I recently got the opportunity to speak with composer Rebecca Karijord about her work with composer Jon Ekstrand on the recently released documentary I am Greta. Rebekka Karijord is a composer, musician, and playwright originally from Sandnessjøen in northern Norway. Over the course of her early career, she developed her unique voice by experimenting as a musician, actor, playwright and composer, working alongside directors including Joachim Trier, Margreth Olin and Nina Wester. She also began recording and releasing solo records. Her first album, Neophyte, arrived in 2003, a collaboration between Rebekka, Mattias Petterson and Malin Bång, and was followed up in 2005 by Good or Goodbye.
It was really exciting to get to talk with Rebekka about her work on I am Greta, and I hope you enjoy this interview.
How Did You Get Started With Composing for Film?
I’ve been writing for film, theatre and modern ballet for more than 15 years now. I worked as an actor from when I was 12 years old, but the music took over more and more in my life and work. When I decided to stop acting in films, the directors I had worked with started asking to use my music in their projects. So, it was a very organic, safe transition. And a career shift I have never regretted.
How did you get connected with I am Greta?
Jon invited me in to the job with him, after the producer reached out to him. We had done one project together from before that, an HBO series.
How did you and Jon approach scoring this documentary? Is it very different from scoring a film or are they more similar?
The most significant difference between scoring a documentary and a fiction film is usually regarding when in the process the editor and director wants the music. A lot of documentary film makers want to edit the whole film to a final score, or close to complete sketches. With a fiction film, I usually write the music after picture lock. With Greta, we actually decided to start writing once the editing was locked, since we wanted the score to have a homogenous, “big film” feel to it.
Were you and Jon given a lot of time to work on I am Greta?
No, due to covid everything was pushed and the post production time was very slim. So, I think we had six weeks to write the whole score. There is a lot of music, so that was quite challenging.
How did you decide on which instruments to use to symbolize the Earth, Greta herself, and other important elements? Was there some experimenting with different sounds before you and Jon settled on the final result?
Yes, for sure we tried out different things. But when Linnea Olsson (our solo cellist) came in the studio, everything fell in place. Her tone really matches the energy of the natural world in the film. As for Greta herself, I think it might be the piano. I feel the synthesizers and the voices stand for the movement.
I’m curious, why does it say in the PR that the music “couldn’t take too much sentimentality.”?
Well, Greta is not a very sentimental person. She is super focused and clear when it comes to the climate questions. Emotional, yes, but never sentimental or self-conscious. She is also a very present person in people’s brains right now, and there are many strong opinions about her, and that made this film a bit tricky to score. Music is a really strong tool, and can be very leading. We wanted the music to be more observing and underlining, than leading. Therefore, we tried to work more with energy, tempo and repetition, than melody. There are melodic elements, but they are more in the background.
Which part of the score do you hope audiences notice the most?
I’m not sure, but I hope the music makes the audience feel more, think more, reflect more. I hope it can help to inspire change, I hope it lifts Greta’s message.
Speaking of, do you or Jon have a favorite part of the score?
We have two favorite spots; One is at the cue called “Fridays for Future,” which was long called “Viral.” There is a collage of the children all over the world joining in, and especially one girl really touches me. She sits in her bedroom with a raised fist and says, “Today we stand behind you, and on Friday we will stand next to you!” It really melds well with the music right there, and actually still touches me every time.
The other place is a music cue called “Trolls,” a part where we see a lot of the internet trolls’ comments and threats that Greta is receiving. It’s absurd with these older, white, male world leaders bullying her. Trump, Putin, Bolsonaro, and then at the end of the scene she starts dancing, carefree, liberated, as if to her very own internal melody. We had a long, drony sequence written to that scene and felt something was missing, and I sat down and improvised by the piano without seeing the images. When I stopped, Jon, who had been in the control room, came out with tears in his eyes. The piano totally married her movements. It was art by accident for sure, and is still our favorite musical spot in the film.
I’d like to say thank you to Rebekka Karijord for taking the time to speak with me about her work on I am Greta.
Let me know what you think about I am Greta (and its music) in the comments below and have a great day!
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