Tag: film composers

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:)


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:)

An Interview With Composer Dan Brown Jr


Dan Brown Jr  is a composer and sound engineer who recently scored Josh Mitchell’s new film Siphoned that can be seen on Vimeo, here is a link to his website:



Q:  What made you interested in becoming a composer?

A: I come from a rich musical heritage. My grandfather was a great musician, and was the first inductee into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. My uncles, and father were all musicians, and I’ve had the gift of music inside of me my whole life. I remember as a small boy complaining to my parents about this little man inside my head that would not stop playing music. It was actually a pretty big deal, because the music in my head kept me up all night. As time passed, it became clear that I had a deeper understanding of advanced music concepts, and natural gifting to create melodies that others in my age range did not have. So in a way, becoming a composer kind of chose me I guess.

Q:  What kind of training did you have to become a sound engineer?

A: I’ve been making bedroom recordings as far back as I can remember. (Most of which sound terrible!) After a lifetime of DIY recording I decided to take audio engineering seriously. Currently, I am pursuing a BS in Music Production from Full Sail University. I have about 10 months left in the program, and as of today I have a 4.0, and I am on track to graduate at the top of my class. But there are many other options for people to learn this industry. Not everyone has to go to school to be a great composer, or engineer, but it does help.

Q:  What have you found to be the best way to get jobs in the film industry in LA?

A: Network, and offer your services for free for a while! If that breaks the bank, try and offer some pretty deep discounts. After you’ve connected with your local market, and your work speaks for itself, the jobs will come to you. Remember, every time your name appears in a movie, it sells you for you. If that doesn’t work, try craigslist.

Q:  What inspires you?

A: I believe all creativity comes from the Lord Jesus. For a more down to earth answer, a good project! If a client comes to me with a great movie or project, the creative juices start flowing right away. If the project is “less than epic,” then a one-on-one meeting with that client usually does the trick. Seeing the creator’s excitement about their baby always rubs off on me, and the final project shows.

ON top of that, other great composers also lend advice via their scores. Listen, Listen, and then listen some more. If you get stumped, go watch a movie for some inspiration.

Q:  What is the movie Siphoned about?

A: Well, without giving away too much. IT’S AWESOME! It’s about 2 actors, who become so broke they can’t even pay for gas. Get it? Siphoned? You can’t chase a dream on an empty tank! Make sure to check this film out. I personally poured myself into the music, and in the end, it became a major player in creating the overall feel of this movie. Go watch it!

Q:  What sort of mood or effect were you trying to create with the music for the film?

A: Tension, Suspense, and more Tension! There are a lot of cool cues in Siphoned. I used everything from guitars to cellos to war drums to synths to… and the list goes on, and on, and on.

Q: What is your strangest work story?

A: Great question! I worked on this terrible horror movie back in Denver. I was brought on to score the movie, and ended up being the new editor, sound designer, ADR recorder, the audio mixer, I then cut a new trailer, and even designed the final movie poster. What makes this the strangest work story ever was that these guys never paid the bill! After all that work, these guys still owe me a ton of money.

My advice to all composers is very simple. Get paid for what your time is worth up front, and then your covered. When you receive your markup at the end, it’s all roses, and cheesecake.

Q:  What do you like about the film industry?

There’s a lot of work, and a lot of different types of projects to get involved in. If you stay focused, you can go as far as you want in this industry.

Q:  What is the one thing you would change about it if you could?

A: It’s hard to break into the good projects when you’re the new guy in town. I’ve been here for just under a year, and it seems that I’m only now getting in the door. If you’re a composer or audio engineer, LA is the place to be!

Q: Which of the nominated films do you think should take home the Oscar this year?

A: You mean people actually watch these? Jk!



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