After almost a year of losing sleep and hair, my first full-length feature is finally done. Radiant is premiering June 13 at the CineVegas film festival in Las Vegas.
I was first approached about doing this with BL Lacerta, but the other guys did not really have the time to do the entire project, so I agreed to take it on myself. It is an unusual film, with very manipulated pace and visual content--a real challenge because it did not tolerate a whole lot of musical motion or a very wide timbral palette. It was easy to step outside the film's "zone," so the challenge was keeping things moving and interesting sonically within a very narrow set of parameters.
Probably 90% of the score is synthesized with Reaktor and Absynth, but there are some parts scored with VSL (especially the wonderful pitched and bowed percussion elements), Sonic Implants Symphonic Strings, Black Grand, Total Grand, and some of Dennis Bolder's cool granulated things.
Because this was an indie-budget film, I took on many roles. Essentially everything sound came out of my shop. I learned one thing in this over all else.
Never agree to do everything sound on a film.
There is a reason that five or more people are needed to oversee this much work, and cheap films are just as much work (more, in fact) as expensive ones. I got paid a fair wage for the score, a fifth of the overall budget. The rest, I just took on. In hindsight, let's just call that generous on my part, haha. Generous being a substitution for stupid.
Would I do it again? Not without a LOT of help, as in a team of elves a la Zimmer. I now completely understand his thing. I am not so good with the huge projects. I like things I can finish in a few days, or a few months at most. Feeling finished is a good thing for me. There was not much of that on this project. I would look to my left at the mountain of work I'd gotten done, and realize it was being shaded by the 1000-times bigger mountain on my right which was not yet complete.
I spent over two months just tweaking location sound and scheduling ADR sessions (there's a real fun fest for you, slicing up words into component parts and trying to make them sound like they came out of a human who is walking across the desert), and the foley was another couple of months. I managed to combine the sound design and music somewhat, which was artistically interesting work--choosing how sound design elements were pitched, presented, etc., allowed me to blur the lines between the music and sound design, and that was really fun and gratifying. But that, too, dilutes focus a bit, and makes things go slower.
The big challenge was to maintain perspective over that length of time, and over that much different work. It took a lot out of me, and really, I have to admit that I enjoy television and theatre work--where I can just bash up against it and knock it out quickly. You cannot do that on a film, there is just no burrowing in and burning through it. You have to be able to thrive on incremental progress when the light at the end of the tunnel is not growing for sometimes weeks on end. I am perhaps a little too much passion driven for that. It's hard for me to think, "Cool I finished those 700 footsteps, only 264,000 left!!" This, to me, is what hell looks like.
I learned a lot, and enjoyed the support of many people here, so I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to Herb Tucmandl, Per Larsson, Eric Persing, Doug Rogers, Native Instruments, Hollywood Edge, Curtis Palmer and David Hill at Sony Pictures Digital, and the Tascam/Giga team. It is really humbling to realize that these people have made tools which transformed my career from being a simple studio rat and sideman to a place where I am capable of delivering something as vast as a full film production.
If anyone ever tells you that you cannot achieve your artistic and career dreams with these kinds of tools, you can take it from me--IT IS POSSIBLE. You absolutely CAN. I wanted to score a full-length feature, I worked hard to learn the skills, and put it out there in the universe that I wanted it...and the project came to me and I was able to do it. When I needed help, it came. When I needed support, it came. Sorry to sound like I've channeled "What the Bleep," but it's all true. Just imagining it made it so, and these tools DO make it possible.
So, if it is your goal and dream to do these kinds of projects--keep the faith and work hard. It will happen for you...because if an egghead like me can do it, anyone can.
If you are attending CineVegas, I hope you will have an opportunity to see Radiant, and I would certainly be interested in any comments you have. I have absolutely no perspective left!!!