Tag Archives: Hulu

Behind the Score of ‘I Am Greta’: Talking with Rebekka Karijord About the Documentary’s Music

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!

See also:

Composer Interviews

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To the Future: A Talk With Halli Cauthery About the Music of ‘Future Man’ Season 3

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to talk with composer Halli Cauthery about his work on the third and final season of Future Man. The Hulu original series Future Man  was co-created by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. His credits also include the Netflix/DreamWorks animated series Turbo F.A.S.T., for which he received an Emmy nomination in 2016; the critically-acclaimed thriller The East; Bernard Rose’s 2015 film adaptation of Frankenstein; the Shrek Halloween television special Scared Shrekless; as well as the Lifetime Television film Living Proof.

He has worked extensively with composer Harry Gregson-Williams, contributing additional music to such films as Cowboys & Aliens; Unstoppable; Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time; Shrek Forever After; X-Men Origins: Wolverine; and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian; as well as Bee Movie and Winter’s Tale alongside Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams. He has also worked with Henry Jackman (Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle; Captain America: Civil War; Pixels; Turbo); Danny Elfman (Hellboy 2: The Golden Army); and Bryan Tyler (Iron Man 3).

How did you get started with composing for film and television?

I got my start working under the mentorship of the renowned composer Harry Gregson-Williams. After completing my postgraduate studies some years ago I lived in London for a while, working as a jobbing musician, playing in orchestras around the city (my initial musical training was as a classical violinist at the Yehudi Menuhin School), as well as teaching, and writing music for the concert hall. But I soon began to feel that, if I wanted to earn a living writing music, the smart move would be to go into film and TV. And so I got in touch with Harry – whom I had known years earlier when I was a young kid and he was a singing teacher at the same school where I used to go for my after-school violin lessons! – to ask for advice. We re-connected, he invited me to come to California for a few months to see the process of film-scoring for myself, and soon I was working as his assistant, and he became my mentor.

What did you think of Future Man when you started working on it?

I thought it was utterly mad in all the very best ways! I loved it: it was funny, clever, silly, jam-packed with quotable lines and memorable characters, and just delightfully weird… I knew straight away that it was going to be a blast scoring it. And I wasn’t wrong!

Did you know, going in, that season 3 would be the last for Future Man?

Yes, we were all aware of that. Which is a double-edged sword: very sad to say goodbye to it, obviously, because I’ve enjoyed myself immensely; but at the same time, knowing that you have a definite end point to build towards can be very useful creatively.

Where did you start in the scoring process for season 3? Did you build off the previous seasons or did you start in a completely new place?

It’s a little bit of both. In the first place, if I interpret the question very literally, I did technically start in a totally new place, because the first piece of music you hear in season 3 is the ‘Monday Night Football’-style music accompanying the ‘Running Man’-type TV show that the main characters are forced to take part in during episode 1. In a more general sense, though: the great advantage of coming back to a show in its third season is that much of the underlying musical architecture is already in place: I already know what the ‘sound’ of the show is, and I already have a network of existing themes because those things have been established from season 1. (For example, I already have a Josh theme, a ‘Resistance’ theme, a Tiger+Wolf theme, and so on.) Having said that, with each new season there are always new characters and new situations that require new themes and sound worlds. Most obviously in the case of season 3, there are the scenes set in Haven, the ‘realm outside of time’ that the main characters become trapped in during the second half of the season. These required completely new music and a new ‘sound’ from the previous seasons.

A related question: did anything specific inspire the sound of Future Man, be it season 3 or any previous season? How did you come up with the sound for this season and series in general?

Haven inspired a slightly more unconventional approach during season 3. When you are depicting a place that’s supposed to exist outside of time and where the usual physical laws of the universe don’t always apply, that’s a pretty big invitation to do something different and get weird, musically. So I took the opportunity to experiment a bit with sound manipulation: taking audio and time-stretching and/or compressing it, reversing it, etc. to achieve strange effects. I also took the opportunity to write some twelve-tone music; and, for added ‘off the wall-ness’, to combine this with a part for a microtonal piano. The result is very trippy!

How much time did you have to score season 3 of Future Man?

I began working on season 3 in October, and we wrapped early in March – just in time, as it happened, before we all went on lockdown! It was a slightly shorter production schedule this season, with eight episodes as opposed to the thirteen that comprised seasons 1 and 2.

What instruments were used in the scoring process? I like how several pieces of the soundtrack have a traditional “sci-fi” sound.

Throughout the show’s run the score has consisted of a mixture of synth elements and traditional orchestra, sometimes combining the two within the same music – the synth elements tending to be utilized during the more futuristic, sci-fi moments. In addition, during season 3 I’ve occasionally had to dig into certain specialized types of ensemble: an example would be the Medieval-style music in season 3 when the three lead characters find themselves in Medieval France; this required the full complement of crumhorns, shawms, recorders and so on! I also recorded myself doing a bit of fiddle playing for a scene set in 17th century North America, playing a traditional folk tune called ‘Rambler’s Hornpipe’.

 Last question: do you have a favorite part of the soundtrack?

