Interview with Filmmaker Dazhi Huang (NIGHT LIVE)

NIGHT LIVE played to rave reviews at the April 2018 Experimental & Music FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Dazhi Huang: This film is my graduation thesis, In the month when I was brainstorming for the script, two unfortunate incidence happened: One was the Pulse shooting, the other one was a white policeman killing an unarmed black man. I was traumatized by both event, and I was also fully aware of their social effects which magnified by social media and live streaming. I had this impulse to put my takes to these two incidents into my upcoming film, but u sing a more lighthearted, entertaining way, in order to portray it authentically to myself, to make it fit for the environment that I live in.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

It took around 3-4 months

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Night Live

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Finding the actors and coordinating the schedules of the crew(I didn’t actually have a producer this time so it was really tough and annoying)

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I discovered a lot of new things that I never knew about my own film, so I was amazed.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

During the creation period of the film, I had a tough relationship with my father, so some parts of life naturally blended into fabrications

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Week End by Jean-Luc Godard and Persona by Ingmar Bergman and Friends the sitcom

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

It’s a great platform

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

The times there are a changing by Bob Dylan

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I wish, I’m going to grad school for film directing

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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Interview with Filmmaker Kaitlin Creadon (FOR THE LOVE OF THE CHILD)

FOR THE LOVE OF THE CHILD played to rave reviews at the March 2018 DOCUMENTARY FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Kaitlin Creadon: With the wonderful opportunity to make any type of film I desired through my schooling, I had the chance to turn this once-in-a-lifetime event into a documentary. Creating this personal documentary was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I knew it was a story I truly wanted to share with the world. A big motivation for completing this film was the hope that someone else
going through this will see it, and that the film will help them through their own journey.

From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

I started working on the concept in August of 2016 and it took about a year and a half to produce and edit. Even today, I am still working on BTS as I just have a wonderful goldmine of footage still to share.

How would you describe your short film in two words?

True love.

What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The biggest obstacle I personally faced was overcoming my own fear of being on camera. It is a very personal story, so I knew right from the beginning that I would have to be on camera and talk about my experiences. It was difficult for me at the time, yet I am so glad I put that aside to become an integral part of my own documentary.

What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Excitement, yet surprisingly defensive. Nonetheless, the was extremely interesting to hear the audience’s take on the documentary!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

Like I mentioned, through the MFA thesis process I had the chance to work on a film of my choosing. Ultimately, I landed on documenting this experience. Meeting my birth mother in person was something I knew I wanted to do, and this was a great way to do it. I reached out to the adoption agency The Cradle, then Tabitha (my birth mother) Collette (birth aunt), and Robbie (half-brother) and his family, to see if they would be interested in being a part of this as well. I received overwhelming support. It all started to come together, and we began filming!

Even if I hadn’t used this footage for a documentary, I feel so blessed the entire process was caught on camera as it is hard to remember everything that happened in person!

What film have you seen the most in your life?

I think it has to be Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen it on DVD, but the thirteen-year-old me saw it a record seven times in theaters!

You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are your feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

The submission process for this film festival was quite easy! The Documentary Feedback Film Festival made me feel very comfortable right from the get-go.

What is next for you? A new film?

Currently no films on the docket, however I am a new Adjunct Professor at DePaul University, where I received my MFA in Directing! I am looking forward to seeing what this new journey has in store for me.
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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Filmmaker Anuj Gulati (THE MANLIEST MAN)

THE MANLIEST MAN was the winner of BEST FILM at the March 2018 FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Anuj Gulati: The film came about as a graduation requirement for my thesis towards an MFA at NYU Tisch School of Arts, Asia.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

Around three years. The script was written in the midst of a number of activities that we were doing in school. Then came the process of finding the right location, which took a couple of months. India offers a lot of options. Then, in fact, I took a break from pursuing the film. A year later, I went back to the location and started putting a team together. We shot for 10 days, the edit again was done gradually over a period of eight months. Overall, it took longer than I wanted it to take, given that other life things needed to fall in place alongside.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Everyday Horror. This is thanks to a review written for the film by a critic. That is the title he used. I think it sums it up well.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Honestly, the biggest obstacle I faced with making this one was to just do it. I held myself back on a number of occasions, waiting for the right moment. But it never came, until I did it. I think one of the biggest challenges as a creator is to jump into the process, to create your own deadlines, and then to push yourself to get talented people onboard your vision.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was elated, sitting here across the world, viewing an entirely fresh audience talking about their impressions of the film. Thank you to the festival for the opportunity.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK of the Short Film:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

