studies, Master of Music at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, writer-performer with band The Divine Comedy, pop arranger, concert composer
RELATIONSHIPS: John Crowley, Garth Jennings 
FAN FAVORITE: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
TYPECAST IN: Comedy
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Sing--270  
2. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy--51
3. Penelope--10
4. Closed Circuit--5
5. Is Anybody There?--2
6. Son of Rambow--1
 
Joby Talbot was classically trained in composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, but had his first career breakthrough serving as arranger and keyboardist for Neil Hannon’s band The Divine Comedy from 1993 to 2002. In 1999 he began scoring the popular British dark comedy series The League of Gentlemen (featuring Sherlock’s Mycroft and co-creator Mark Gatiss), and in 2005 he scored the feature spinoff, The League of Gentlemen Apocalypse. That same year he reteamed with music video director Garth Jennings, who had first collaborated with Talbot on a TV commercial, for the lavish feature film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and though the film was a box-office disappointment, it gave Talbot the welcome opportunity to compose on a large orchestral canvas for a project incorporating both comedy and science-fiction spectacle, helping to secure his partnership with Jennings. Their next team-up, the charming, coming-of-age filmmaking comedy Son of Rambow, did disappointing business in the U.S. (while helping launch the career of The Revenant’s Will Poulter), and Talbot continued working in a variety of media, including ballet music. He scored two films for Brooklyn director John Crowley, with Crowley’s Closed Circuit giving Talbot the change-of-pace opportunity to score a conspiracy thriller. Jennings stayed busy with music videos and a children’s book, but returned to feature directing with last year’s animated hit Sing, which brought Talbot some new challenges. “It wasn’t the scoring that was different. We treated the score as if was for a live action film. The difference was in the overall process. For Sing, they liked to see the music evolving, just as they liked to see the animation as it became more rendered, lit and more sophisticated. It required sort of a 'rolling in' of the music, which is not what I normally would have done. It took some getting used to, but I understood and adapted to it. Another difference was the level of exactitude. The film, the characters and the situations seem totally believable and relatable, even everything’s been created. But they make it feel so real that if I, as composer, were to deviate off the message -- even in the simplest way -- it breaks the spell. So I had to be really careful about what worked. You can throw it off if you go too far in either direction.” While the film was dominated by songs performed on screen by the animated characters, the film had enough room for score that Talbot’s contribution was eligible for Oscar consideration, and the film was one of the biggest successes of the Christmas season, with composer and director busy mulling ideas for another bigscreen musical.

WEST DYLAN THORDSON
 
AGE: Unavailable
BIRTHPLACE: Minnesota
REP: Unavailable
BACKGROUND: Founder of band Whisper in the Noise
FAN FAVORITE: Split
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Split--138  
2. Joy - 56
 
