Interview – Marco Beltrami

A scene in a film can capture an emotion, grab hold of its audience, and leave an impression that could last a lifetime. Although, take away the backing music/soundtrack, the effect is lost, and hence it can all fall flat. Well aware of the vital importance of soundtrack to a film, award winning Composer Marco Beltrami has made a career of bringing some of Hollywood’s biggest films to life with his music over the two decades. Working on everything from the Scream films, to 2002’s Resident Evil, to 2004’s Hellboy, to more recently the blockbuster hit Logan, and beyond, Beltrami’s magic touch has been felt. Recently we caught up with the talented musician to talk the work that goes into soundtrack composition, his participation in Score: A Film Music Documentary, working with directors, and more. – You have been involved in film as a music composer for over two decades now. First, briefly tell us, what inspired your interest in scoring films?   

Marco Beltrami – A few things, I came from a concert music background. Just the technicality of it, couldn’t really make a living from concert music and that could be in an academic environment, I really didn’t want to do that. The other thing was I was very inspired by certain movies, especially Spaghetti Westerns and Fantasia (1940) as a kid. I really liked the music from film. After graduating from music school, thinking about what I was going to do, I was then on the east coast and moved out to the west coast to see what it was like. I am really digging it. – It seems to have gone quite well. You have worked on a long list of memorable film scores including Scream (1996), Hellboy (2004), and Logan (2017). A great deal of your work is featured in Horror or Fantasy-based films. Do you enjoy working within these genres?

Marco Beltrami – It is funny, as I said, I came from a concert music background where a lot of the things I was doing was exploring instrument timers and extended techniques. That led itself well to the world of Horror movies. Up until Scream, I had never seen a Horror movie, I am sort of a cheap scare. I don’t really like the genre, I don’t enjoy sitting in a theater and getting scared. Since Scream did well, and the new formed Dimension Films that did the movie started hiring for a lot of genre pictures like that. I began to get over my fear I guess.  

Dimension Films
Screen Gems – Well you have been involved in some really memorable films in recent years as a result. You are recently featured in the interesting new Documentary Score: A Film Music Documentary which hit theaters on June 16th. How did you become involved?  

Marco Beltrami – The guys who were making the film called up and mentioned what they were doing. I wasn’t too busy at the time and thought, “Sure, why not, it would be fun.” I had not seen many Documentaries on music in film, I didn’t know what to expect from it. They mentioned they were going around and had interviews set up with other people and I liked the concept of what they were doing. I thought it would be fun to participate. I went to see it and it was really eye-opening.

We all work in our own space, it is not a very social business. Once in awhile we meet other composers at an event, but to get in and see the inside of other composer’s studios and see what they do, and just to hear on a certain level we all sort of see things similarly, it was very enjoyable. The movie did a very good job of tying it together. 

Summit Entertainment
CBS Films – Yes, and as you mentioned, there are not many Documentaries on this topic. This Documentary really brings to light a lot of important aspects of film that the average consumer does not think much of unfortunately. Tell us, when you compose for a film, how do you find the right moods to fit scenes?  

Marco Beltrami – That is a tough thing sometimes where the inspiration comes from. Watching the movie, I try and figure out an emotional context for it – what would be the simplest musical description of the music? Sometimes it will be in the form of a simple melody or even just the sounds. Just working from a real general perspective to approaching different scenes, it is sort of like a puzzle and conceptualizing it in the head. Sometimes it happens very quickly, sometimes it can take a while. For Logan, it was about two weeks before I had an idea of what I wanted to do. It can be a bit of a trying time. Until you have something, you have nothing and it can be daunting. 

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox – One can imagine that can be difficult. Like a writer trying to find the right words, you are trying to find the right sounds. It is certainly a intriguing Documentary. As you said, you learned a lot as well since you normally work in very closed environments. 

Marco Beltrami – Yes, it is great to see we share the same problems. It is a very solitary business. – That said, you have worked with a great deal of film directors in your career. Does your vision often align with that of the director from the start, or does it take some work at times? 

Marco Beltrami – There too, it can be, since music is such an abstract language, a director can say words to you and express what he means, be very clear in their mind to what they are saying, but certain things don’t mean the same to you when you are talking about music. It is easy with directors you have worked with in the past. When it is someone new, it is sort of figuring out what they intend to say – finding that discrepancy between what they are saying and what they intend to say. Often, you will hear general words and that can mean a million different things. Figuring out what the director means when he says that can be a challenge. It is not like a word corresponds to a musical phrase, it is more abstract.

When I see a picture it will resonate with me an emotional feeling. That is why I think there is where the cross of fun and creativity happens in the film business, it is a collaboration. On a true collaboration, you are actually working together and showing each other new ways of doing things. The director might inspire me in ways I haven’t even thought in the past, and vice versa. It has happened both ways and it has happened often at times in most of the pictures I have worked on. I think that is one of the things I like most about film scoring. 

Gravitas Ventures

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