An Interview with Film Composer Brandon Visel



Brandon Visel is a film composer; here is a link to his website:

Q: What made you interested in becoming a composer?

A:  I have been playing piano from the age of 4 and composing for almost as long. So ever since I can remember people would tell me that my music sounded like it should be in a movie. I guess I naturally write in that direction, but I have always loved film and storytelling so I really started to pay attention to the affect and style of film music. I think there is a big difference between contemporary composers and film composers because at the end of the day it is about the film not my music. I’m only there to “service the film” and complete the vision of the director the best way I can.

Q: What do you hope to gain from attending Sundance?

A:  I have come to realize that everyone is in the “business” in L.A., or so they say. So going to Sundance or any other Festival really separates the people who say are in the business and who are actually in the business. Mainly it’s just about meeting the right people to be able to write music for a living. As they say, “it’s all about who you know”. Above and beyond that, Sundance is a really inspiring place just because you’re surrounded by creative people and the buzz of the business.


Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your work?

A:  I actually don’t have another day job, I’m privileged to officially say that I’m a full time composer but it took a long time for me to be able to believe and say that.
Q: What kind of training have you had?
A:  I was classically trained by a private music teacher through the “Guild Program” from the age of 8-18. And then in 2007 I decided to attend the UCLA Film Scoring Program which was great for me because it focused specifically on writing music for film, so for those who already have an education in music the program really helps you hone in those skills.


Q: What is the most challenging piece of music you have ever had to compose?

A:  I have been really fortunate to work with people and on projects that typically go really smoothly. I would say the hardest part is understanding what the director is trying to accomplish musically and tonally. Music is probably one of the hardest things to communicate but when it that synergy is there it changes the entire process for the better. Probably my most difficult piece of music was a shortened version Dance of the Sugar Plum Ferry from the Nutcracker Suite for a motion comic project. Trying to recreate something from one of the greatest pieces of classical music in history was definitely a massive challenge.

Q: What do you like about the film industry?

A:  I guess I would say that the film industry represents a difficult balance of art and business. I love film music because I love story telling so looking at the industry as a whole, it is all of those elements coming together that make a truly good film or story. I think that the importance of music in film is significantly underestimated by many, but it is truly a vital part of guiding the emotional intent of the director.

Q: What would you change about it?

A:  I would probably change the amount of politics. I say that because it will always be there, but I think that in an industry of art and imagination should be as open as possible but that’s not always the case. There is also very little rhyme or reason to how to find the people you need to know. There’s no clear path to find the filmmakers or producers or whoever it is that will give you work, and that becomes very difficult to manage especially for an artist.

Q: What movie had the best film score ever?

A:  For me the best film score is Memoirs of a Geisha by John Williams. I have always loved the details and passion that went into every aspect of that film, but as it turns out it is the only film that John Williams has ever asked to work on. I think you can absolutely hear that passion and focus throughout the film.

Q: What film would you like to rescore?

A:  That’s a really interesting question. I can’t think of a film I’ve ever thought I would rescore. I think maybe because there are so many intimate elements that go into developing a score for a film. So the music became whatever it is because of that collaborative effort and there were probably reasons for it. I hope that doesn’t sound like a cheap way out.

Q: Who are some of your influences?

A:  This may sound insincere to those in the business because just about everyone knows and loves him, but I have alway appreciated and strive to reach the kind of thematic music writing of John Williams. I think that increasingly film music is losing its musicality and thematic tone. But I think that at the end of the day it’s vital to write good music not just sound in the background. I really love Harry-Gregson Williams writing as well, but interestingly feel that I unintentionally sound the most like James Newton Howard. I’m not sure anyone else would agree with that, but I feel like when I listen to his scores he makes musical decisions that I would make.
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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