The script took a while to feel right. I first started with the idea of exploring the still prevalent, but hush-hush, practice of female infanticide in remote parts of India. I came back with some shocking stories. The story of one of the families (that I wasn’t able to meet) stayed with me. They had tried to have a boy thirteen times, which means they managed to put to death, 12 female babies. Their thirteenth was also a girl, and they kept her.

Back at my desk, I tried to write about this family’s doings, and the irony of the result of their mission. But what I was dealing with was too much. I had to find a way to deal with this sensitive issue and avoid being heavy-handed. After a few drafts, I started following a male protagonist instead. The script then took shape of an absurdist tale set in a village where families are required to have boys, the blame of bearing a girl being taken by the man.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

The Graduate.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

It makes life much better, to have your film and it’s assets ready to submitted on a user-friendly platform. Keeping a track of festival submissions is a heavy job, help from the platform is much appereciated. My film was however, submittied by Aug & Ohr Medien, a Berlin based agency that managed my submissions. A lot of the screenings and recognition is thanks to their efforts.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Haha. Don’t stop ‘til you get enough, by Michael Jackson.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Yes, a first feature. We are looking to go into production this year, 2018.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Cinematographer Rasmus Heise (I KILL GIANTS)

Rasmus Heise is the cinematographer of the Netflix Original series “The Rain” and the drama/fantasy feature film “I Kill Giants”. The Danish DOP started out working on a string of short films including Oscar-winning family drama “Helium”.

Matthew Toffolo: Where were you born and raised? Was photography something you always wanted to do as your career?

Rasmus Heise: I was born in Copenhagen and raised in different cities around Denmark. I picked up a VHS camera at summer camp, age 13, and did a short film starring my sister. I overheard some adults prasing my work. That never left me. It wasn’t untill I was around 21, that I fund out that cinematography was what I wanted to do. I was taking the 8 months course at the European Film School in Ebeltoft, Denmark. This is where I met the people that I would go on making short films with for many years ahead. Later I studied cinematography for 4 years at the National Filmschool of Denmark in Copenhagen.

What has been your most proudest work of your career? Or, what has been your favorite project to date?

The first real big challenge was the two final episodes of the TV show called “The Protectors” (Livvagterne, Denmark, director Mikkel Serup). We had to shoot locations in Denmark and Marocco and studio in Denmark. It was a big challenge making it all flow seamlessly, and I think we did a great job. In more recent times I’m very proud of I Kill Giants. A huge challenge for everybody involved. Shooting a challenging script in only 35 days in two countries and with many cgi and in-camera effects. I’m also proud of the work on the Netflix show The Rain. I shot 4 episodes for director Natasha Arthy. We had a huge amount of stuff to do, and very little time. But somehow we and the hardworking crew made it work.

Tell us about the film I KILL GIANTS. How did you get involved in the project? What makes this film unique?

I have worked with director Anders Walter for many years. I have shot about 20 music videos and 4 short films for him. After our short film Helium won an Oscar for best live action short, things started to happen. He was offered to direct IKG, and I jumped on the project with him. The american producers didn’t know me, but luckily I had shot the first season of Amazon Studios’ show Hand of God for director Marc Forster. So they called him up, and he must have said something nice about me I guess 🙂

The film is based on a really beautiful graphic novel from 2008 by the same name. It’s a very beautiful story, and I feel very lucky to have been a part of making it in to a movie. I want to thank producer Kim Magnussen for also helping me get onboard.

Is there a type of film/TV show that you love to work on that you haven’t worked on yet?

I would love to make something gritty. A twisted thriller.

What are you generally looking for in a director in order for you to do your job as best as possible?

It’s all about being on the same page I think. I always try and spend time getting to know each other. The better I know someone, the better a job I tend to do for him or her. I love directors who has a vision, but are not afraid to let go and let the project take you somewhere you hadn’t planned.