West Dylan Thordson had his first experience performing film music as a child when he learned to play Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther theme on his grandparents’ Wurlitzer upright piano, and years later, writing his first musical pieces, he “definitely was more into making a soundtrack for an imaginary film than music for a band,” His band, A Whisper in the Noise, released their first album in 2002, and his career in film music was launched by music supervisor Susan Jacobs: “When she discovered I had all the music catalogued in various instrumental versions, she grew very interested in trying it with films. We've become great friends over the years. Sue pretty much single-handedly opened the film world for me.” She used his cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin’” for M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water, and helped him get his first major film project as one of the three composers contributing to Bennett Miller’s gripping, Oscar-nominated true crime drama Foxcatcher. “Sue put together a music sampling of various composers for Bennett Miller. She included some of my recordings, which Bennett really liked. Maybe a year later, I met with him in New York. At first, I was simply going to attempt creating the temp score. Mychael Danna was to complete the finished works. I actually relocated to New York City to work on this film. Fortunately, I became a lot more involved…There is a similar intimacy to the melodic voices all three of us gravitate towards. While Mychael and Rob Simonsen tend to evoke a more sophisticated quality, it seemed Bennett really liked the idea of incorporating my somewhat rough and handmade sound...which is much more from the world of a slightly out-of-tune farmhouse piano.” The end result had Simonsen credited with the score, Thordson for “Additional Music” and Danna for “Valley Forge theme,” but Thordson was given a more prominent musical role on yet another true crime drama, the acclaimed documentary series The Jinx, in which filmmaker Andrew Jarecki explored the murders covered in his fictionalized feature All Good Things (in which Ryan Gosling played the murder suspect based on Robert Durst). Thordson enjoyed a lengthy and involved collaboration with Jarecki (and Errol Morris composer John Kusiak) on the approach to scoring the complex series. “Many times, a theme was assigned to a specific person, action, or relationship. Yet if it felt too on-the-nose, a thematic approach would be thrown out completely. Due to the evolution of the story, new motifs continually seemed necessary….It seems as though a very large part of Bob Durst is purely mechanical, so electronic pulse and texture felt more than fitting. There was definitely an influence from Brad Fiedel's Terminator theme. I really didn't want that stylized '80s sound, though. With everything electronic, I felt it was important to put a human touch to it, so almost all of the pulses were loosely hand-played and not quantized.” Thordson and composer David Campbell (father of singer-songwriter Beck) shared the scoring credit on David O. Russell’s Joy, and Thordson had his first genuine box-office smash this year with M. Night Shyamalan’s horror hit Split, with a sound-design-oriented score quite different from the popular scores James Newton Howard composed for the filmmaker (though Howard's music makes a most welcome surprise cameo at the end). His most recent feature received little attention -- the transgender teen comedy-drama About Ray screened at film festivals in late 2015 with a Michael Brook score, but after a year-and-a-half in the Weinstein Company disappointments room, it emerged this spring as 3 Generations, with a new score by Thordson.
 
AGE: 37
BIRTHPLACE: Madrid, Spain
REP: Unavailable
BACKGROUND: Berklee College of Music, Julliard, co-founder of Music and Motion Productions 
FAN FAVORITE: The Raven
TYPECAST IN: Thrillers
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Fast & Furious 6--238
2. The Raven--16
3. The Cold Light of Day--3
 
Lucas Vidal was born into a musical family -- his grandfather was a co-founder of the Hispavox record label, and his father was a musician -- and his own musical education began with piano and flute studies at the age of 4. His studies at Boston’s Berklee College of Music began with a summer term at the age of 16, but he didn’t let a diagnosis with cancer at age 20 and successful round of chemotherapy slow him down, and his time at Berklee led to meeting his future business partner, Steve Dzialowski, with whom he would form the music production company Music and Motion Productions. Vidal scored his first feature, the indie drama Cathedral Pines, when he was only 22, while his first film to get a U.S. release was Brad Anderson’s little seen 2010 thriller Vanishing on 7th Street, starring Hayden Christiansen, Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo. He stayed busy with shorts and documentaries as well as features, both in the U.S. and in his native Spain, with the emphasis on thrillers, especially in such English-language projects as The Cold Light of Day (starring Henry Cavill and Bruce Willis) and the Seven-meets-Poe thriller The Raven. He received his most high-profile assignment with the 2013 franchise entry Fast & Furious 6, but this proved to be a mixed-blessing. The film was a box-office smash, earning $788 million in world-wide grosses, and Vidal enjoyed the opportunity to work closely with supervising sound editor Peter Brown to help balance the mixture of music and sound effects, but the final film featured tracked-in Brian Tyler cues from earlier Furious scores as well as Vidal’s contribution, and it is the only Furious film since David Arnold’s 2 Fast 2 Furious that hasn’t received a score CD release. Since Furious Vidal has maintained his international balance, though of his recent English-language projects, only the Hammer production The Quiet Ones received a significant U.S. release. Vidal remains busy with multiple projects, and was even interviewed in the Spanish edition of Vanity Fair.
 
