by Dan Goldwasser
So you just completed your third James Bond trailer: The World Is Not Enough
J: Well, it was the teaser, and we composed the first section of it.
You have done trailers for Stigmata, The Thomas Crown Affair, and other MGM/UA movies - do you have a direct relationship with the studio? How long has this been going on?
J: Our relationship actually goes quite a ways back. This will be the third regime of advertising that we have worked with.
S: One of the good things about having communication with MGM/UA is that there is a clear sense of direction directly from the studio.
J: Basically there are fewer people in the decision making mix. They will often get an outside company to cut the trailers (as well as "in house") just to make sure they have the best possible product. But when it comes to a decision about music, which is almost always the last thing, it's very direct in terms of feedback.
You composed the United Artists logo?
S: We did that with a 90-piece orchestra at the Sony Scoring Stage. It was an interesting and challenging project - we composed a 14-second version and a 4-second version of the logo. Our instructions were, "We want something that represents the past, present, and future of United Artists". So we started with classic orchestral instrumentation, moving to futuristic sounds and concepts at the end.
How did you get into the business of composing for trailers?
J: We were composing for other projects before trailers. Starr had also composed for quite a while, doing ghostwriting for other composers and recording her own CD on the Gifthorse label of jazz and world music.
S: I was also working on "The Arsenio Hall Show" at the time. In the early 1990s, our neighbor was a freelance writer for trailers, and he suggested that we write some music for a trailer for him.
J: It was a demo, and the next day we got a call asking for us to complete the project. It was Straight out of Brooklyn.
S: It was really wonderful to write something that we knew would be played in the theater, and we have found that doing trailers is great writing experience because a lot of different music styles are covered, and there's a lot going on in a short amount of time. So you can experiment, be edgy, try new ideas and have a lot of fun doing it.
What did you do on "Arsenio"?
S: I was the keyboard player in the house band. It was a live audience and a half hour away from being broadcast to the east coast - close enough that you couldnt really afford screw up! The great thing about playing on the show was being able to interact with other musicians, and keep that part of my life going, while still being able to write.
Did you find that writing music for trailers and performing on a television show was crowding your schedule?
J: It's funny when you say that because what would happen is that we would get on these very tight time schedules, and she would have to leave at 2pm to be on the stage at 2:15. We lived in Studio City at the time, and Paramount was really 10 minutes away, and she would leave at 2pm to get there by 215 and she would barely make it - and this was every day - and we'd work from very early in the morning - 5, 6 in the morning - until that time.
Have you ever found yourself to be too overloaded with projects?
J: We've been pretty fortunate. It's looked that way a number of times, but somehow it usually works out. Sometimes things get delayed a couple of days .
Since trailers are a form of advertising, have you been asked to do commercials as a result of your trailer music work?
J: Not commercial work, but long form work.
S: The gentleman we worked with on the Goldeneye Trailer hired us to score The 18th Angel for Rysher Films - that was a case of working with someone that we had worked with before on Trailers. Because of our previous experiences with him we were very attuned to his musical ideas. Everyone has their own description of musical concepts that they're trying to convey and so we really understood what he was saying when he would describe an emotional idea.
J: There have probably been a couple of times when we've done some conventional advertising (for lack of a better term) based on our film trailer work, but I can't think of anything off hand.
How many projects do you tackle per month (on average)?
S: It really depends - if we are having a really busy week we might be doing 4 projects at once - it can be insane!
How deep is your involvement with the music (after you compose it)?
S: We write it, get it ready to record, call the contractor, and record it. Whether it's with a large group as in the case of an orchestra or a small group with guitar, rhythm section or ethnic instruments, one of us will conduct and the other one will be in the booth. We mix it and then bring it to the dubbing stage where we will work with the mixer.
So if you're working on four projects in a week .
S: With certain trailers, we'll come up with some ideas, and then the picture will change - and the project is gone for days. Then all of a sudden it's back, meanwhile we may have started writing something else. It's very unusual for a project to start and end in a set period of time. Sometimes a client will call, and realize they need to finish a last minute piece, and we may need write all night to get a piece of music for the next day, but that's okay too. We're 24-hour people.
