TAEM Interview with Film Composer Cory Perschbacher

warTAEM- In the production of a film there is much that goes into its creation that could bring it success. A music score has always been the hallmark of a great film. The Arts and Entertainment Magazine would like to uncover the this field to give our readers a better understanding of it. Because many of our readers are college students, we feel that  it is important to shed some light on this subject. We, therefore, would like to introduce composer Cory Perschbacher to our readership and ask his help in doing so.

Cory, what educational steps did you take for your career and why did you choose it ?

CP- For education, I went to school for audio engineering, but I was recording my own music since I was fifteen, and learned by doing and also by reading interviews, watching videos, and talking one on one with other film composers. I would like to go back to school someday to learn as much as I can about music.

TAEM- Your first composition appeared on film in 2010. Tell us about this film and how you were able to compose the music for it.

CP- The first film I composed music for was Ted West’s horror/comedy feature, “Bikini Vampire Babes”. I had contacted Ted about doing photography for a band I’m in, and soon found out that he was making a feature-length movie. I had wanted to do something like that for a while, so I naturally mentioned the idea of having me do the score. I ended up providing some music for many scenes. Most of my music was placed into the film by a music supervisor, so I actually only composed music to a few scenes, and the rest was music from royalty-free websites and local bands. Still, it is the first film in which I’m credited as a composer on IMDb.

TAEM- For the next two years you provided the musical score to a number of short films. Who sets the parameters for the music and what license are you given to create it?

CP- It is different for every director. Some are very specific about the score, while others allow creative freedom. Communication is usually done via email or phone. It’s also important to make sure a contract is typed up to protect the composer and filmmaker.

cory pianoTAEM- How do you create the various themes for these films and add them into the framework of the production?

CP- I usually start with one track of piano, strings, or a pad, and figure out a series of notes that sound good while also getting the tempo of the scene down. Most of the time, I use a metronome, but there are many times when it’s best not to. I’ll sometimes record a few different variations of a cue for the director to chose what works best.

TAEM- How is the film presented to you in order for you to compose the musical score to it?

CP- I ask for a picture-locked version of the film because retiming any cue after it was already done with precision is never fun. Usually, I’m doing the score while sound design, color, and other things like that are being done, so the version I get won’t sound and look as good as it will when it is complete. I love seeing the final version after so much work has gone into it.

TAEM- In what way do you present your music ? Do you have an orchestra for your work, and what type of electronic instrumentation do you apply ?

CP- I record midi mock-ups that I give to the director for approval. After that, I bring in the necessary musicians to replace the midi tracks. Sometimes, there is no need for another musician. Once it’s all done, I give it to the director for final approval.

TAEM- During this period you also composed the music for the films The Unusual Calling of Charlie Christmas and The Unrest. What were the themes of these films, and tell us something about them?

CP- Adam Hampton’s THE UNUSUAL CALLING OF CHARLIE CHRISTMAS is the story of a man who fights injustice in his hometown in Oklahoma as a masked vigilante. It deals with real topics like bullying and domestic abuse, and carefully blends comedy with drama. This was my second film to be involved with, but it was the first movie that I was serious about scoring. This is the one that I learned the most from.

Mark Williams’ THE UNREST is a suspenseful ghost story about a young girl and her mother who, after the death of the father, moved to a town where paranormal activity happens and dark secrets from the town are revealed. It is based on a true story.

TAEM- These two films were full-length productions as compared to some of the ‘short films’ that you worked on earlier. What music adaptation did you need to create for them, and how difficult was it to do so?

CP- I tend to give most of the main characters their own musical theme. Being able to play the themes in various ways is something I enjoy a lot. The same notes can be presented in many different ways depending on what’s happening in the film. The theme can be played as sad, scared, happy, etc. and still be recognizable as a particular character’s music. It’s also fun to mix two or more themes of different characters into the same cue.

TAEM- We understand that there are many film projects that you are currently working on. Please tell us about each of them, and the style of music that you are applying to them.

CP- I’m currently working on a TV/web series by Adam Hampton called ROUGH CUT. The pilot follows a screenwriter who is trying to make his next film, which is his best work so far, but he has to convince his usual crew to chase the same tired dreams that haven’t financially paid off. It’s a very accurate portrayal of the pros and cons of independent filmmaking. The score calls for sad and subtle music with a hint of hope in it that uses acoustic guitar and piano as the main instruments. There are a few really good songs by local musicians in it, too.

Hunter Perschbacher’s VIOLENCE is a short film with only two cast members that shows two girls who overhear something horrible through the walls of their apartment, and become unintentionally involved. This score is broken up into two parts. The first half is pleasant and almost playful, but with an undertone of uneasiness, while the second half of the score is very sinister with a mix of orchestral and synth sounds.

I’m also working on a short film by Brandon Heitkamp and Tony Germinario called DEATH’S DOOR. It is a dark comedy about a man who wants to kill himself after his girlfriend dumped him, and has second thoughts after an encounter with death himself. The music for this film has traditional orchestral instruments and some drone sounds.

cody-libraryTAEM- Is there a film genre that you find more comfortable in working on ?

CP- Because of the many different film genres, there is an opportunity to explore different areas musically, and I love switching it up from one genre to the next. Since the majority of the films I’ve worked on were dramas and suspense, though, I feel very “at home” with them.

TAEM- What projects would you be looking for to work on in the future ?

CP- There are quite a few projects coming up for the rest of the year into 2014. I’m looking forward to working on Brandon Heitkamp’s short film LONELY ROAD and action series DISAVOWED, Shaun Peter Cunningham’s chilling suspense feature STRANGER, an ambitious sci-fi/action feature from Hunter Perschbacher called RETURN OF HOURS, and Adam Hampton’s sad, lonely, and funny series ROUGH CUT. Brandon Heitkamp and Tony Germinario are going to shoot a dark, suspenseful feature next fall, and Mark Williams is going to start shooting his feature next summer. I’m also excited for ALEXUS, Choice Skinner’s upcoming sci-fi/action/cop feature. There are many more short films coming up that I’ll be working on, and I’ll be public about them soon.

TAEM- Cory, I am sure that you have opened our eyes into what is needed to create the musical scores and sound effects to make a great film possible and we are grateful to you for doing so. I want to thank you for your time in our interview and wish you much luck in all that you do in the future.

  TAEM