AGE: 38
BIRTHPLACE: London, England
REP: COOL Music Inc.
BACKGROUND: Royal Academy of Music, classical violinist, concert composer/conductor, orchestrator-conductor for Dario Marianelli
1 EMMY NOMINATION
BEST PICTURE NOMINEES: Hidden Figures
RELATIONSHIPS: David F. Sandberg
FAN FAVORITE: A Cure for Wellness
TYPECAST IN: Horror
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Hidden Figures--169 (as of 7/23/17)
2. Lights Out--67  
3. A Cure for Wellness--8  
 
One might glibly assume that the composers who rise under the tutelage of Hans Zimmer are a group of pop arrangers and synthesizer performers, but one can find no better example to disprove that stereotype than Benjamin Wallfisch. Wallfisch first became a fan of film music as a child when he saw E.T. and was captivated by its John Williams score: “I've been learning from him ever since. He's the reason I decided to become a film composer in fact. A true genius and incredible human being.” Having graduated from the Royal Academy of Music with a Master of Music degree with Distinction in composition, Wallfisch went onto a critically acclaimed career as a violinist/conductor as well as a composer of original music for the ballet, the stage and the concert hall. His first major feature score, for the Lars von Trier-scripted, Thomas Vinterberg-directed Dear Lucy, caught the ear of Dario Marianelli, who brought on Wallfisch as orchestrator-conductor for Pride & Prejudice, the score that put Marianelli on the map. “It was a fascinating process -- my contribution was to turn Dario's musical demos, created using samplers and computers, into full orchestral pieces which were then performed by the English Chamber Orchestra. I was very fortunate to also conduct the orchestra in the recordings. I remember it being a process full of creative discovery in terms of the actual performances -- we didn't use a click track once through the entire recording sessions, so we were really able to hone a 'performance' from the orchestra, in much the same way as they might give a classical concert.” Wallfisch continued working with Marianelli on such major scores as The Brothers Grimm, V for Vendetta and the Oscar-winning Atonement (their most recent project together was the nominated Anna Karenina), while composing his own scores for such projects as The Escapist and Hours. While Wallfisch-scored films like Desert Dancer and Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain, received modest U.S. releases, he truly began to make a name for himself in Hollywood cinema in 2016.  Lights Out was one of last summer’s biggest horror hits, but it was  an unexpected blockbuster released just in time for Oscar consideration that really brought him into the limelight. Hidden Figures arrived in theaters with minimal fanfare and turned out to be one of the highest grossing films of the season, and the top earner of the nine Best Picture nominees. Wallfisch was the junior member of a composing trio that included two top names in current music. According to the composer, it was “an incredible collaborative process with my good friends Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams -- we got together in a room and played -- figured out the central themes, feeling, soul that this movie needed.” And while Zimmer was widely expected to reunite with Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski for his lavishly crafted (if overlong and unsatisfying) thriller A Cure for Wellness, Wallfisch was given the assignment in June 2015, ultimately spending seven months working with the director in the film’s editing rooms. Having a credit like Hidden Figures on his resume should help Wallfisch earn more diverse (in every sense) assignments, while he returns to the horror genre with the new “Conjuring universe” prequel-prequel Annabelle: Creation. (Wallfisch is also among the 774 filmmakers who have been invited to join the Academy this year.)

WHAT'S NEXT: Annabelle: Creation
 
AGE: Unavailable
BIRTHPLACE: Tennessee
REP: Gorfaine/Schwartz
BACKGROUND: punk performer-songwriter, Middle Tennessee State Univeristy, UCLA film scoring classes, sound editor
RELATIONSHIPS: James DeMonaco
TYPECAST IN: Thrillers
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. The Purge: Election Year--79  
2. The Purge: Anarchy--71
3. The Purge--64
4. Keanu--20  
 