What do you think a producer/director is looking for when they bring on you to DP the film?

I know my craft, and I work fast! Haha. I know that many producers like it. I think directors likes me, because I can work in many genres and maybe also because I’m easy to talk to. I see my job as becomming the directors best friend, and I try to be the best collaborator in every way. I want to help the director, but also challenge him or her to push the project to become even better.

What is your passion in life besides photography and film?

These days it’s my beautiful family. They are amazing every day.

What movie have you watched the most times in your life (besides the ones you worked on?

I have MANY favorite movies. My all time favorite is Heat by Michael Mann. Have seen that so many times. My biggest dream would be DP-ing a movie directed by Michael Mann. Or PT Anderson. Or David Fincher. Or Marc Forster. Or.. well the list is very long.

What advice do you have for young cinematographers who would eventually like to DP movies for a living one day?

What you need is collaborators. Find like-minded people. Learn and grow together. Film school is not essential. But it’s a great place to learn from your mistakes without anybody out in the film industry noticing you screwed up. So if you don’t get into film school, or don’t have the money for it, find another way to get experince and learn. Make non-budget shorts or do music videos or art projects. Go to a film work shop or find collaborators some other way.

Please follow me on instagram: rasmus_heise

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photo:Umedia.
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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Supervising Sound Editor Donald Sylvester (Logan, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma)

Donald Sylvester has worked on over 100 films in the last 25 years and is considered one of the top people working in the craft of Post-Production Sound today. I asked him a few simple questions via email and he countered with some really insightful and meaningful answers. Enjoy it:

Where were you born and raised? When was working in the film industry start to become a career pursuit for you?

I grew up in the Garden State of New Jersey, where all my core principles were established. My father moved us to Atlanta when I was 11, and it was a wonderful experience during that period – both for Atlanta and for me. It was an unprecedented period of great growth for the city and the awakening of a progressive South – and growth for me personally as well. I dabbled in a lot of stuff, but always gravitated toward music. Frankly the film business didn’t come calling for me until a long, long time later after I moved to California. I reached some level of success before I realized that the music business was a bad idea. My wife, who was a film editor, suggested that motion pictures and I would be a good fit. My skills and instincts fit right in. She was right.

What has been your most proudest work of your career? Or, what has been your favorite project?

For a lot of my years I worked on other people’s films as a sound editor. I learned a lot and loved the people and the work, but I never really thought of those projects as “mine.” I didn’t start supervising in earnest until 2001. I could write a book about each one of those shows (and maybe one day I will!). I did two “Garfields” which were not great movies but working with Bill Murray was really unforgettable. And I supervised and mixed “The Fault In Our Stars,” and that was a wonderful and meaningful experience.

But the film I like the best is “310 to Yuma,” and I like it for so many reasons. I like it primarily because it’s a Western and it’s got guns and horses and spurs and all that good stuff that Westerns must have, but also because it is the kind of movie where every single sound is totally plot- or character driven. As simple as that may sound, it resulted in a very satisfying experience. Plus, it’s a good movie.

In your words, what exactly does a Supervising Sound Editor do?

A director once told me that he really wanted to do everything on his film himself, but now, as a director, he was only allowed to tell everybody else what to do. I’m very sympathetic to that and I try to help the director achieve his goals. I try to get to know him and what he needs and understand the vision of his film. Simply put, I see myself as the sound extension of the director. I make sure he hears what he wants to hear, communicates the story he wants to tell, as well as faithfully executing the sonic challenges he wants to express.

I often like to imagine I’m the creative force behind the soundtrack of these films, but honestly I am only a trussed-up worker-bee, taking directions and challenging myself to deliver something I think is perhaps better than what was requested, as well as hitting the target set forth by the director precisely on the head. There’s also a lot of management duties and schedule-making, but I seldom write about that.

Give us a breakdown of a big budget film like LOGAN. How many people are
working in the sound department in post-production? How long do you and your team have to complete your end of the film? Do you generally work with the same
team?

