By Kelly Mahan Jaramillo
Things are really starting to get fun with this film. Since writer-director David Eblen is one of the few first time filmmakers who understands that the score to the film is important, and realizes that it is prudent to put a little money aside to pay the composer, we are having a blast.
Let me be clear – we are not having a good time just because we received the first half of Tomas’s fee up front – we are giddy because we used that money to update the studio gear, which means Tomas can do so much more in half of the time. It will be a great step towards him not losing his mind while writing.
We had agreed when we arrived in Pittsburgh that we were going to set up the studio as usual, but until Tomas got a paying film, we were not going to upgrade. Almost as soon as that conversation ended, in came David’s e-mail.
So, here is an update of what is now in the studio, courtesy of “Ravana’s Game”, the first film to be the recipient of the new scoring gear.
First, we bought a new keyboard – it was time. The old one had lost a few keys, and the trip across country was a little bit hard on it. We wanted the best for this, and future, films.
Next, we purchased a Motu 2408 MK3 Audio Box – this will enable Tomas to have many more choices with recording and choosing musical elements, he will be able to write and mix faster without sacrificing quality, plus the sound will be much more crisp and clean, the end result being a less laborious mixing process.
We also bought three more EMU samplers, bringing the studio total to six! Again, faster access to recorded music and sounds, plus the ability to triple the size of the library.
Most composers do not use EMU’s anymore, but Tomas has always used them, they are his preference as the elements they produce are much more warm than the Akai or Roland, they do not tax the computer, and overall he finds them easier to use when it comes to manipulating a recorded instrument.
So, at this point, he has set up all of the new gear, has organized everything in the EMU’s, and is now going through all of the musical elements he has, pulling out and filing separately what will be used for “Ravana’s Game”.
When he starts to lose his ears, he takes a break and we sit together and ‘spot’ the film – meaning we watch it all the way through again, then go back to the beginning and watch it scene by scene, deciding if there should be music in that scene, or at the end of a scene, over a cut, and into the next scene.
Spotting takes time, and usually the director is with us – however, since David is in Oregon and we are in Pittsburgh, we are entering new territory – Tomas and I will do the first run through of spotting, I will then type up my handwritten notes, print them out, and send them to David. As director, he has final say over where he wants music, so after we send him our spotting notes, we wait for his changes, if there are any, and implement them.
Tomas often writes alternate cues in areas where the director does not want music, just so the director can have a choice to hear it with score and without score.
Example: Eileen Nelson, writer/director of “American Dumpling” was adamant that she did not want music over a scene in Reel Two. Tomas and I felt it needed something, so he wrote a piece for it, and had her listen, and she fell in love with it.
It takes a little more time to go that extra mile for the director, but for us it is worth it – it is never a problem if the director still does not want the music in a specific scene, but they are always surprised and pleased to have been given a choice. Sometimes they go a little bit crazy and want the alternate piece somewhere else in the film! We really do bend over backwards to give the director everything they want – when the director is happy, we are happy – although, I have to admit, I have been known to whine when a cue I love gets cut out, but I have managed to do it with enough humor that no one gets irritated with me.
So, once the spotting phase is finalized, Tomas moves on to mapping out the musical themes for the film, and begin writing. He will already have the bank of elements to work with, so he will be able to dive right into composing.
I was upstairs a few nights ago while Tomas was still organizing elements from the EMU’s, when I heard the metronome start and a melody line being played, first on one of his ethnic guitars, then a slightly different melody on his cello. I got chills hearing the first ideas for “Ravana’s Game” being recorded.
I realized that it has been a full year since Tomas has written anything new, as this cross country move took up most of 2008. Even when we were briefly in Ojai, and Tomas was re-mixing “American Dumpling”, as wonderful as it was to hear the new mix, it was a score I was familiar with.
To hear the embryonic stages of a new score was the last element of our house actually belonging to us. The hallways and stairwells were going to be filled with Tomas’s music, and when that happens, I know I am securely home.
This is not a dream, it is real.