Interviews

Here you will find the latest interviews. If you're searching for older interviews then please visit the Archives.

All Access: Geoff Zanelli

posted by Kaya Savas

Geoff Zanelli is one of the most prolific and busy composers working in the industry. He is one the kindest, hardest working and supremely talented people in this industry and his career is a reflection of that. We sit down to discuss it all, from the early days of cleaning the bathrooms at Media Ventures / Remote Control Productions, becoming John Powell's assistant, and all the way to helming Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Geoff recounts some amazingly fun stories from his films with David Koepp, working with David Duchovny, Into The West, The Pacific, the madness of The Lone Ranger and William Tell Overture, his history on the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise and more. Geoff was in fact our very first interview ever on Film.Music.Media, so it was an honor to go all out here with this immensely inspiring All Access.

Interview Produced & Presented By:
Kaya Savas

Special Thanks:
Geoff Zanelli
Zak McNeil
Emilie Erskine
Jordon Von Netzer
Impact 24 PR

All Access: Geoff Zanelli



Visit geoffzanelli.com for more!

Composer Interview: Batu Sener

posted May 19, 2017, 11:39 AM by Kaya Savas

A lot of hopeful aspiring storytellers migrate to Los Angeles every year from around the world in the hopes they can turn their passion into a living. This includes writers, production designers, costumers, directors, producers, actors, cinematographers and yes composers. You’ve heard the phrase, “you gotta start somewhere” and “getting your foot in the door”. Many aspiring young people are always looking for that opportunity.

The one thing you learn is that everyone’s journey is so uniquely different. It takes a whole lot of hard work, passion, talent, determination and luck to make it in Los Angeles. And it’s not as simple as being an intern who serves coffee for a year or two and then finally getting their chance.

In the composing world, we’ve seen many young composers rise through the ranks before finally branching out into their own. Again, that’s the general path. Everyone you meet will have their own special story.

One of those special stories is from a young Turkish composer, Batu Sener whose passion and hard work landed him working with composer John Powell. Batu has worked alongside John on scores such as Jason Bourne, Pan and the upcoming Ferdinand.

Interview Conducted By:
Kaya Savas




FMM: Batu, thanks so much chatting today and sharing a bit about your story. So, I’d love to know what made you want to pursue film composing as a career. Did you discover the passion for composition early in your life? And at what point did you decide to focus on film music?

Batu: Of course, thank you! I was never going to be a composer, actually. I remember, early on, in harmony, music theory classes during high school years, all of my professor said to me that I’d be a great composer if I had stopped pursuing the solo piano career. I was quite determined then. Only towards to end of my teens, I started getting more and more into writing. Of course, I’d written several things until then but I had not considered making a living as a composer. It wasn’t until I watched WALL-E that something clicked inside. A switch immediately turned my life upside down and helped me decide to go for it. I was always interested in film music but in short, Thomas Newman’s score to WALL-E did the trick. 



FMM: What kind of composers, either classic or film composers did you listen to (or are still listening to)? 

BS: I did appreciate the music in films but I was heavily invested in classical music in my listening routine. Actually, if I went all the way back, the reason that I’m a musician today is Ella Fitzgerald. I remember, in the early 90s, I caught a show on television where she was a musical guest, a talk show, it must have been, and that she was singing ‘Body and Soul’. Actually, there’s a video of a similar performance –if not the same– on YouTube.* Imagine a kid hearing this and being astonished by it. What a diva!
Nevertheless, I did listen to and do continue listening to all the Russian jewels, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, as well as the French impressionists, from Mozart to Alban Berg, really. Everyone. I constantly get new study scores and, well, study them.

As far as film composers, I was very much impressed with Newman and John Powell. Of course, John Williams, Goldsmith, Éric Serra and so on.

*You can listen to the performance that Batu mentioned here.



FMM: I’d love to know about your journey in making the decision to move to the US, going to school here and of course “getting your foot in the door”. Take us through that part of your life. How did you end up where you are today?

BS: It all really happened after WALL-E. I was away from home for college, attending a classical music conservatory. Jumped on a plane, went back home, to Izmir. I got mom and dad in front of me and said “I’m going to be doing composing for films from now on, there’s this school in Boston that I’d wish to apply."

That’s one way of doing it, I suppose.

From then on, I moved to the US and went to Berklee. One thing I did not expect was to finish my undergraduate degree in two years there. So, half way through the program, I started looking into grad school options in the same field.

Not because you need a higher degree or any kind of degree to be doing this job but because I was simply afraid to move to Los Angeles and try to make it, you know? I just said to myself: “hold on a second, you just got here, early 20s, what’s the rush?”

