Oscar Winning Composer, Steven Price talks about his new score for “Fury”

Steven Price is the very talented composer behind the film “Gravity”, which ended up winning him last year’s Oscar for Best Score (along with numerous other awards). Steven has also worked on film like “The World’s End” with Edgar Wright and TV series like “Believe” with “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuarón. Media Mikes had a chance to follow-up with Steven to discuss his new score for “Fury” and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: You worked on the score for “Gravity” for about two years; at what point in the production did you come on board “Fury”?
Steven Price: I started on “Fury” about a year ago. I got the scripts and read through them. Usually, I am pretty useless at judging scripts. I tend to do better off waiting until I can see a little bit of what they have shot. But with this film, the script was really gripping. (Director) David Ayer has this ridiculous ability when writing characters that you feel like you totally know them in only a couple of pages, you care about them and you want to know what is going to happen to them. I loved the script. So I made a couple of calls and it turns out they were shooting it about 40 minutes from where I live. So I asked if I could visit and I actually ended up going a couple of times while they were shooting. I got to watch it being shot but also I got to spend a bit of time talking with David discussing what he was doing and what he hoped the music would be. It was an amazing opportunity to get to work with another director that really values what music can do for a film. It was important for him to have the music to carry emotion and be a part of the experience. So I was very keen to be involved.

MG: “Gravity” was set in the vast unknowns of space; tell us about how you approached “Fury”, which is set in the hell of World War II?
SP: I think “hell” was the key to it actually. We talked about what the characters had already been through by the time that we meet up with them in the first reel of the film. They have been in the war for 3-4 years by that point and have seen and done unimaginable things. They are exhausted and terrified but they have to keep going forward. So it was a matter of capturing that sense of exhaustion and of being in hell with this constant motion and this grinding forward. I wanted to capture that quality in the music whilst putting you there with the men and their emotions throughout the film. So that’s the conversation we had at the start and then had to work out how that would actually sound.

MG: I was going to ask if you looked for influence from other World War II films but this has such a unique sound for the genre and even sort of crosses over the line of horror with the use of the overlying chanting throughout.
SP: With where they are within the timeline of WW2, the film being set just 3 weeks before the Nazi surrender, I think it is easy to imagine that things were less intense at that point, but in actual fact the crews were in the middle of Nazi Germany… they were surrounded, and things were unimaginably bleak and threatening. I did a lot of work with a choir that is constantly chanting and whispering around you. It is an eerie sound in lots of ways. You never feel, like they never felt, safe for a moment. There is something that could happen that would be life ending, you never know. It was a real turning point for me, while writing, when I got the idea to use the choir in that way. I recorded them in all sorts of different ways. Sometimes it was as a choir but often times I would give them all their own individual microphones and get them saying different things. We could make it sound like individuals at times or make them sound like this group marching forward. They are only really used as a traditional choir in terms of singing at the very end of the film. So until then, they are this voice of constant persistent danger.

MG: Were you able to able anything you learned from “Gravity” on this project?
SP: I think the great thing I learned from “Gravity” experience was to just keep trying and keep experimenting with new things. That was a process for me that was really useful on this. The film was evolving as I was working on it and there was always a chance to look at something from a different angle.

MG: What were some of your biggest challenges that you faced here?
SP: The biggest challenge on this film was just getting the journeys right. Take the character, Norman (played by Logan Lerman), when we first meet him in the film and he goes from being terrified to suddenly plunged into a tank battle. So trying to figure out musically, how was his journey through the film and his growing and understanding of what it means to be in this was a challenge. Also Brad Pitt’s character, Wardaddy, was challenging since his enigma itself almost could be played musically and how much we should learn about him and his team through the music. So a lot of it were character challenges and trying to support them and their stories. That was the stuff that got me scratching my head at night and trying different things.