I am fortunate to work a lot at Fox, where we’ve established an enlightened work flow for me. Our method seems to get results and head off post sound problems as well. I start early on the show during principle photography and as the scenes are cut together by the picture editors, I fancy them up with sound effects and cleaned-up dialogue. Later, when the post editorial is in full swing, I’ll expand my crew to include dialogue editors and sound effects editors. A film like Logan had a healthy budget but didn’t have a long post schedule, so we were asked to work weekends and long hours. In the end, I had two sound designers, two sound effects editors, two foley editors, and four dialogue and ADR editors, not to mention two assistants. This is actually a small crew to bring this kind of film to the mix stage. Much of the work gets finessed at the mix, which is the battlefield trenches for getting all the ideas to gel and finished in time. There’s always a big chunk of the budget for looping, which can be extensive, as well as temp mixing and audience previews. Yes, I like to work with the same people whenever I can, but schedules often don’t permit that luxury.

Is there a type of project that you like to work on that you haven’t worked on yet?

As I’ve worked on more and more films over the years, my goals have changed. There was a time I thought I’d like to do a big science fiction thriller, but I’ve actually learned that genres alone don’t make the most satisfying films. What tickles my fancy are films rich on character development with some insight into the human condition. Now, no one goes out and says, “I’m gonna make the greatest human condition film this town’s ever seen!” But if they’re relying on car chases or space battles and they’ve neglected depth of character, then I’m not gonna get too excited about it no matter how “special” the special effects are.

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind doing a war movie (mostly WWII for my taste) or even a musical. But musicals don’t spend any time on sound effects, so let’s scratch that one off the list and just say WWII. With characters!

What is your passion in life besides sound?

Sound is my passion, but if you take sound away there’s my great interest in music – but that’s sound too. I’ve often imagined going back into radio (I ran the college radio station WUOG in Athens, Georgia during my college years) but I would only do that if I could DJ a radio show that would blend music and sounds into a cohesive story – but that’s what I do now. So, what I probably like after all that is to travel, because over the years I’ve really enjoyed travelling and recording sounds and sound effects in interesting and distant locations. But … that’s sound again.

What movie have you watched the most times in your life?

I assume you mean what movie have I voluntarily watched most often that I haven’t worked on? Because when you work on a film you actually watch it hundreds of times until you memorize every frame of it. And that concept prevents me from watching most movies more than once or twice. However, my favorite movie would have to be “Withnail and I,” which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but ticks all the boxes for me.

What advice do you have for people who would like to do what you do for a living one day?

I would suggest that if you want to get into theatrical movie sound then you should make sure you’re ready for the long hours and hard work, and then you should find people who are currently making films (or shorts or TV shows or documentaries) and offer to work for them for FREE. Just get your foot in the door and do anything and everything you can to get familiar with the process and begin to focus on the area where you want to work. And one day (if you still like it and it likes you back), somebody will say, “Hey, you should be getting paid for this stuff.” Then you’re on your way.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Composer Jeff Russo (Emmy Winner FARGO TV series)

 Jeff Russo is one of the most talented musicians and composers working in the industry today. His list of credits in the last 9 years is loaded with successful TV series and movies. In the last 2 years alone his has composed for the series Bull, Legion, Counterpart, Star Trek: Discovery, Lucifer, and his Emmy winning work in Fargo. It was an honor chatting with him one afternoon in his office while he was taking a break.

Matthew Toffolo: Where were you born and raised? Was music something you always saw yourself doing as a career?

I was born and raised in New York City. As far as I can remember, I loved music and it became apparent to me that this was something I always wanted to do – to be a musician. From middle school on I was always playing in bands. It’s something I was better at than other things. I was better at music than math or science for example. And I loved it too! It was obvious very early on that this was what I was going to do.

Are you from a family of creative people and musicians?

My dad was in fashion. He died when I was very young so I’m not all that familiar with what exactly he did. My mom was a homemaker. Not a huge fan of music, but very supportive in my passion for it.

So you’re in high school – where did you think you were headed as a musician?

I always wanted to be in a Rock Band. Rock and Roll was my drive! I was in a band for 25 years. Only 9-10 years ago did I change careers and think about composing.

What was your first composing job? And how did you get the job?