I went on to attend Columbia for grad school. Did another two years there and then moved to LA.



FMM: Can you take us through the time when you started working for John? Did the opportunity pop up by chance? Or did you hear that he was looking for help and pursued it?

BS: The way I met John was quite a dream. He was interested in taking a new set of hands/ears then and I submitted my stuff to him. I’m incredibly grateful that he offered me the position at the time.



FMM: Now, you know more than anyone that John is such a fun, caring and easy-going guy. But back then, were you nervous at all sort of stepping into this fast-paced world?

BS: We’d be here talking about John’s kindness forever if I start getting into it. But in short, yes, one of the most kind, most fun, most amazing persons I’ve ever met.

And yes, of course, I was nervous. Not only was I stepping into this world but also stepping into it with him, or should say through him. I didn’t know what to expect at all. – and being a foreigner brings other roadblocks to the table. I was also nervous about how to maintain my presence in the US working with John. You get an opportunity like that, the last thing you want is having the leave it because of legal reasons. Yet, John was very welcoming. He was and still is an incredible mentor and to this day, he continuously amazes me.



FMM: What were some of things you learned from John, and I suppose are still learning from him? Has being in this role sort of given you a crash-course in both the production and business side of making music for films?

BS: I think I learnt to be a better musician, before even becoming a better composer. He introduced me to so many different aspects of music, before film music. Really. Experiencing this industry from where I am is definitely an eye opener.



FMM: For me, I usually have to make a mistake to learn from it. Someone can tell me “don’t do this”, and sure I’ll remember it but I will still end up making that mistake once or twice before I truly learn from it. Do you have the ability to sort of make mistakes and learn from them, or is there little room for error in the role you have?

BS: Yes and no. No, because there isn’t room for error in this industry. Actually, we should say there isn’t time for it. I also live by a very harsh standard in my work. I try my best to never be in a situation that would require me to say that I’m sorry. Of course, we’re all humans. Like everyone else, I make mistakes, and do learn from them. But I try to make mistakes during the off times, where trial and error will not stop the production, you know? In between projects, I continue writing everyday, a bit or a lot, you learn from experimenting. You learn what you can do, what you’re not really good at, what you need to be improving in your writing.

If I’m saying sorry because of a mistake that stops the production for 2 days, or 2 hours, then it’s kind of too late. I know that a lot of people I’ve spoken to about this ideology don’t agree with me on it. But I guess, that’s just me.



FMM: So how are you taking everything you’re learning and applying it to yourself as a storyteller and a composer? Has working with John changed the way you approach doing your own solo compositions?

BS: Well, first off, I wish I went to Drama school.

(laughs)

Storytelling is everything. John is an extremely gifted storyteller through music. Being here with him definitely improved the way I read the picture, interpret it, and execute the music. Working with John had and continues to have an indispensible effect on my music. Even a casual chat about music opens up a whole new dimension. My own writing has developed quite a lot over the years, of course, but the pace of it skyrocketed recently.



FMM: For you personally, what about a film speaks to you the most when you’re coming up with that first note? Is it the character’s personality, the story itself, the framing of a shot? What’s kind of the first thing that grabs you and starts getting a musical idea flowing?

BS: I’d say what it makes you feel like. What it makes you remember in your past, or what it makes you resonate with your current thought and feelings. Filmmaking is very interesting. Very involved. It is often hard to be objective about what you’re seeing -- sometimes hard to get involved. But all of it, really, the story, the cinematography.



FMM: If you could score any film ever made, pretending the original score never existed with no disrespect to the original composer, which film would you choose?

BS: Hmm, many... The Game (1997), possibly, by David Fincher, music by Howard Shore. Oh, or I could go with The Prestige (2006).



FMM: In your career so far, what has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned that you wish you knew earlier?

BS: Researching and writing every day. I used to be rather lazy or used to feel uninspired about my writing. Granted you’re busy with school and once you’re done with your assignments, the only thing you want to go for is a pint of Heineken, you know? Not to go back to writing...

It wasn’t until I moved to LA and met John that I started writing everyday. Not finishing and polishing a piece a day but, you know, continuing to be actively writing, studying, experimenting, being aware of yourself as a musician, as a composer. Reminding yourself that you can only get better by writing and continue writing.
I remember one of the first advices that John gave me was to write a minute of music everyday.

Well, that’s a hard task.

(laughs)

But it’s good advice. – and research. There’s an incredible variety of amazing music out there. Sure, in film music too, but a study score of a 20th century symphony can teach you a lot.



FMM: Thanks Batu so much for your time and congratulations on your accomplishments so far. I can’t wait for what’s to come in the future!