MG: I love that the score is so epic and yet you still have some beautiful piano work in tracks like “I’m Scared Too”.
SP: I did an early demo with piano and David sort of immediately attached to it. It is very simple piano work and all quite blunt actually in terms of the musical construction of it. They characters aren’t verbose sort of characters. They speak clearly and what they say is clear. Musically, I wanted it to be like that too. I wanted it to be very concise. The piano writing was very simple and also it needed to be played with great emotion. One of my oldest friends, who is not a full time professional musician but is a great player, ended up playing it for me. He came in and just completely understood what I wanted to do with it. His touch on the piano really made the whole thing work. We spend a long time getting the right sound for it as well. We ended up going about it in a peculiar way using two very old 1940’s microphones underneath the piano. It is not the sound that you would ordinarily do for a big posh film piano sound but it just felt right. You hear the mechanics of the piano, the pedal sounds, the contacts between the hammers and the strings and that seemed like it was suitable for this film.

MG: Since you are no longer working on “Ant-Man”; what is your next project?
SP: There is stuff knocking around a bit but not allowed to say much about anything at the moment though. But at the moment, I am in the bit where I should have been doing “Ant-Man”. Having spent a lot of time with Edgar Wright and considering him a good friend, it was never going to be an option for me to do that film. We spent so long talking about musical ideas for the film and it would have been so wrong taking it with someone else’s vision really. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to work with him again soon. But we will see what is around the corner next, yeah!

Oscar Nominated, Composer of “Gravity”, Steven Price Thanks Media Mikes Readers for Honoring Him

Steven Price, whose original score for the film “Gravity” was voted the Best of 2013 by the staff and readers of Media Mikes.com wanted to share these comments with his fans:

“Thank you so much for this honour! I’m thrilled, especially as it comes from this site. I had such fun talking to your colleague earlier in the year, and am an avid reader of the site. Thank you so much for supporting the film, and my score. It’s truly appreciated.”

Next stop for Steven Price…the Oscars on March 2nd!

Steven Price talks about composing the score for “Gravity”

I am a huge fan of film scores, always have been. I am always keeping my eyes open for a new favorite. Well, I have found him…enter Steven Price. Steven has three film scores currently under his belt including “Attack of the Block” and “The World’s End”. His latest score for the hugely successful film “Gravity” is no question the best score of the year! I have a feeling it is going to be winning many awards in the coming months. Media Mikes had a chance to chat about developing the score for this film and his involvement with the film.

Mike Gencarelli: Where you ever concerned about delivering the sound to the soundlessness of space with your score for “Gravity”?
Steven Price: It was one of those things that looking back on it I should have been absolutely terrified. At the time we were so into trying things and experimenting that I didn’t realize what a ridiculous thing that I had attempted to do until I finished it really. This was actually lucky cause otherwise I would have sat frozen to my chair and never written a note. At the time it felt like it was a great opportunity to take on this daunting task but I can see now that it was perhaps now quite an ambitious task to undertake.

MG: I felt like the score was the third member of the cast in the film; was that a goal of yours?
SP: The hope for the music was that it was going to add to this idea of immersion. The camera was floating up in space, weightless like the characters and the music was there to follow through with that. You were up in space with them and you felt like you were immersed in that. For me it is the third character in some ways but I was always closely tied to the character of Ryan. A lot of what the music was trying to do was express her emotions and feelings. The hope was certainly that it would have this immersive feel and the sense that it would really all come together as a whole experience.

MG: What did you use for inspiration to come up with this amazing score?
SP: From the word “Go”, Alfonso (Cuarón) was really clear that he didn’t want this to be a traditional film score. I didn’t go and listen to other film scores about space. I avoided things like that actually. We would listen to all types of different music and draw specific aspects from each. You might be listening to rock music one week and then the next some really extreme electronica. All of these things would trigger off little experiments that I would use to apply during the writing process. Everything was really open and we had a lot of freedom. There was no one telling us how we had to create the sound. We got to make something that really fitted this film well and that was also very distinctive.

