Logo © One Movie, Five Views - Header design by Erin V.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fox Searchlight’s Adam: Q & A with music composer Christopher Lennertz

By E. Corrado

When did you find out that you were scoring Adam? It was over a year ago - probably around last June. I had actually heard through my agent about his movie, and I had read the script and I really wanted to do this film. I met with Max Mayer - the writer/director of the film - and we started talking about the project.

What kind of timeline did you have to score this movie? Originally, a month or two, but once we found out it was going to Sundance, we had a few more months.

What was it like working on this movie; where did you draw your inspiration from? I drew it from a lot different places. We wanted the instruments to convey kind of who Adam is, very simple and honest - not childlike - but very clear. The character has trouble when the people around him are not very clear, and what they say is clouded with subtext. So, we didn’t want to use a big orchestra, and instead used instruments like a marimba, acoustic guitar, etc.. In general we wanted it to be kept simpler.

Were you aware of Aspergers’ Syndrome before working on this film? I knew it was a form of autism, but I wasn’t really sure exactly what it was. Now I know that one of the things that people with Aspergers’ have trouble with, is being able to relate sometimes to other people, like what to say, and when to say things, and also when people don’t always say what they mean, for example.

Have you seen the finished film? Yes, I saw it at Sundance, and I think it’s fantastic. We got a standing ovation, and there were people crying and laughing throughout it. I think that they really got that this is about a man who has Aspergers, but it is told as a love story, and people were rooting for the character at the end no matter what.

I heard that the ending was changed from the original version at Sundance, to what will be released in theatres now. Can you tell me anything about that? Yeah. I’ve seen both, and I must say that the new ending does work better. We changed the music slightly, and gave more resolution at the end. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but essentially, the new ending showed a little bit more of how they [Adam and Beth] affected each other, and where they are now.

What were the challenges, if any, that you faced while working on ‘Adam’? Well, the budget for one thing. This was more like a labour of love for the filmmakers, so we had to make do with a shoestring budget. And also, obviously, the material. We didn’t want to over sentimentalize the movie, but rather try to make the music fit the person it was portraying. We tried to use music to show that he is still one of us, even with Aspergers. That he has the same confusion about love, and relationships that we all have to a certain extent.

When did you know that you wanted to compose music? I knew at 21. I had been in various bands, and I was studying at USC. I ended up sneaking into the Universal scoring stage - which is no longer there - and Henry Mancini was scoring a film in there. So, I snuck in and watched him for the day, and that was when I realized that I wanted to do this. Afterwards, I went to USC and changed my major to music, where I studied with Elmer Bernstein.

When composing music, what are your favourite instruments to write for? I’m a guitar player, so I always love to write for the guitar. Now, for this movie, we actually had a live cello, and that is one that is great to write for since it has such a wide range. You can play it high, almost as high as the violin, or you can play it lower for more darker sounds, such as when Adam is having more stressful moments in the school yard scene, or things like that. It’s the same cello, giving low, more ominous sounds.

What instruments did you focus on for Adam? As I said, we wanted a pure and simple melody which is mostly on guitar with a bit of piano sometimes. We did write pieces that were more varied, more orchestral, but we ended up removing and simplifying a lot of them.

Did you play any of the instruments? I played the guitar, and some of the percussion. We used triangles, finger cymbals, and things like that, since one of the things we wanted was for it to seem like there were little twinkling sounds for the planetarium scene and to convey his interest in space.

Do you use a computer to test out different sounds? Yes, I would make samples on the computer, and them Max would come in and listen to what I had done. So, he’d tell me if what I wrote was what he was going for - or if it would fit - before we went to record it.

What computer programs did you use? I used something called Q-Base, and Pro Tools.

Now, I know that you’ve done a fair amount of scoring work in the past, so what was your favorite movie, tv show, or game to write music for, and why? For tv, it is probably Supernatural. The creator of that show is a close friend of mine, and I think we both like the same kind of things in a show. It has real emotion, while it is also scary and interesting at the same time.

For movies, I would say that I really liked doing the music for Adam, because there is so much real emotion there. But on the other hand, I also really liked doing the music for Alvin and The Chipmunks for the opposite reason. It is not real, so you can just have fun with it. Also, it’s a different experience to go and see little 4, 5, & 6 year olds enjoying a movie you’ve worked on and seeing people watching an indie movie at Sundance.

As for video games, I really loved doing Medal of Honour. My Grandfather was in WWII, so that was one that I really liked doing the music for.

When a video game is based on a movie do you have to try to base the music on the original score? Well, you do have to have that ability, but it depends. For The Godfather video game it was quite a bit different. It takes place at a later date/local, so the music had to be different to reflect the times. But for a James Bond game, you more just have to serve the action.

What was your favorite part of doing the music for ‘Adam’? The scene where Adam shows Beth his planetarium in his apartment. One of the reasons is because this character, Adam, has sort of stayed away from people because they confuse him, and now he’s finally found someone to share this with. Because you have all of these flashing stars and planets, it almost seems kind of like a fantasy world he’s created.

Can you tell us about any other upcoming projects that you are working on? There are several. I am currently doing Cats and Dogs 2 for Warner Bros., which is a sequel to the family spy movie with talking cats and dogs from 2002. I’m also doing a movie based on the comic strip Marmaduke for Fox, and a video game for the Wii called Sim’s Africa, where you can control the world and all the animals. For that one, I get to experiment with different African music and sounds.

Is there anything else you would like to add today? Just that I hope that people will go out and see this film. It’s a great movie that isn’t just about someone with a disorder, but someone who is very much like the rest of us.

One Movie, Five Views thanks Christopher Lennertz for taking the time to talk with us. Our reviews of the film Adam will be available on August 7th, 2009.

No comments: