Interview with Darren Gordon Smith

Darren Gordon Smith is a composer who is most known for his “Repo! The Genetic Opera”. The film started as a Ten-Minute Opera that Darren created with Terrance Zdunich and since then it has become a cult phenomenon spawning a huge fan base and weekly midnight screenings. MovieMikes has the opportunity to talk to Darren about the process of bringing “Repo” from the beginning to its present cult form.

Click here to purchase “Repo! The Genetic Opera”

Mike Gencarelli: Darren, You Co-Created “Repo! The Genetic Opera”, how did you come up with the story? What inspired it?
Darren Smith: The idea was based on a friend of mine, who had a dental practice and he was getting all of his equipment repossessed. I started thinking it was sort of absurd, like people were going to sitting in the dentist office in the middle of a procedure and they just come and take their equipment. I started then thinking about what if you had bought body organs on credit. The health care system got so bad that you couldn’t even buy a heart unless you made payments on it. That was the genesis of the idea. At the time Terrance Zdunich, my partner, and I were doing Ten-Minute Opera performing all over LA. He had an idea about a grave robber and his idea was taking back into the 19th century. I said we should combine this with my idea and make it set in 2056. We made a Ten-Minute Opera called “Necromerchant’s Debt”. We would do this mini rock opera performed by the both of us and it turned out that it was the one that people loved the best. We decided to make it into a full scale show. From that “Repo” was born.

Mike Gencarelli: What was your process for coming up the music for the film?
Darren Smith: That is a great question, I do have a background in classical music and compositions and a music degree from NYU. Having said that I definitely play a lot of different kinds of music. The Ten-Minute Operas we did ranged from 18th century harpsichord music to Nine Inch Nails to Led Zepplin. We did whatever. When it came to “Repo”, we loved the idea of the obscurity of the main guys and the over the top nature of the Italian opera. So when we were writing “Repo” that is when I started doing more research in opera. I focused on trying to use the right light composition and how to structure an opera both musically and story-wise.

Mike Gencarelli: How was it like working which such an amazing cast?
Darren Smith: We had THE best cast ever for the movie. That really helped us to expand our music. When you are you are writing for someone like Sarah Brightman, you can expand the music because since she can sing almost anything. Darren Bousman deserves a lot of credit as the director. Darren, Terrance and myself had a hand in every aspect of the production, from the visual, costuming, props, and music. It was a really great experience.

MG: “Repo” was the first feature film you wrote, how did you find the process of bringing the music to the big screen?
We did the Ten-Minute Opera first, then in 2002 we did a full scale opera on stage. We had experience doing the whole process on stage. Then we did it off-broadway at the Wings Theatre in NYC in 2005. When we got the go ahead green light from Lionsgate for the film, on the one hand it wasn’t a huge leap and the other hand it was. When I say that it is because Terrance and I have always envision “Repo” would be a film. We wanted to have total control over the visual element and things you just can’t do when you are doing stage with 99 seats. Unlike a lot of films, we work-shopped the music and the story over the course of almost ten years. We had a good feeling of what was going to work with the audience and what was not.

MG: How do you affected by the responses the film has got so far, some are comparing it to Rocky Horror Picture Show?
DS: Yeah, certainly. We are humbled by that since “Rocky Horror” is brilliant. We are on the shoulders of giants. It is gratifying, honestly over the years we have developed a cult following. I knew that “Repo” was going to find its audience and will be kind of “Rocky Horror” phenomena. I didn’t think it would happen as quickly as it has. We had this $8.5 million dollar budget but Lionsgate only gave us $200,000 dollars for publicity, which is almost nothing. The film was almost buried from the start. I thought it would be like “Rocky Horror” where it would be years before we even make profit. We beat that already plus more. It is amazing that we have these 45 or more groups in the world who Shadowcast and act out the whole film. These groups know every nuance to the music and the story. Here we are less than a year and a half since the film was released. On a daily basis, I get emails and at least ten new people on Facebook every day asking me questions about the film.

MG: Would you ever consider bringing back it to the stage with all its new popularity?
DS: Yeah great question, absolutely! We would like to do it on a large scale and kind of leaving the options open. I actually want to do this as a permanent stage show in Las Vegas. It will be like Cirque De Solei meets Blue Man Group meets Deep Throat [laughs]. Just really push the envelope for what you can see in Vegas. I would also want to be able to tour with some live musicians from the soundtrack and have me perform with them along with some cast members and do a road tour.

MG: What other projects do you have in the works?
DS: First, we are working on sequel idea for “Repo” and we think we are definitely planning another movie. I am already working on the story and music with Terrance. The other things is I do have another rock opera that I have been writing. Without going into too much detail it is like the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” but in reverse. Rather than the protagonist realizing if they weren’t born things would be worse off. It is reverse and due to a series of bad decisions, it tells how the world would have been a better place without them being born. That is what I am working on right now.

Click here to purchase “Repo! The Genetic Opera”


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