Like many film composers, Nathan Whitehead dates his interest in music from childhood. “I grew up listening to my parents’ records and playing the family piano. I didn’t take piano lessons but I was obsessed with picking out tunes I had heard and writing little riffs. We weren’t a family of musicians but music was always playing in the house and in the car -- mostly rock & country from the 60s and 70s.” He wrote and performed in a punk band in high school, and studied music and studio production at Middle Tennessee State University before moving to Los Angeles, taking film scoring classes at UCLA and working as a composer’s assistant. With sound design proving frequently to be a key component of contemporary film scoring, it is only fitting that Whitehead should have balanced the first part of his career as a composer with steady employment in the sound department on such films as The Matrix Revolutions, The Forgotten and Crank. “I was very fortunate to work for Dane Davis [Oscar winner for The Matrix’s sound editing] at the time and that job really taught me a lot about storytelling. Dane is also a musician and I think he approaches the sound design in a film in a similar way you might approach writing the score. I learned the importance of focusing on storytelling above all else and I also started to really think about the emotional content in sounds and textures. There are emotional statements being made by the notes on the page but I think there can be an emotional connection present in a lot of sounds that are more difficult to put on the page.” Whitehead was brought onto his breakthrough project, The Purge, by his friend Steve Jablonsky, a regular collaborator of Purge producer Michael Bay. “He introduced me to Platinum Dunes, which was one of the production companies involved…Obviously at the time nobody dreamed that this would launch a franchise. It was just a small movie that needed someone to write a score in about three weeks. I sent them a demo and got the call a few days later. I freaked out when I heard the schedule but then I basically moved into my studio for a few weeks and managed to get it done.” The film was a surprise hit, spawning two even more successful sequels with Whitehead on board for the entire trilogy, culminating in last year’s disturbingly topical The Purge: Election Year, which brought its composer its own special challenges. “I wanted to be aggressive and hopefully communicate the nightmarish madness of the night, but I didn’t want to go too hard rock or metal. The score definitely has its moments where it’s sort of retro and we have some big, nasty guitars.” The same year, Whitehead worked in a lighter vein on the Key-Peele vehicle Keanu, collaborating with Jablonsky on a deliberately straight-faced score that provided droll counterpoint to the comedic action. His next major feature is Stephanie, a supernatural drama from writer-turned-director Avika Goldsman.

WHAT'S NEXT: Stephanie
 
 
AGE: Unavailable
BIRTHPLACE: Unavailable
REP: WME
RELATIONSHIPS: David Gordon Green, Jeff Nichols
FAN FAVORITE: Midnight Special
TYPECAST IN: Indie drama
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. The Sitter--30
2. Mud--21 
3. Loving--7 
4. Our Brand Is Crisis--7 
5. Midnight Special--3  
6. Take Shelter--1 
 
Wingo was childhood friends with director David Gordon Green, and when he sent Green some ambient drone music he’d recorded, he was not expecting that Green would send him a new student film he’d made incorporating one of Wingo’s pieces. Green brought on Wingo to score his next short, and when he made his feature directing debut, the critically acclaimed George Washington, Wingo composed the score with Michael Linnen. Green went on to have one of the most eclectic directing careers in contemporary film, balancing more personal, low-budget dramas with studio assignments in multiple genres, his more high-profile projects including such disparate projects as Pineapple Express, Your Highness and Our Brand Is Crisis, and while some of those projects utilitzed other composers (including Philip Glass, Graeme Revell and Steve Jablonsky), Wingo has remained Green’s principal musical collaborator. Green produced the directing debut of a college friend, Jeff Nichols’ critically acclaimed Shotgun Stories, and when Nichols and star Michael Shannon re-tamed for the apocalyptic psychological drama Take Shelter, Wingo was brought on as composer. Wingo felt that “it was the best script I’ve ever read. I was just so blown away; I’ve never had a more page-turning experience reading a script. I was just floored and kind of had a sound in my head for it, which I don’t usually get -- just had a real feel for what the movie was and what it needed, and I took it from there.” They reunited for 2013’s Mud, starring Matthew McConaughey and featuring Shannon in a supporting role, and last year Nichols and Wingo collaborated on two high-profile projects -- the science-fiction drama Midnight Special, and the Oscar-nominated docudrama Loving. For Midnight Special, “the main theme was a demo I made while they were still shooting the movie. I sent it to Jeff and he was just like, ‘Oh, this is exactly what it should be.’ That’s not to toot my own horn, it’s more just to illustrate that we just have a real understanding of each other.” Midnight Special’s score paid homage to John Carpenter, featuring what the composer called a “general blanket of propulsive, moody, analog synths,” while Loving’s effectively low-key score featured a more traditional, string-based sound. Wingo’s other projects have ranged from the documentary The Great Invisible to the low-key zombie drama Maggie, and his latest project is the off-beat comedy-drama Brigsby Bear, which just opened in Los Angeles.
 