In 2006, my band took a break from playing and I had to figure what I had to do with my life. A good friend of mine, Wendy Milette, was working on a couple of television shows and asked me to come by. I watched what they did for a bit, and then they asked me to come to work. Watching what they did got me intrigued and eventually they asked me to write music cues for them and from there I was hooked. I worked for them for about a year and a half and eventually I got hired as a composer for my first job which was a TV show called THE UNUSUALS. Then things took off from there.

Noah Hawley was the showrunner of that show, and also the showrunner/creator of the TV series FARGO. So you guys have a relationship?

Yes. Great one. He called me up in 2013 and said he’s doing a series based on the FARGO movie and told me I’m on board. Then we got to work.

How did you prepare for doing that show? Did you go back and watch the original film?

I didn’t see a need to. I just read the scripts and looked at the emotional places in the script. Saw that the same tone was involved.

You were nominated for an Emmy for best music composition for the first two years, and eventually won the Emmy last year for your work in season 3. What is the Emmy winning experience like?

It’s a feeling is disbelief. The Emmy sits on the shelf in my office and it’s a crazy reminder. The feeling going up there and accepting the award is hard to describe. That moment – incredible. People will now say to you, “You’re an Emmy winner”. People have that in their minds from now on. My peers acknowledged me. It’s an honor.

What are you currently working on right now as we speak?

Season #2 of LEGION. And a Mark Wahlberg films coming out this summer (MILE 22, directed by Peter Berg). It’s been a lot of fun working on that film.

Besides the films you’ve work on, watch move have you watched the most time in your life?

Empire Strikes Back. I’ve seen it over 40 times.

Is there a type of project that you would like to work on that you haven’t yet?

I’d like to work on a Western.

What advice do you have for people who would like to work as a composer some day in the industry?

Most important thing is for someone to create their own voice. We are all unique and original in our own way so we all have a voice. Find it. It’s the only way to move forward.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Composer Alexei Aigui (The Young Karl Marx, I am Not Your Negro)

Alexei Aigui.jpgIt was an honor chatting with the multi-talented musician and film composer Alexei Aigui and chat about his one and only passion in life: music!

Listen to his music on Soundcloud

Matthew Toffolo: Where were you born and raised? Was music something you always wanted to do as your career?

Alexei Aigui: I was born and raised in Moscow, as they say, in an artistic family. My father was a poet, and was representing the so-called unofficial art – meaning he was under control of the Soviet authorities, and his works couldn’t be published, so our life wasn’t exactly an easy ride. When I was six, mum took me to an ordinary music school near our place, to play violin. Learning to play the piano was more prestigious and cost about 15 times more, so we didn’t really have a choice in the matter. God bless, accordion didn’t cost less than violin. I don’t remember if I wanted to study music, I think I didn’t even ask myself that question – it just happened. So I studied there until I was about 15, not reflecting a lot on why I needed it. However, in my teenage years, I became a rock music fan – Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, then quite quickly became interested in more complicated stuff like King Crimson, Frank Zappa, etc. Maybe then, through rock music, I decided to become a musician, form my own band. Or maybe it was already late to think about doing something else, after all the years of exercise? Through avant-garde rock, having played in my first bands and already starting to study professionally at the conservatory, I became interested in academic avant-garde – [Anton] Webern, [Gyorgy] Ligeti, [Pierre] Boulez, [Karlheinz] Stockhausen, [Igor] Stravinsky, [Sergey] Prokofiev.

Afterwards, I took to improvisational music and minimalism. In 1994, I set up Ensemble 4’33’’ in Moscow, and we performed pieces by John Cage, Earle Brown, La Monte Young, and others in that spirit. Gradually, mainly due to the fact that there wasn’t enough sheet music available [in Russia], I started to compose music, and turned out one’s own pieces were nicer and easier to play than others’. That’s how I became a composer. The band has existed for 24 years, we play 30 concerts a year, have released a lot of CDs, the band is my foundation for film work, with either the entire band taking part in soundtrack recording, or some of the Ensemble 4’33’’ members.

What has been your most proudest work of your career?

I’m proud of many works, when it comes to non-film-related music – the cantata ‘Salut to Singing’ to my father’s poems, almost everything I do with Ensemble 4’33’’. Of course, cinema works: my very first OST, for ‘Country of the Deaf’ by Valery Todorovsky, and for ‘Wild Field’ by Mikhail Kalatozishvili, ‘The Horde’ by Andrey Proshkin. Of my latest collaborations outside of Russia — ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ and ‘The Young Karl Marx’ by Raoul Peck.

