An Interview with Frederik Wiedmann by John Mansell © 2009
In recent years many of the veteran film music composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Alex North, Henry Mancini and their like have passed away, many collectors and film music enthusiasts have felt that their passing has left a void within the film music fraternity that will never be filled. However with young talented composers such as Frederik Wiedmann coming into play, we still have hope of returning to film scores that have substance, atmosphere and presence.
Your latest score to be released onto CD is THE HILLS RUN RED, how did you become involved on this project?
A few people from the crew of RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (Dark Castle Ent.) worked on THE HILLS RUN RED – so they called me to meet with director Dave Parker. I showed Dave some of my music and we discussed what would be most effective in his film. Shortly afterwards I started scoring it – which took about 3 months.
You utilised the Czech film music orchestra on the score for THE HILLS RUN RED, was this something that you wanted to do, or was it for budget reasons etc?
It was budgetary reasons that I had to record in Eastern Europe. I have worked with the Czech Philharmonics many times before, always had a great experience with them. The orchestra performs at a very high musical level, and I am always happy with the result. Their in-house engineer, Milan Jilek, is a pro, and knows how to achieve the sound I am going for. Plus having great orchestrations to begin with (created by Hyesu Yang), helps get the best results in Prague.
When you start work on a project, how early in the proceedings do you like to become involved. Is it helpful for you to see a script, or do you prefer to get onboard at the rough cut stage of the process?
Usually I get really involved with writing music at the “rough cut” stage. Although it happened on a few occasions that I was given a script way in advance, which helps me to prepare for the project, meaning I have a lot of time to create new sounds that will be unique to the film. In some cases there are certain on-camera music situations that need to be dealt with way before they even start shooting, in which case I am actually writing before the shoot.
What composers would you say have influenced you in your style and approach to scoring movies?
I would say that my biggest influence has been composer John Frizzell. I used to be his tech assistant a few years ago and worked on over 20 pictures for him. I’ve learned a lot about the process of scoring feature films, as well as the technical side of music production, which has become a great asset of mine.
There are many other composers that I admire for their music, probably too many to list here in this interview.
You were responsible for additional music on WHITEOUT, was this because the producer/director felt more music was required after the main score had been recorded?
No. The reason for the “additional” music credit was merely the amount of music we had to produce, record, mix etc in a short period of time. I was really brought in to help out where I could. It was a rather complex score, with lots of percussion and synth elements that needed a lot of attention.
When did you first think about writing music for film?
I believe the score that made me aware of this profession was John Barry’s DANCES WITH WOLVES. I went to see the film back in Germany when I was 12 years old, and fell in love with the music. It was also the first soundtrack I ever owned. However, at that time I didn’t really know much about scoring films, so I really started to consider it as a career when I met composer Nik Reich in Germany. He showed me how he worked and it completely blew my mind, and it was very clear to me that it was what I wanted to do.
Where and when were you born ?
I was born in 1981 in Stuttgart, Germany.
Were any of your family musical in any way?
Well, my sister, Katrin Wiedmann is a professional singer-songwriter in Germany. If we got any influence from the previous generation in my family, it should be my parents. My father is an orthopaedic surgeon and my mother is a teacher at the Gymnasium. However my parents love classical music and listen to it all the time. My dad even plays classical piano as his hobby. Besides that, I think I grew up listening to a lot of Brahms and Mozart.
What musical education did you receive?
I played the violin from age 6 to 14, then switched to Jazz Guitar. My guitar teacher Hans Hazoth taught me not only about playing guitar, but also showed me the depth of music theory, which opened my eyes (and ears) in a completely new way. That’s when I started to compose a lot, while still in high school. After graduation I moved to Boston, Mass., and attended Berkley College of Music, where I graduated as a film scoring major in ‘05.
When working on a score, how do you work out your musical ideas, do you use a synth/computer? Or do you stay with the more conventional piano and manuscript process?
I write, produce and mix in Logic 9 Studio. There are very few occasions where I work out a theme on a piano or manuscript paper. It happens mostly in my computer. Everything has to be mocked up eventually these days, and I get more inspired if I have all the instruments at my finger tips, as opposed to just a piano.
How many times do you like to watch a film, before getting any ideas about where music is best placed, and what type of music you will compose?
I’d say on average I watch the film once by myself, take notes on things that I feel while watching it for the first time. Then I like to watch it with the director, or producer (whoever will be directing me), and hear their thoughts. Then I watch it again on my own, with both ideas written out, and I can usually start the scoring process from there.
What do you think about the temp track process, by this I mean do you find a temp track helpful, or maybe off putting?
More often than not, I find it helpful. In most cases I am not given a lot of time to complete my scores, and usually my movies require a lot of music (70 – 80 minutes). It is good to have a starting point, that everyone (producers, directors etc.) agrees with. In rare cases, you can end up shooting in the dark too many times to find the right “tone” for a film, which takes away a lot of time of the actual scoring process.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on Robert Lee King’s (PSYCHO BEACH PARTY) latest comedy, called 818. We are still in the final stages of the scoring process, but a large chunk of it has already been recorded, featuring vocalists and primarily guitars.
Another film that we just completed is called CYRUS, starring Halloween’s Danielle Harris, Lance Henriksen and Brian Krause. This one is a dark thriller, about a serial killer/cannibal somewhere in the mid-west. This score features western/country instruments like Dobros, Fiddle, and Acoustic Guitars.
When a score of yours is released onto compact disc, do you have any input into what tracks are to go onto the disc?
In most cases I make the selection and the edits for a soundtrack. On THE HILLS RUN RED I chose the tracks together with director Dave Parker. He was very involved in the score creation and like me; he wanted the soundtrack to be as interesting as it can possibly be. You can thank him for the great titles of the soundtrack.
What do think of the state of film music at this moment in time?
These days I feel that more and more people realize the importance of film music. There’s also a rising number of universities offering film scoring courses, in the past few years there have been many new film music festivals in many different countries, as well as film music concerts. I am really glad to see all this happening. I feel grateful to be a part of this industry.
What do you think is the purpose of music in film?
I believe the music in a film has to help tell the story. The musical underscore should never feel self-important, and should only express what’s necessary to emphasize the emotions of the story.
Do you conduct at all?
I have conducted in the past, I do however prefer to sit in the booth and produce the score from there. Then I can really focus on everything that is important to me. While conducting I am mostly too focused on things that won’t help me create the best score possible.
What do you do musically away from film?
There are many other media, besides film, that require music, and I was lucky enough to be a part of that industry as well, such as website sound design, commercials etc.
Many thanks to the composer, for his time and also his patience