What would The Hurt Locker, World War Z, Carrie or Scream (or any of the sequels) have been without the musical accompaniment of composer Marco Beltrami? Our guess is while they still may have been good films, there would certainly have been something lacking from them all –– emotion.
If you look at the work Beltrami has done over the years you'll undoubtedly see a man who truly knows how to score a film and drive out the perfect sentiment for each scene he works in –– whether it be fear, excitement or a raw, guttural feeling. Such a reason is exactly why he was chosen to lend his talents to the upcoming film The Giver, which opens today, Aug. 15.
Kicking off his musical fascination at a young age, the composer earned a masters degree from the Yale School of Music and soon began his foray into the career he's been dominating for just over two decades, which has earned him a number of awards, including two Academy Awards nominations (The Hurt Locker / 3:10 to Yuma).
With a resume that details both film and television (in both scoring and voice acting), and makes stops at hits such as not only The Hurt Locker, but also I, Robot and Man of Steel, we can only assume that The Giver will offer an incredible score to complement the beloved story based on the 1993 novel of the same name.
Music Times recently spoke with Beltrami about his work on The Giver, how he approaches a film score and whether or not music can make-or-break a movie.
MusicTimes: The Giver comes out today. How are you feeling about it?
Marco Beltrami: I feel good! I haven't seen it all completed yet but I'm excited to see how it plays out. I'm a little anxious to see how the score mixes because there's a lot of music in it.
MT: How was your experience on this film?
MB: It was my first time working with director Phillip Noyce. It was a novel way of working in that he was editing in New York and I was here [in Los Angeles], so most of our communication was via Skype. The benefit to that is that we could easily communicate with each other because of it but the downfall is that technology is not exactly like having a face-to-face. It makes the process a little more confusing.
MT: Phillip Noyce has worked on a number of great films. Did he allow you a lot of creative freedom?
MB: Well, an interesting thing about this film is that after I read the script I had a meeting with Phillip and he asked for my ideas. I sent three thematic ideas and when they shot the movie they actually used two of them in the picture, which was great. So, in terms of deciding what type of music, some of that work was done ahead of time by us before shooting the film.
MT: Is that the normal process? You generate ideas just from reading the script?
MB: No, it's a horrible way to do things. [laughs] I find I more often than not totally misread the musical component of a film when I work from a script. So much is dependent on the visual cues and the way its shot or the way a scene is portrayed and acted. It makes a huge difference in the way you score a scene. So, I usually try to not do that, work from just the script at first.
MT: I know Taylor Swift is in the film. Was there at all a desire from either you or Phillip to get her involved in the score?
MB: I certainly thought about it. I'm a big fan of hers and I would have loved to do something with her. There's a moment in the movie where she's playing the theme on the piano next to Jeff Bridges but I had no interactions with her. I always thought it would have been cool to give the film a beginning and end credit from her but it didn't happen.
MT: Looking at your resume, you've worked on such a wide array of films: 3:10 to Yuma to The Hurt Locker to Warm Bodies to The Giver. How do you approach the process of scoring a film of different genres?
MB: Honestly, to me, it's just music and emotion. They are very different pictures, sure, but the musical ideas that I work on or I think about are all related. Somewhere in there, there's some sort of commonality. I find myself falling on similar habits throughout all the features that I do.
Personally, I've never been a fan of horror movies, because I get scared watching them, [laughs] but it seems that the music I was trained with early on lends itself rather well to that genre.
MT: How did you get into this industry?
MB: I started playing piano when I was five or six-years-old and was always interested in working on my own pieces. As I got older, my parents weren't happy with me going into music so I studied Geology at Brown University. Eventually they told me I should consider something else because I couldn't tell one rock from another, so I ended up getting a undergraduate degree in Urban Studies. After that, however, I knew I wanted music, and I had some of my pieces performed by local orchestras and such, so I got my masters at Yale School of Music. Then I had an opportunity to come out to Los Angeles and study with Jerry Goldsmith. That's where I learned about scoring.
MT: You've also done work in television.
MB: I have. And what I like about TV is that it's immediate. You have to rely on your first instincts. There are only a couple of days before a show. I really enjoy working like that.
MT: You've been nominated for a number of Academy Awards. Do you feel a score can contribute to a film being nominated for an Oscar?
MB: I don't think a score can save a so-so movie. I think it can definitely ruin a great movie or take you out of it, but I don't think it can supply emotion that's not there. It can only enhance things that are present.
MT: It definitely does add an immense amount of emotion to a picture, however.
MB: I'd like to think so. [laughs] It'd be great if everybody thought that way.
MT: Is there anything you're working on now that you're excited about?
MB: Definitely! I'm working on a film called The Homesman. I'm really excited about that one. A lot of creation took place in order to generate the score for that movie. I think people are really going to like it.