Behind the Scenes of Scoring CBS’ “Ransom,” Rosamund Pike’s film “The Man With the Iron Heart” & more. By Composer, Guillaume Roussel

My Background:

I have a classical and jazz background. I started piano at the age of 5, harmony/counterpoint/fugue at 12, orchestration/conducting at 17. At some point I was studying so intensively that I felt the need to take a break, so I decided to listen to other styles like jazz funk music. I started to play as a live musician and went back to study improvised music and jazz until the age of 24. Composing is something I have always been doing no matter what I was studying at the time. My first piece of music was a piano piece, I think I was 10. Then I discovered the synthesizer at the age of 11, and it just changed my life. At 14 years old, I had already composed 4 albums.

How I got into scoring:

Movies always fascinated me. And since I like instrumental and figurative music, and sounds & colors, music for movies has always been intriguing to me. In the 90s, I would listen to John Williams, Vangelis , as well as older scores like Morricone or Bernstein. I always thought those were really rich and diverse. It became really trendy to compose for movies with synthesizers like Serra, Zimmer, Jan Hammer etc… It inspired me a lot when I started composing with the Synthetizer, at the time I had a Roland E-35. And then I discovered sampling with the Ensoniq EPS 16 at 14 years old. A few years later, I got a Akai S3000, the sounds were super realistic, that’s when I got my first “gig”. It was an advertisement for a French phone service provider. I haven’t stopped since then! That was 20 years ago!

As for the instruments, I mainly play the piano, but I started to play bass guitar and drums when I was 16. I am half Colombian, so the rhythm is very important to me. I’m a huge fan of soul, funk, acid jazz, gospel, salsa etc.

My biggest influences:

My influences are very large. It goes from Ravel to Marcus Miller to Vangelis. I like so many styles of music! But Ravel is my number one influence!

My scoring process:

I usually like to read the script or watch the movie and then sit and talk with the director. This is not about my personal vision, it is about the director’s vision. We are here to support them in telling their story in the best way possible, so I need to enter in his head and understand all the artistic mechanism. Talking is the best way I found so far. And it normally feeds my inspiration process until the end. Then I like to look for ideas, melodies etc on the piano. I like the idea that a tune is supposed to sound great on a piano solo with no artificial elements. Then I will spend a lot of time looking for sounds. I like to build a palette of sounds, this is a main ingredient. When I’m ready to write the cues, I like to watch the scene many times so I can improvise. I will do this in several takes, based on the themes I am developing, and once I feel like I am in a good shape, I start arranging, orchestrating and composing.

What I look for:

Emotions are the triggers I try to touch on with the music. And if I can achieve this while writing interesting music that fits to the screen that’s great! Sometimes you write interesting music on boring scenes, or boring music on interesting scenes. When all the expectations meet, that’s really satisfactory.

What is great aboutRansom” is that it is very much about the emotions. The main character is based on a real negotiator, and one very important aspect about a real negotiator is that he can’t show too much emotion. Showing emotions is a weakness that can lead to a bad situation. In my opinion, Luke Roberts nailed playing his character with a certain poker face attitude. That gave me a lot of room to fill those spaces with musical emotions.

Scoring a film vs. scoring tv show:

It is very different. The size of screen and volume of sound/music makes both formats a totally different experience for the audience, and the music has a different role. In theaters, just a single bass tone can sound huge, when the same sound will be muted on TV. So I would say that, generally speaking, it has a more complicated balance for the music to not interfere with dialogues and sounds on film. On the other hand, for TV, the challenge is to keep the audience’s attention so they don’t change the channel.

TV is a great challenge because the workflow is very intense. You need to deliver 40 minutes of music every 10 days or sometimes in less than 10 days. In order to keep composing interesting music, it is important to be fresh and in good shape!

My biggest takeaway:

I like what comes from long term relationships with directors — like with Olivier Dahan (La Vie en Rose) or Cedric Jimenez (The Man with the Iron Heart). I like the fact that there is more trust, I think it really allows for more creative chances to be taken. So those projects are very fulfilling.

On tap:

I’m about to start a feature film called “Blue Mauritius” that is a thriller and “The Man with the Iron Heart” should be releasing this year, it is a brilliant movie starting Rosamund Pike, Jason Clarke, Mia Wasikowska and Jack O’Connell

~ Guillaume Roussel

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Feature in collaboration with/produced by: Jeff Gorra

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