Interview with Composer Harry Manfredini

ED- We are very lucky today to have with us today Harry Manfredini. He is a well known Hollywood music composer who has scored more than ninety films. Harry, we want to thank you very much for doing this interview with us today. Tell us about how you got started in the field of music.

HM-  Well, oddly enough, I always wanted to score films from the time I was pretty young.    I had pretty much given up on the dream, when the possibility opened up while I was working on my doctorate at Columbia, and off I went..  So be careful what you dream.

ED- We also found out that you are a jazz soloist. Tell us a little about this.

HM-  I used to play the sax, and I guess I got pretty good.   I made a living playing it, I don’t thing that Coltrane, or Getz, or Paul Desmond were worried that I was going to move in on their territory..

ED- How did you begin composing the scores for feature films?

HM- Like is said, I started in NY.. mostly doing short children’s films which I still do to this day.  They are great fun and very rewarding to me.. Most of them are non verbal, so the music pretty much has to tell the story… Great training, and experience…

ED- You have written the scores for more than ninety films. Some of the most notable are the ‘Friday the 13th’ series, ‘Swamp Thing’, ‘Spring Break’, ‘Slaughter High’, and ‘Wish Master’. These are films that piqué our reader’s interest. How did you first become involved with this genre of films?

HM-  I guess just by working with Sean Cunningham…I had done two films for him which were both  PG kid films.. and one day he said to me.. “ I am going to make the scariest movie ever,  its called Friday the 13th, and you are going to score it”… I said great!..   and off we went.

ED- Some of your latest work has dealt with such films as ‘Anna Nicole’ and ‘Dead and Gone’. Please tell us a little about these films.

HM-  Anna Nicole is of course a bio film of the tragic life of  Anna Nicole Smith.  I have done quite a few films for the Hallmark Channel, and Lifetime.   This was one of them.

I just don’t kill teenagers.. ha ha..    A film composer is part composer and part dramatist.

So I do a lot of dramas, tear jerkers, chick flicks, and comedies as well.

Dead and Gone is a film I did with some friends.   Harry Shannon, an extremely talented writer, and Yossi Sasson, a young director with a great eye for film.   I was impressed with his work, and so I offered my services to score the film.  Cool flick.

ED- When you write a score for a film, how does one go about doing it?

HM-  Normally the film is completed when I get it.   I don’t like to know too much about the film before hand.  I like to see it fairly complete.  Even with a test audience or a small group.  I like to get a very good first visceral reaction to the entire film as an audience member, because those are the people to whom I have to relate my music.   I have to play them, and their emotions.  So I like to feel that reaction.   I also like to see how elements of the film that occur early, play out.. how one scene relates to the next.   And then I guess I start to build my palette of sounds, and themes, and musical material from which I am going to create the score.   I really like to have a good idea of the whole, before I start.

ED- Do you get a lot of input from the director and writers when composing the music?

HM-   Yes and No… some do, some don’t.   I like to hear their ideas.  Often there is a
“temp” score, which they might have created to help in the direction they are thinking, or perhaps they are pretty musical, and can communicate on a musical level.  Some just let me go and do my thing, and then we will meet after I have enough to have a nice meeting and show them my direction for the music.. and from there we move forward.  I am a pretty easy guy to work with.   I respect their opinion and input.. After all, it is their film.

You don’t get to be a director without some sort of idea what you are doing.  I take direction well.

ED- Tell us a little about ‘Monsterpiece Theater- Volume 1’

HM-  I wish I could, but I cant.   It was a project that I was supposed to be involved in, but I ended up not doing anything at all.  So I have no idea what it is about or what happened with it.

ED- Are there any new films that you are working on that you can tell us about?

HM-  Well, I recently finished the Black Waters of Echos Pond, which will be in a theater near you at the beginning of April I think.   It’s a pretty cool horror flick.

I am currently scoring a post WWII drama about a family in Mississippi who have lost a son in the war.  A drama.  ONE CAME HOME, Very sweet film.

An Action Film with plenty of fights… whose name is still up in the air at this point.

And a short film.. called Get Off My Porch,  from Patrick Rea, about the Girl Scout from Hell who will not take no for an answer.. great fun…

And I have in the works  some really cool flicks before the year is out.  I will have to hold off talking about these.. don’t want to jinx them..

ED- Harry, it has been a delight and an honor to do this interview with you. I know that our readers will be thrilled in learning about your work and every facet about filmmaking. It is so true that a musical score for a film can make, or break, a production, and your work has certainly help produce many popular movies. We hope that you can do more interviews with The Eerie Digest, and keep our readers updated about future projects.

HM… Thanks for asking me and for the cool questions.. my pleasure..

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