WHAT’S NEXT: Brigsby Bear
 
AGE: 63
BIRTHPLACE: London, England
REP: Gorfaine/Schwartz
BACKGROUND: Hull University (Music and Drama), actor-musician, theater composer
1 OSCAR NOMINATION
RELATIONSHIPS: Mike Leigh
FAN FAVORITE: Mr. Turner
TYPECAST IN: Drama
TOP GROSSING FILMS:
1. Mr. Turner--3  
2. Happy-Go-Lucky--3
3. Another Year--3
 
One of the nicest surprises of the 2014 Oscar nominations was the inclusion of Gary Yershon’s striking score for Mike Leigh’s masterful biopic Mr. Turner, especially given that Yershon didn’t even begin scoring features until he was 54.  Yershon has worn a variety of musical hats over the course of his lengthy career -- he made a living as an actor-musician until his late 30s, when he began devoting his attention to composing. He has composed extensively for the stage, and is currently an Associate Artist with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and his other compositions include a brand new ballet score inspired by The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. His entrée into film was Leigh’s 1999 Oscar winner Topsy-Turvy, for which Yershon served as musical director and even played the onscreen role of “Pianist in Brothel.” Andrew Dickson had been Leigh’s regular score composer since High Hopes in 1988, but for 2008’s Happy-Go-Lucky, which starred Sally Hawkins in a breakout performance, Leigh hired Yershon who has been his go-to music man ever since. Following 2010’s Another Year, the pair reteamed for Mr. Turner, an exquisitely crafted biopic of the painter J.M.W. Turner, and instead of the lyrical, romantic score one might expect for the life of an artist, Yershon wrote an unsettling, eerily effective score that was just one of the many surprising choices that made the film such a stunner; Yershon is expected to reunite with Leigh for the historical drama Peterloo. Invited to join the Academy in 2015, he remarked that his greatest thrill from the experience was the chance to meet legendary “Cry Me a River” songwriter Arthur Hamilton. Yershon has been active in Academy public events by hosting a London screening series titled “Oscar Scores,” in which he hosts films with winning scores and discussions with their composers – upcoming are screenings of The Artist (Ludovic Bource, September 20) and Up (Michael Giacchino, October 18) 

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

Conrad Pope
“Interview with Conrad Pope,” by Daniel Schweiger; Film Music Magazine, November 8, 2011
Stephen Rennicks
“BIFA winning composer Stephen Rennicks talks to IFTN,” by Sean Brosnan; IFTN, December 15, 2014
Victor Reyes
“Interview with Victor Reyes: Grand Piano,” by Eduardo Con; Asturscore, April 6, 2014
Graham Reynolds
“Interview with Graham Reynolds,” by Daniel Schweiger; Film Music Magazine, May 30, 2013
Max Richter
“Interview with Max Richter,” by Daniel Schweiger; Film Music Magazine, August 13, 2014
Clinton Shorter
“The Expansive Film Music of Clinton Shorter,” by Randal D. Larson; Musique Fantastique
Joby Talbot
"Interview: Joby Talbot, Composer of 'Sing
'," by Greg Ehrbar; Animation Scoop, January 3, 2017
West Dylan Thordson
Benjamin Wallfisch
"I'm Benjamin Wallfisch..."
, by Benjamin Wallfsich; Reddit, February 2017
Nathan Whitehead
"Interview with Nathan Whitehead,"
by Daniel Schweiger; Film Music Magazine, June 30, 2016
David Wingo
"David Wingo Serves Up a Special," by Kristen Romanelli; Film Score Monthly Online, March 2016


Parts OneTwoThreeFourFive and Six of this series can be accessed on the website.
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