An Interview With Film Composer Sergio Pena




Sergio Pena is a composer who scored the film Barmy; here is a link to his website:


Q: What is Barmy about?

A:  Since long ago, it’s all too common that a lot of people get caught up in the ideal of being self-reliant By trying to live at this standard as productive “individuals,” most people live very isolated lives, unaware of the good things they can find around them) That’s what this story is about – Charlie Atwood (Napoleon Ryan), a man who lives an absolute self-reliant lifestyle until he suffers a traffic accident, and he’s forced to face his worst fear: the complete loss of independence. Confined to be virtually immobile and without one leg, Charlie must reevaluate his thinking way, while struggling against a growing attraction for Amy Murray (Sherill Turner), his home health nurse.

Q: What effects were you going for when writing the score?

A: As film composer I tried to show in the main theme the personality of the main character even the mood of the story, getting to communicate the audience what the story is about trying to reinforce  the visual message. I had to know deeply the argument, the characters psychology and the movie concept to attempt my goal, and I got it!!

Q: What kind of themes do you like to examine in your work?

A: My work is always subdued to the movie story. Usually, to translate feelings seems the most important function of the score, but it isn’t just that. Among all the music functions, I’d assert that the most important is to describe characters, and, at the same time, reflect the story’s atmosphere, reinforcing so the narration in a parallel way,) or telling what isn’t seen in the images nor told in the dialogues.)

When I meet a director, I always ask him about his concept of the story, and it’s after this conversation when the ideas come to my mind, and I begin to consider the style or sonorities for the score.)

Film music is like real life, you can find sadness, joy, action, love… everything is possible inside a score.. As composers we must write for different feelings and actions with the same skills that filmmakers do, and sometimes even more!!

Q: Who are some of your musical influences?

A: Many composers have influenced my musical writing  from classical composers like Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky , Debussy to film composers so essentials as John Williams, Bernard (Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, Thomas Newman. When I study scores from others composers, some influence is added to my musical background, and it’s amazing to discover later how it appears suddenly in my compositions.

Q: What was your big break and how did you get it?

A: My big break was the HMMA nomination in 2012 for best music in documentary category. Being nominated for so prestigious awards from Hollywood is like a dream I never expected that it could be possible. I’m aware there’s a big of the amount of talented film composers in the world, so knowing I’m considered as one of them makes me trust in my own skills. In the same way, I can’t help certain proud for being the first Galician composer nominated to HMMA.

Q: What do you think was the best film score you’ve ever heard and what makes it so?

A: I wouldn’t say just one, I think there are as many great scores as master composers and great movies. I’d prefer to talk specifically about the best film score of every  composer.) I think generalizing with this question could be unfair. What I can assure is that a good score is better in a good film, obviously, because we’re making music for films, we shouldn’t forget it.

Q: What film scores annoy you?

A: Sometimes, I have been asked for a score with a kind of musical conditions I’d like to refuse, but, as a professional, I must accomplish. Some directors are very insecure and usually propose ideas that don’t work or try to get a “beautiful” melody but without a dramatic function.

I really annoy the overuse of music score, I can’t stand endless backgrounds of music in TV series, where music is turned into “ambience” like traffic, wind or any noise. The key is Less is More. I also find annoying the redundant use of music to highlight what is evident in the screen and is already explained by the images.

Q: What are some of your musical influences?

A: My musical influences start in my teens listening and playing rock, funk, pop. As my interest in a professional career was increasing, I approached to Jazz, Celtic and classical music. In the last fifteen years my main influence has come from film scores.

Q: What kind of training have you had?

A: I’ve studied classical guitar, electric guitar and piano besides classical composition, orchestration and jazz arranging, so my skill spreads on a wide range of styles and musical techniques. Film music is quite demanding and you must be ready to compose all kind of music from a simple song for piano to a symphonic piece for a big orchestra. What I learnt so far in my career, is to face on new challenges with different projects, studying every genre or style, and, finally, create a score with my own style.

Q: What composer (other than yourself) would write the score to your life?

A: I’d like my daughter were that composer, actually she plays electric guitar quite well but she isn’t interested in composition yet. I hope she will feel soon the wish of creating music in the future and we all will enjoy her works.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)


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