A few examples spring to mind: in season 3, I would pick out the twelve tone music I mentioned earlier, as well as the over-the-top orchestral piece accompanying the final gag in the last episode. From season 2 I rather like the ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ parody from episode 4, as well as the Renaissance-style version of the ‘Resistance’ theme heard numerous times throughout the season. And season 1 contains one of my favourite episodes of all: the one set in James Cameron’s ‘Smart’ house, which gave me the opportunity to write an episode of score full of music in the style of music from Cameron movies!

It was a great pleasure to learn more about Halli Cauthery’s work on season 3 of Future Man and I’m very thankful for the opportunity.

See also:

Composer Interviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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My Thoughts on: The Terror (season 1)

I was initially inclined to avoid The Terror because the premise didn’t seem to be the kind of story I would be interested. However, once I saw the entire season was up on Hulu, I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did. The Terror, befitting its name, is terrifying.

The Terror is based on a 2007 novel by Dan Simmons and sets out to explain what really happened to Sir John Franklin’s doomed Arctic expedition, which set off in HMS Terror and HMS Erebus to find the legendary Northwest Passage and was never seen or heard from again. The story is largely based on what is believed to have happened to the expedition (the ships got caught in the ice, eventually they started to walk south, and ultimately they all died, and in all likelihood they suffered from lead poisoning).

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However, woven in-between the facts is a supernatural narrative that I found surprisingly believable. Deep down, I know monsters like the Tuunbaq aren’t real, and yet…the Arctic, especially as it appeared in the late 1840s, was so remote and so icy that it feels like the sort of place the last of the supernatural monsters would have survived. After all, man had swarmed everywhere else, it makes sense that monsters native to these cold, foreign areas, would still survive long past time time other monsters disappeared.

I really liked the inclusion of the Inuit in the story’s narrative. The Inuit’s accounts of Franklin’s expedition were derided for many years, especially their accounts of cannibalism, because of course there’s no way proper British sailors would revert to savage actions like that (read heavy sarcasm here). In The Terror however, the writers really sought to portray the Inuit properly, contrasting their ability to survive in the snowy wilderness with the complete inability of the British to survive this hostile environment (contrast Silna/Lady Silence with any of the British characters).

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One thing that surprised me is how the character of Sir John Franklin (Ciarán Hinds) departs/dies relatively early in the season. For some reason, as the leader of the expedition, I thought he would be around much longer, but the show does not suffer in his absence.

Honestly, I enjoyed first season of The Terror a lot more than I thought I would when I started the first episode. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it, because it will leave you spellbound until the bitter end.

What did you think of the first season of The Terror? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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TV Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Assassination Classroom (2015-2016)

I have loved anime ever since I saw my first episodes of Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z in the 90s and I’m always on the hunt for (relatively speaking) new series to watch, which is easy to do as Hulu contains a wealth of anime. That’s how, last year, I stumbled across the magnificence that is Assassination Classroom.

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Based on the manga by Yūsei Matsui, Assassination Classroom follows the “end class” (full of academic and social misfits) of Kunugigaoka Junior High School who are given the task of killing their new teacher, a strange yellow octopus (with a smiley face for a head) before he explodes and wipes out the Earth the following March. To this end, the students are trained in various assassination techniques by Mr. Karasuma and Irina Jelavić (dubbed “Professor Bitch” by the class), all with the aim of taking their teacher, Koro Sensei, out.

Assassination Classroom Opening (2015)

One of the best parts of the series is watching how the assassination plans evolve over time. This culminates (in my opinion), in an arc where the class attempts to assassinate Koro Sensei on a remote island during summer vacation. The plan is so intricate that it nearly succeeds…but it still falls short. In fact, none of the students plans work out, but that doesn’t hurt the series at all because every attempt brings with it a new lesson about life. While strange looking, Koro Sensei is a grade-A teacher who genuinely wants his students to succeed in life (as well as killing him). In fact, as I watched the series through the first time, it slowly dawned on me that many of Koro Sensei’s tips about assassination were actually skills and ideas you could apply in real life.

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There are some parts of the series that are really upsetting to me and I want to highlight a few of them. First of all, if bullying bothers you then several episodes will be difficult to watch. The rest of the school is trained to hate the End class on principle, with most events rigged to ensure that this class stays at the bottom. It’s really uncomfortable to watch but thankfully the series moves away from that aspect over time. Another episode that upsets me is one that introduces Mr. Takaoka, a (brief) replacement for Mr. Karasuma. Just the way this character is drawn is enough to set you on edge (I think they made his smile look fake on purpose) but what he does is even worse. It comes out that Takaoka employs sadistic training methods and rewards the smallest complaint with punches and slaps. However he does receive an epic comeuppance from Nagisa Shiota (a student who narrates most of the episodes), which partially makes up for what happened before.

Koro Sensei is by far the best part of the series; he has dozens of different quirks, facial expressions and quips that will leave you giggling more often than not. I love how his face changes to reflect his mood. He’s a character that grows on you very quickly.

I enjoy Assassination Classroom very much; I love the twists and turns the story takes and by the end of the series I was very much attached to the fates of each character. If you’d like to check out Assassination Classroom, the complete series is currently available on Hulu. If you’ve already watched the series, let me know what you think about it in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

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