MG: I read that the score was mixed to be enhanced with the Dolby Atmos technology; tell us about that process?
SP: Yeah! That was the last thing that we did. We came back this past summer and did a new mix for that. This film really suits with Dolby Atmos and the whole thing about it is that you are completely surrounded by speakers. They are all around you. I based a lot around the knowledge that we were doing that when I wrote it as well. You can take it to another level. So if the camera enters the helmet of Sandra Bullock, then all of the sudden the score can feel like it compressed around your head. We had a lot of fun doing that and it is easily my favorite mix. There are so few Dolby Atmos screens in the UK but it is the one that I recommend to my friends for sure in America!

MG: “Don’t Let Go” is one hell of an emotional 11+ minute track; give us some background on its development?
SP: When I wrote it originally it started as 4 or 5 cues. They all did separate things but were designed to flow together. It became the bit that I was most proud of, so that is why I put it on the album as one continuous track. It just felt like it worked so well. It starts off with the introduction of the most dramatic stuff. You’ve had all this chaos and disorientation in the film for the first 20 minutes and this was the first time when you can take a breath. So it let me do a little bit of that kind of writing style which then went into a really choreographed action section. This idea came along early in the writing process that as the actors move around that I can reflect their movement within the music. I thought that that aspect was sort of a breakthrough and I was very excited during mixing that one. I was just so happy with how it all came together and how the emotions carried through it.

MG: What was your timeline on this film?
SP: I started back in December 2011 and we finished the main film mix November/December of last year but then came back like I said this year and did a little more. So I have been involved for the better part of two years now, which in the great scheme of this project is nothing. There are people that have spent around four or five years working on it. But it was great that since it was in fact so much longer than the typical composing project on a film where you are always in a race against time that with this film you got a chance to go back and try different things. I was also involved with temp mixes with the sound crew, so we all sort of evolved the sound together. It was pretty rare and really great to see the whole project develop over the years.

MG: It’s been a busy year for you with “Gravity” and “The World’s End”, tell us about how ?
SP: I had done a film called “Attack of the Block”, in which Edgar Wright produced a few years ago. So “The World’s End” came from that basically. It was just great to work with Edgar on that film. He is so interested in his music. The whole film is so cleverly structured and the music is a part of that. You get really involved really early. Again, I got a script way before they even shot that one and got to discuss how they were going to do things and how we could adapt the sound. That was great fun and a lot of my role in that was around the energy of how everything happened in one night in the film. We got to play into a bunch of different styles since there were comedy bits, action bits and even romantic bits as well. It was just good fun to be able to press different buttons. From being in this very immersive “Gravity” world, it was great to break out and do something different.

MG: What do you have planned after this film?
SP: There are a few things that I have knocking about. Since I am relatively new to this whole composing thing and I am not one of these people that have done like 50 films, I still feel incredibly lucky to be doing it. But also I feel paranoid that it will stop all of the sudden [laughs]. So there are a few things in the works but I don’t want to curse them by talking about them just yet. But there is definitely some exciting stuff coming up!

Megyn Price talks about getting behind the director’s chair on “Rules of Engagement”

Megyn Price is best known for her TV roles like Claudia Finnerty on “Grounded for Life” and currently Audrey Bingham on “Rules of Engagement”. “Rules of Engagement” is gearing up to end its seventh season and hit 100 episodes. Megyn is getting a chance to set behind the director’s chair this season to direct her first episode, “Timmy Quits”, which airs on April 29th. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Megyn about the episode and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: Let’s talk about the episode “Timmy Quits”, what made you step behind the director’s chair?
Megyn Price: It was something I have wanted to do for several years now. It started looking into it a few years ago to see if it would be possible with our show. The thing is with acting, you can get a little tiny acting job to start out. But there are NO tiny directing jobs [laughs]. It is the big kahuna or nada! So I was backed by CBS, Sony, my bosses and it was fantastic that I got this episode to direct. Not many people get their first directing gig on a prime-time sitcom on a major network. It was huge.