Tell us about your working relationship with director Raoul Peck on “The Young Karl Marx”?

The work took quite a long time, the film was in all stages of production for almost 10 years, with the shooting taking part in 2 or 3 countries. The company’s office was in France, editing took place in Belgium, and mix in Germany. Raoul wanted the music to be, on the one hand, relevant to the demands of period drama, orchestral and melodic, on the other hand, to feel ‘uncomfortable’ and edgy. The first draft of music was far from what you hear in the film, there were a lot of corrections. There were some temporary tracks in the first cut, the scene of police chasing Marx had a Haitian folk piece that, surprisingly enough, worked very well, it wasn’t easy for me to compose new music for that bit, in ‘Irish style’. Raoul, along with the film’s editor Frederique Broos, came to Moscow for the orchestra recording, and made a few corrections during the recording itself. Our following project, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’, was recorded without him, because Raoul was working on the final mix of ‘Marx’ in Germany. For ‘I Am Not Your Negro’, we recorded completely different music, with my band – we recorded a few semi-improvisational takes, and Raoul chose the most suitable.

What are you generally looking for in a director in terms of guidance and tone for your music?

When I was starting to work in Russian cinema, almost no one used references (temporary tracks), and you were, so to say, on your own. Director was only able to use words while describing what he wanted in terms of music, which isn’t always translatable from the director’s language to, well, human. These days the use of references is quasi-total. It makes the composer’s job easier and quicker, but also sets up some borders and limits the composer in his or her work. I’ve seen all sorts of director-composer relations – from close friendship to composing music without knowing the director, and I believe that there should certainly be personal contact, a sort of mutual tuning is supposed to happen. Often, the editor plays an important role, offering his or her opinion.

What do you think a producer/director is looking for when they bring on their composer to score the film?

Often, when I see the result (not in the films, on which I had the chance to work), it seems to me that producers and directors wanted to save money. Perhaps the perfect option is to find the music that would create a unique sound for the picture, the music that would add a dimension to the film, another layer, and wouldn’t just underscore the tension or hint that we should feel sad. Music can be omnipotent, it’s like an undercurrent, sometimes we don’t even realize that it exists side-by-side with the action and tells the story, accentuating some points and adding depth to the movie.

What is your passion in life besides music?

I’m completely handicapped in that respect – only interested in music. Well, maybe also alcohol. I can’t even normally rest or travel – every time I’m at a bar and I see a stage, I go, ‘Why haven’t I played here before?’ and ask the owner is it’s possible to perform at their place.

Anyway, I’m not purely a film composer, concerts take a lot of time, and if I don’t perform for a few weeks, I get a bit crazy. I also used to paint when I was young, but now don’t have time to devote to that.

What movie have you watched the most times in your life?

Usually, I don’t want to re-watch the films that made the biggest impact on me, I kind of want that first impression to stay as it was. So it’s most likely that the films I saw most times are those you come across while watching TV, and just don’t turn off. I can’t say I’m a cinemaholic, I’m not too eager to see everything people talk about, and I skip many films. And this huge pile of ‘to-watch’ movies is growing. Thanks to my 13-year-old son, I finally saw all the Star Wars movies (never watched those before, sorry to say) and the Harry Potter series. We watched all the films in strict order, spending about a week on each series.

What advice do you have for young musicians who would eventually like to compose movies for a living?

Forget about it. Okay, if we’re being serious (although ‘forget about it’ is also me being serious), it’s best if you’re primarily a musician, and then a businessman. However, I’ve always wanted to earn my living with music. A lot of people try to become film or TV composers, having failed at performing their music on stage. This phenomenon stems from how easily available the music-making programs are. Certainly, new talents can emerge, but these programs standardize musicians, unique and interesting sound in cinema has become a rare sight, irony intended. Everybody tries to copy copies, and you wonder where the search for something new is? Last but not least, entering the tricky and rocky path of a musician, be ready to die homeless and poor, how did the best of us composers.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.