Do you find that being exposed to projects on and off can be problematic?
J: It's got pluses and minuses. One of the pluses is that quite often you'll get some new inspiration in between the times you're working on the project.
S: We get started and get in a mind set for a particular project, start working and getting into it. The upside to starting a project and then having in between time is that sometimes it is important to clear our heads and get new ideas and inspiration. The downside can be trying to get back to the place we left off.
Are you working with the trailer editors to really integrate the music and the visuals?
J: It's probably about 50/50. Often we work closely with the editors and we discuss suggestions about how we could approach something musically that would accentuate the picture.
Tell me a little about your work on The 18th Angel.
S: It's an Omen-esque picture
J: It was actually written by David Seltzer who wrote The Omen.
S: it's a very dark picture and musically there was a lot of interesting material to write for. It was inspiring because it was shot in Tuscany (one of my favorite places), and we had a symphony orchestra and the Northwest Boys Choir, which was wonderful to use. It was funny, because I'm not one who enjoys watching dark films of this nature - but I did really enjoy writing the music for it.
J: It was a really short turnaround. We have about four and a half weeks to write 83 minutes of score, and we mixed and recorded it in a week and a half.
Did you have to turn down other projects during that time?
S: We did. At that time we had just finished a couple of Movies of the Week, including one for Lifetime called Little Girls in Pretty Boxes - it was a very cool movie about gymnasts - and it was totally different. Then we did The 18th Angel, and then we did the theme song for Arsenio's new show - so there was a 4-5 month period where we really didn't do any trailers at all.
J: We did very few trailers for a while - when you get involved in the longer projects, you miss the shorter projects - then when you do the shorter projects, you miss the longer projects. With television, there is a seasonal flow to the longer projects (starting in August-September) and theres often a rush on trailers in the early summer and before the Christmas Season.
Do you find that your trailer works, which allow you to try out all sorts of different styles - have helped you with the longer projects?
S: Absolutely, however I think there are a few styles that I enjoy doing more than others do. Who I am musically comes out more through those styles.
What is your favorite style of music?
S: I love percussive, dark music. I feel that there are a lot of opportunities for beautiful melodies over percussion. Also, because I'm a piano player, I have a certain style that I tend to gravitate to when I play the piano - and I really enjoy melodic, beautiful dramatic music.
J: I would say dramatic melody-based pieces of music are probably my favorite style - I love anything that's inventive.
What are your thoughts on the lack of recognition?
S: It can be a drag! We were at a friend's house one night, and we heard the Rob Roy Trailer music coming from another room. It turns out that our friend was working on his computer and had just booted the Media Player demo on The Windows 95 CD-ROM and there was our music coming out of the speaker. It's all so anonymous. (On Rob Roy we composed the first half of the trailer, and Come See The Paradise was used for the last section.)
J: If only we received one penny per CD <laughs>
S: I think the nature of trailers is that they are associated with the film, and it would be strange to list credits for trailers in the theaters - the same goes for commercials. There are organizations that recognize trailers such as the Key Art Awards (sponsored by the Hollywood Reporter), Chicago Film Festival, London International Advertising Awards, Telly Awards, etc. and the recognition is given there.
Do you have any future projects lined up?
J: We have some features we can't talk about yet, since they're still in discussions.
S: We have some new trailers and a film logo that we're going to be working on also.
What is your dream project?
J: We are fortunate enough to have pretty much fulfilled our trailer music aspirations - I think most of our desires are in the features area - that's our growth area. It would be nice to score a few features a year in addition to continuing to compose music for trailers.
You can expect to be hearing plenty of Starr Parodi and Jeff Eden Fairs work when you go to the movies &endash; just keep an ear out! And for more information, you can always check out their website at http://members.aol.com/parodifair/index.html. For any trailer music queries, you can also check out the Trailer Music Listing at http://www.filmmusic.com/music/trailer.html