Interview with Brad Neely & Daniel Weidenfeld

Brad Neely & Daniel Weidenfeld are the guys behind Adult Swim’s new show “China, IL”. Brad is the writer, producer and star of the show and Daniel is the executive producer. The show just started airing on Adult Swim every Sunday, be sure to check it out. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with the guys about the new show and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about the journey for “China, IL” starting as web series to airing on Adult Swim?
Daniel Weidenfeld: I had worked with Brad on the shows at Super Deluxe. We had been talking about doing a four part episode. We wanted to do a television show however Super Deluxe wanted it to be a web series. We had this super complex story where we had a  four part show but in each part there were three acts. It was a very confusing. About a year and a half later, Adult Swim came to Brad about doing the show. I came on a short time after. Together we did a pilot titled “Professor Brothers”. The show ended up being picked up for series and Adult Swim wanted to develop it further. We made the show more about the world and added pupils to the characters which gave them a little more life. We also changed the name to “China, IL” and that’s where we are today.

MG: Brad, you not only write and produce the show but also voice the main character, How do you juggle those roles?
Brad Neely: It’s fun! You have to just put on different hats. Of course it’s not all just me either. While I am in doing voicing, Daniel is on the other side of the glass directing me. We have a lot of people working on the show that have editorial input.
DW: The crew here adds a lot to each frame of the show. It’s really great and we are very lucky.

MG: How did you get involved with Titmouse and Tommy Blanca who voiced the Mayor?
DW: Shannon and Chris (Prynoski) have been friends for a long time. They have done a lot of work with Adult Swim. There was a time when it looked like the show was going to be picked up just based on the written scripts. They were the first people we called.
BN: They were actually the first people I ever met with. I couldn’t imagine doing the show elsewhere. They presented a studio that had a booth in house. They were also able to do revisions and pickups on the fly. We were able to make everything run like a well oiled machine.
DW: With Tommy for the episode “Dean vs. Mayor” we had initially wanted to get Macho Man Randy Savage to go head to head with Hulk Hogan. However we couldn’t find him at the time and that was prior to him passing away. The next person we called was Tommy who used to be the head writer for the WWE. We knew he could bring that spirit to the episode. The voice he brought killed it! You’re going to be seeing a little bit more of the Mayor in the future.

MG: Tell us how Hulk Hogan came aboard to voice The Dean?
DW: It was tricky but we got him. We had to appeal to him in a way where it wasn’t about the money. He cares about doing awesome stuff! We sent him the script and he told us it was the weirdest thing he had ever seen in his life and  he wanted to be a part of it. It took some massaging and to this day we are still massaging.
BN: He has a comedy personality in him. He doesn’t just come in and do his lines. Hulk is a funny performer.

MG: Any other guest voices to keep an eye out for this season?
DW: Oh yeah!
BN: One of our favorite things about the show is the voice talent. We have Jason Alexander doing a voice in episode four.  We have Jeffery Tambor playing Baby Cakes’ dad.
DW: We also have Natasha Leggero and Chelsea Peretti doing voices. We are trying to stack the deck as much as we can. It’s been awesome!

MG: How long does each episode take from script to screen?
BN: It’s different with each as the writing process is unique for each episode.
DW: We started production in October of 2010.
BN: Right now we are finishing the tenth episode. While everyone is working on the first episodes we are writing the second half.

Interview with Blake Neely

Blake Neely is currently scoring two great shows on television “The Mentalist” and newcomer “Pan-Am”. Blake has also scored various shows like “Brothers and Sisters” and “No Ordinary Family”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Blake to chat about comparing his scores and what we can expect from the score on this Fall’s seasons.

Mike Gencarelli: What was your inspiration for the “Pan-Am” score?
Blake Neely: My first reaction was to ask”why they wanted me?” I didn’t really do that type of work and 60’s themed stuff really wasn’t in my skill set. I told them this and they told me that the show was more of an American story with big rich orchestral sounds. Since I started doing music for television, I always tried to make the music more like what you would hear in a feature length film. When you think about it a television series is like a 22 hr. movie spaced out over an entire season. When I watched “Pan-Am”, I thought it was a perfect show to be more bold and cinematic. The show travels around the world and there are multiple story lines going on. The show was an opportunity to start with a big pilot and see what I could get away with.

MG: Were you able to see episodes prior to scoring?
BN: They send me each episode with temp music in it. The temp music might have been idea as to what they are looking for. From there we have a discussion about our ideas and I go from there. I do get to see the show way before its finished.

MG: Do you find the temp tracks helpful in anyway?
BN: They can be helpful if you have never worked with a director or producer. After you work with the same clients a few times you start to develop a language and understanding. If you have never worked with someone the temps can help you gauge what they are thinking. I find it interesting because composers are like actors but they never hire temps for us. (Laughs) The biggest hindrance for me is when a film may have been tested to an audience already with a different score. If the score tests really high it can cause people to not want to change what was done so you end up mimicking what was previously done.

MG: How do you feel working on “Pan-Am” compares to working on “The Mentalist”?
BN: When I take on multiple projects I try to look for ones that are very different from each other. In this case they couldn’t be more different. On “The Mentalist” we are dealing with more electronic sounds and grooves. “Pan-Am” is orchestral and less dark. I can kind of choose which one I want to work on by the mood I am in. It’s a nice balance. I have worked on similar shows at the same time before and it’s difficult to come up with different ideas out of the same brain.

MG: How do you feel the scores for “The Mentalist” have differed from season to season?
BN: I try to keep the sound pretty much the same. I look at the music as part of a set. You aren’t going to repaint the sets or change the characters costumes. There is a familiarity that the audience wants. I tend to get bored with myself very quickly so I try to change things up. When I do make changes I have to make sure that I’m not going out of what works for the show. I have really concentrated on that with the later seasons. With “Pan-Am” I am still honing in and developing a sound for the show that will last just as long as the other.

MG: What do you find is your biggest challenge when approaching a television show?

BN: Time is the biggest challenge. On a good week I have 6 days from start to finish. On these shows there is anywhere from 20-30 minutes per show. It’s all a matter of time in getting that much music written in 6 days. You develop tricks over time that helps speed things up. When you are working on a film you have a lot more time to think about your ideas.

MG: Do you have a specific genre that you are most comfortable with?
BN: Looking back I think I am most comfortable with Americana type music. I’m also comfortable doing comedies and romantic comedies. There are certain styles you can do quickly and well. In this profession you have to be able to do all types of genres.


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