Interview With Composer Marc Vanocur

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by: Jerry Smith

Utilizing a synth-based approach to create an unsettling mood and tone, composer Marc Vanocur knows exactly how to get under your skin and add an ominous tinge to his work. Working as a sound editor on Tales From The Crypt and various other projects, Vanocur has an ear for establishing a mood, something that’s come in handy for his most recent project, composing the score for the sleep-based nightmare flick, DEAD AWAKE. Written by FINAL  DESTINATION creator Jeffrey Reddick and directed by DESDEMONA director Phillip Guzman, the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET-like horror film is taking the genre by storm, and we caught up with Vanocur to discuss the film’s music and tone.

 

DCP:

There’s been a major renaissance of synth-based score works over the past few years, which is great. What is it about that approach to score work that you think resonates with audiences?

 

Marc Vanocur:

In some ways, it's the simplicity.  Many synth-based scores become atmospheric and function as both sound design and music.  When the instrumentation becomes unidentifiable, audiences are allowed to interpret the emotion and scene differently.  If I am to score a movie, with only a piano and clarinet, that sound becomes identifiable and thus not much room for interpretation. I enjoy composing that way more, but it may not always be best for the scene.  Sometimes, a lush, warm synth pad sets a better tone.

 

DCP:

"Dead Awake" is perfect for that kind of score; were there any moods or themes that were important to you that add to the film's palette?

 

MV:

I wanted to stay faithful to some of the big orchestral horror scores.  I love a good scary hit with every creature appearance!  However, the rest of the film when the characters are doing the investigative work needed a more surreal and contemporary atmospheric type of composition.  In a sense, a modern story, hence a modern instrument and score.

 

DCP:

What made you want to get into scoring films, were there any composers who were big influences on you?

 

MV:

I've played guitar to date about 42 years.  I studied music with that as my primary instrument.  Only did private instruction for 12 years.  I did a film composers class at UCLA in my early 20's and loved it.  My first foray into film and television was as a sound editor, later a sound designer and supervising sound editor.  I always say a close relationship between music and sound as a storytelling medium for filmmakers.  I am passionate about writing cues, whether 90 minutes of them or just 30 seconds!

 

DCP:

I feel like a film relies very heavily on its score, sometimes it's more memorable than the film themselves. When approaching a film, what's your process in finding the right approach?

 

MV:

All scores start as a blank slate regardless of the material.  I approach things a bit differently than most because I usually start writing while the editor begins working on scenes.  I've been very lucky so far because I haven't had to fight too much of matching a temp.  I'll usually sketch out ideas and record them.  That music serves as the temp and the director and editor work with that in the edit.  That gives me time to fully flesh out ideas and work in parallel with the filmmakers.  It's a great workflow, and I've been very fortunate to work with filmmakers that like to work that way.  On my last film, I sketched out 10 minutes of music a few weeks after reading the script.  Once I saw some cut scenes several months later, I was lucky enough to have gone the right direction!

 

DCP:

What other projects are you involved with?

 

MV:

The director of Dead Awake did another movie in between called '200 Hours'.  That's a completely 80s retro score that incorporates some vintage synths.  Very fun.  I scored a film called 'Let There Be Light' that will release around the end of the year.  And, I'm currently scoring a cross country motorcycle film called 'American Dresser.'  These were all great projects to work on, and I've enjoyed working with the filmmakers very much.

 

 

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