2017 BMI Film, TV & Visual Media Awards

posted May 12, 2017, 2:37 PM by Kaya Savas

Every year BMI celebrates the accomplishments of their artists at the annual Film, TV & Visual Media Awards. This year, the prestigious Icon Award was given to Alan Silvestri as the entire industry reflects back on Alan's amazing work as a composer. Film.Music.Media was on-hand again this year to chat with some of our favorite composers on the red carpet, including Alan Silvestri. You'll find all of our red carpet interview's from this year's red carpet right here!

Interviews Produced & Presented By:
Kaya Savas


(Photos by Kaya Savas)

2017 BMI Awards: Alan Silvestri

2017 BMI Awards: Brian Tyler

2017 BMI Awards: John Ottman

2017 BMI Awards: Jeff Danna & Mychael Danna

2017 BMI Awards: Christopher Lennertz

2017 BMI Awards: Dominic Lewis

2017 BMI Awards: Trevor Morris

2017 BMI Awards: Tyler Bates

2017 BMI Awards: Rob Simonsen

2017 BMI Awards: Tony Morales

2017 BMI Awards: Sean Callery

2017 BMI Awards: Charlie Clouser

2017 BMI Awards: Kevin Kliesch

All Access: Elik Álvarez & Freddy Sheinfeld

posted May 2, 2017, 11:14 AM by Kaya Savas

On this All Access we dive into the world of two composers who have successfully established both a composing partnership as well as their own solo career paths. Elik Álvarez and Freddy Sheinfeld are behind some of the most popular animated series such as Ultraman: Tiga, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The two of them have also worked on fantastic nature documentaries hosted by the great David Attenborough including Kingdom Of Plants, Galapagos, Micro Monsters and David Attenborough’s Conquest of The Skies. While Elik and Freddy frequently work together with the amazing Joel Douek, it’s their bond and friendship over the years that has made their story a unique one. They are both from Venezuela but didn’t even realize they were both from the same country at first until others told them. Hear their unique journey of moving to Los Angeles, getting their degrees, going through composing bootcamp by writing music for animated series such as Yu-Gi-Oh!, starting their own company and still maintaining their careers as solo composers. Elik and Freddy are two extremely talented musical voices, and their insights shine an amazing light on what it’s like to carve your own path in this industry.

Interview Produced & Presented By:
Kaya Savas

Special Thanks:
Elik Álvarez
Freddy Sheinfeld
Beth Krakower
The Krakower Group

All Access: Elik Álvarez & Freddy Sheinfeld


For more on Elik, visit elikalvarez.com
Fore more on Freddy, visit freddysheinfeld.com

Composer Interview: Cris Velasco

posted May 1, 2017, 9:57 AM by Kaya Savas

Composer Cris Velasco is one of the most respected and in-demand talents in the video game composing world. For this discussion we re-visit Cris’ own journey to becoming a composer and why he decided to start his career with a focus on vide game composition. We chat about the different techniques and approaches Cris uses when he writes music including letting the music play in loops around his house while he does chores so he can see if any of his melodies become annoying or irritating. We dive into Cris’ recent projects such as his involvement in Overwatch, the approach he took while working on Resident Evil 7 and his new series Dimension 404 which airs on Hulu. Dimension 404 is a unique anthology series that follows in the footsteps of classic series like The Twilight Zone where episodes are a standalone story requiring a different style of music for each narrative. Cris is one of the most fun and creative minds in the business and it was so great to get a glimpse into his world once again!

Interview Produced & Presented By:
Kaya Savas

Special Thanks:
Cris Velasco
Greg O’Connor-Read
Top Dollar PR

Composer Interview: Cris Velasco


Visit monarchaudio.com for more!

Composer Interview: Vivek Maddala

posted May 1, 2017, 9:51 AM by Kaya Savas

Composer Vivek Maddala has created wonderful scores in the world of film, especially in documentary filmmaking. Hear about his unique background where he was on the path to becoming a scientist, and was extremely successful in his field when he felt the call of composing pull him into that career path. Vivek talks about his approach and techniques to scoring, and we dive into his recent project which is scoring The Tom And Jerry Show which airs on Cartoon Network. We discuss the amazing history of Tom And Jerry and how the original series' style of scoring cartoon shorts has lived on through the years. Vivek talks about how he approaches this modern take on the classic cartoon duo, and how he focuses on keeping the traditions of Scott Bradley and "mickey-mousing" slapstick alive, while still adding character and thematic touches. Vivek shares some amazing and fun insights in this great discussion!