MG: What was your biggest challenge directing and starring in the episode?
MP: I had done a ton of homework on the directing side. I had shadowed a lot of different TV comedy directors. I had seen a lot of different styles and I felt like I needed to learn how to do it. After working on over 200 episodes of television throughout my career in front of the camera, it is just so comfortable to me, like being on a bicycle. It makes total sense in my brain since I have lived on a TV set for 20 years of my life. That part of it, I kept waiting to feel nervous about the directing but it didn’t happen. I never felt nervous or out of control. The thing that was very challenging though was not being a crappy actor, when I was directing. That was not the problem that I expected. I can act with one eye open and two hours of sleep [laughs]. I found myself thinking about the set and the way it was being shot and that the opposite way to think to be a good actress. You need to just stay in moment when you are acting. So when I was in my director’s head and then trying to rehearse as an actor, I was the worst [laughs]. So I talked with one of my friends, who is a director, and he gave me this tip to make up some move or sentence that clicks your brain over back to acting mode before you step onto the set. When we were getting ready to shoot, I put our hand on our assistant director’s shoulder and I said “Ok Carlos, you are calling action and cut”. Just saying that to him made it easy for me just to focus on acting. I didn’t want to ruin the one episode I was directing by with crappy acting [laughs].

MG: No pranks or hijacks from the cast and crew?
MP: You know what, they were all so sweet. I think they thought that I was nervous, so they were all really nice to me. I showed up the first day with a riding crop and acted all bossy on purpose [laughs]. So they thought that was funny.

MG: How did it come about for you to direct this specific episode this season?
MP: It is always the producers who chooses. I felt very fortunate though. A lot of the episodes of “Rules” are just about being funny. This was a script has something actually real happens in it. This was a little scary for me having to go serious there for a minute, then pop back to being funny. It was really interesting for me since I am much more interested in doing comedy that has reality in it. You want to care about these characters each week. So I felt really lucky that I got one of the scripts that really has some sincerity in it along with being very funny and well written. It was very interesting experience…which is such a boring word but it was! I was so excited getting up and going to work every day.

MG: Any plans to direct more in other projects as well?
MP: Absolutely! Hopefully someone will let me [laughs]. This experience has really lit this fire for me. I felt like a million bucks and felt very creative again doing this. I have been on a couple of shows that have gone on for many years and it is almost impossible not to get a little complacent in your job over that time. You have this steady job for seven years and are doing the same thing over and over. So doing this took me out of that comfortable position and made me inspired. I swear to God, I started writing again. It just woke me up. I wrote a TV project and I am in the middle of writing a feature. So it really energized me in my career and I have felt since. Also I feel like having lit this fire right when the series was ending was so beneficial for me with what is happening next, which I have no clue what that may be.

MG: After seven seasons, what is your secret for keeping straight against Patrick Warburton?
MP: I don’t know. We have such a great relationship outside of work. He and I both love that couple so much and we love their fights. We don’t laugh because we are so in love with what we are saying. The interactions between them are just great. Sometimes I also do laugh at him on-screen though, which is something I had to fight for. My point is that when your husband is being funny you can laugh at him! I laugh at my real husband when he is being an idiot during fights. Actually we can’t even have fights since we just start laughing at each other. So it makes it a little more real.

MG: How was it shooting the 100th episode of the series?
MP: If everyone looks like them have been crying…that is because they had been [laughs]. It was a little rough, since as a cast and human beings we have gone through a lot in seven years. Most of it all was great. There have been babies being born, marriages, divorces, and more marriages. There has been a lot of life that has happened in seven years. So as a cast, we became incredibly close on a deep level. Oliver (Hudson) and I had our first kids within a month of each other. I remember I was holding my one month old baby and his wife was in my dressing room asking me how she would know if she was in labor [laughs]. When you go through stuff like that with your friends it changes you. So we were looking back on the past seven years and it was hard.