Interview Produced & Presented By:
Kaya Savas

Special Thanks:
Vivek Maddala
Chandler Poling
Adrianna Perez
White Bear PR

Composer Interview: Vivek Mandala


Visit maddala.com for more!

Composer Interview: Heather Christian

posted Mar 30, 2017, 3:26 PM by Kaya Savas

Composer Heather Christian is behind the score to the acclaimed Sundance hit Lemon! Lemon is directed by Janicza Bravo and stars Brett Gelman, Judy Greer, Michael Cera, Nia Long, Rhea Perlman Martin Starr, Megan Mullally and many more. Heather enters the film music industry as a fresh voice bringing a unique background and passion to the field. Hear her path to becoming a composer and how she tackled working on a unique film like Lemon. Heather also shares her personal views as a female composer starting her career in a male-dominated profession.

Interview Produced & Presented By:
Kaya Savas

Special Thanks:
Heather Christian
Brielle Schiavone
The Music Sales Group

Composer Interview: Heather Christian


Visit heatherchristian.com for more!

Composer Interview: Fil Eisler

posted Mar 25, 2017, 9:48 AM by Kaya Savas

Composer Fil Eisler takes some time to discuss two of his recent projects with CHiPs and Newtown. Fil talks about his unique path to film composing and how his love of playing in bands meshed with orchestral music. We dive into Newtown which revolves around the Sandy Hook tragedy. Fil discusses the role of documentary filmmaking and how it can help start a conversation about an important subject such as gun control. We also discuss CHiPs and how Fil worked with director Dax Shephard to create a score with both band elements and orchestral action. The whole goal of CHiPs was to stay away from the conventional "studio rock" sound that is in modern R-rated comedies these days. Fil is one of our favorite guests and it was so great to have him back to catch up on his recent projects.

Interview Produced & Presented By:
Kaya Savas

Special Thanks:
Fil Eisler
Jason Kim
Allie Bloxberg
CW3PR

Composer Interview: Fil Eisler


Visit izler.com for more!

Jeff Rona: All Access - Episode 2

posted Mar 17, 2017, 9:39 AM by Kaya Savas

Jeff Rona returns to join us once again on another episode of All Access. We visit Jeff at his studio to discuss his newest score to the film Veeram, an Indian film adaptation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth. Jeff walks us through the journey of scoring a major Indian blockbuster and why they sought out an American composer for the film. Jeff walks us through some of the score including the thematic structure as well as how 3 versions of the score exist since the film was shot in 3 languages, shot not dubbed. Beyond that we discuss some broader subjects such as working with directors and navigating working relationships with all the different personalities out there. Jeff also shares his love for world instruments and how he utilizes certain sounds in his music. Also hear how Jeff learned some basic scoring fundamentals early in his career when he visited his friend who happened to be scoring hardcore porn at the time. Jeff is a treasure trove of amazing insight and fun conversation and it was an honor to have him back on as a guest.

Interview Produced & Presented By:
Kaya Savas

Special Thanks:
Jeff Rona
Kelly Seal
Cody Johnson

All Access: Jeff Rona - Episode 2



Visit http://jeffrona.com for more!

All Access: Klaus Badelt

posted Mar 1, 2017, 9:40 AM by Kaya Savas

On this episode of All Access we are incredibly honored to be welcoming Klaus Badelt. Klaus quickly rose to prominence while working under great composers such as Hans Zimmer and Michael Kamen. Hear Klaus share what led him to pursue film music as a career, and stories from some of his most beloved scores. We dive into such scores as Ned Kelly, The Time Machine, Beat The Drum, Invincible, The Pledge, Rescue Dawn and Pirates Of The Caribbean. Klaus shares details about the hectic journey of working on the first Pirates Of The Caribbean, what Werner Herzog is like as a director, living in China to compose The Promise and the 2008 Olympics Closing Ceremony, the bizarre experience of working on Basic with John McTiernan, and the approach he took on his newest score to The Warrior’s Gate. Klaus has built an amazing career and has always continually pursued new opportunities that appealed to him, from composing for French cinema to starting his own tech company with Kinonation. Klaus' current focus is with his company Kinonation where he is solving the issue of worldwide distribution by letting content makers keep ownership of their content while getting it front of a wide audience via top streaming companies such as Amazon, Hulu and Netflix for no cost. We hope you enjoy this fantastic discussion with the kind, passionate and talented Klaus Badelt.

Interview Produced & Presented By:
Kaya Savas

Special Thanks:
Klaus Badelt

All Access: Klaus Badelt



Visit klausbadelt.com for more!
Visit kinonation.com to learn more about Klaus' company and see how you can distribute your own content worldwide.

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