Interviews

EXCLUSIVE : ANNE WITH AN E Scoop: Shining The Spotlight On Composers Amin Bhatia and Ari Posner

Amin-Bhatia-and-Ari-Posner-
Photo Credit: Scott Murdoch

Based on the beloved “Anne of Green Gables” books by L.M. Montgomery, Netflix’s new series ANNE WITH AN E offers a fresh retelling of the classic story.  ANNE WITH AN E will captivate fans all over again or introduce new viewers to the lush and loving world where a red-headed orphan girl warms the hearts of an elder brother and sister who opened their hearts and home to her.  Adding to the heart-warming tale are the charming and dulcet musical compositions created specially for ANNE WITH AN E by renown composers Amin Bhatia and Ari Posner.  In an exclusive interview, Amin and Ari share what drew them to ANNE WITH AN E and what kinds sound they specifically chose for this project.

How did you get connected with or approached to compose for ANNE WITH AN E? What was the initial appeal of the project?

AMIN and ARI:  We had pitched on it like many other composers in town and had heard nothing back. We were just finishing the final season of “X Company” (Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern, CBC / TempleStreet) when the ANNE WITH AN E producers suddenly contacted Mark and Stephanie to see what we were like to work with and to ask if they’d be willing to “share us.”  LOL   Apparently they had already hired another composer to score the show, but for whatever reason things did not work out.  So with the blessing of both productions we started working on ANNE WITH AN E the very same week of writing the series finale for “X Company”! It’s funny that pretty much the exact same thing happened to us nearly a decade ago on “Flashpoint.”  We keep being called to rescue things. That’s okay.

Were there any specific challenges with composing ANNE WITH AN E and, if so, what are they?

AMIN and ARI:  As you can imagine the short time frame was the biggest challenge. The episodes were being finished very quickly and there had been time lost from working with the previous composer. So we hit the ground running and had to very quickly learn the style and “vocabulary” for the music score which is Maritime/Celtic on one hand but classical and dramatic on the other.

For you, what are the rewards of composing for ANNE WITH AN E?

AMIN and ARI:  First and foremost it’s a great show. The stories and performances are so inspiring we’re never stuck for ideas. On top of that there is no greater joy for a screen composer than when the score fits in perfectly with all the other elements of the scene – visuals, performance, editing, sound effects, dialogue. On ANNE WITH AN E each department knew exactly where to lead and where to follow.  It was a very satisfying feeling to attend playbacks each week and hear how the music was woven into the fabric of the show’s soundscape.

Is there a scene or sequence in ANNE WITH AN E that you composed and are most proud? Can you discuss and reveal why it resonated with you? 

AMIN: One of the first cues I wrote was for the finale of the first episode where Matthew races on horseback across the Maritime landscape to the train station. It begins very slowly on solo violin and grows in intensity and power as we realize just how important it is that Matthew get there on time. Of course what makes the cue work is the talented violinist Drew Jurecka!
ARI:  Perhaps my favorite sequence of the series takes place at the end of episode two when Anne is asked to sign the family bible and formally change her name to Anne Shirley Cuthbert.  It’s such a moving and emotional scene that slowly turns to elation and even slightly comedic as Anne keeps pausing and then adding more and more things to her signature.  It was a challenge to slowly make that musical shift and grow with her performance.

What instrument(s) did you find were key in this particular story to set the tone or musical theme you all were striving to achieve for ANNE WITH AN E? 

AMIN and ARI:  There are Celtic period instruments and there are classical/orchestral ones. Sometimes we are accompanying the stunning visual landscape of PEI and other times we are emphasizing very raw feelings or emotions. A large part of the sound comes from our very talented musicians – Drew Jurecka on violin/viola/baritone violin, Kirk Starkey on cello, Sara Traficante on both traditional and Celtic flutes, and Joel Schwartz on acoustic and electric guitars as well as mandolin.

Were you given freedom to choose the sound for the project or were you under specific parameters to work within?

AMIN and ARI:  Our showrunner Moira Walley Becket and producer Miranda DePencier both had a very good idea of what they wanted and so much of it was clear in the temp score. While temp music can sometimes be a curse to composers in this case it really helped us hone in on the sound right away since we had jumped in at the eleventh hour.

How fast do you all work when given a project of this scale? Are you allowed considerable time or is it a pretty fast process? How long did each ANNE WITH AN E episode take to score?

AMIN and ARI:  Fast. Very fast. We were turning out episodes weekly, while still making adjustments to the previous one and preparing for the next one. It was fast. Thank goodness there were two of us, and that we’d worked together on many projects before. Did I mention it was fast?

When looking for projects to work on, what is something that stands out to you that becomes the determining factor?

AMIN and ARI:  Quite simply, we have to like the show. There has to be a good story with compelling characters that inspire us to write and help complete the vision that the producers are creating. We’ve been very lucky in the last few years that these kinds of inspiring projects, whether solo efforts or those we team up for, have come our way.

What is an essential element of being a composer for film and television that makes the job easier for you?

AMIN: I can’t remember who said this: “From restrictions comes freedom.” We have a palette of sounds and players to use for a scene and a fixed number of minutes, seconds and frames. With those fixed parameters writing music becomes a fun sort of puzzle that is a unique but different joy from writing a song.
ARI:  The most useful skill I can think of is the ability to think flexibly.  If I’m faced with a three minute scene to score, I ideally want to have lots of different ways to tackle it so that if I get stuck in one place, (a common occurrence) I can come at it from another angle.  An old music professor of mine once told me that it’s OK to rely on your tricks, but you want to have lots of them…as many as possible.

There are probably many, but what is one of the main tools or pieces of equipment you rely on to get the sound you want?

AMIN and ARI:  Both of us use the digital audio workstation programs Logic (Apple) and Pro Tools (Avid). Our Mac computers are going 24/7 for writing or mixing or doing backups when (and if) we sleep. Our fave sounds come from programs like Spectrasonic’s Omnisphere or from the many libraries made by Native Instruments, Project Sam and Spitfire. We do a lot of mixing in the box so the UAD stuff is amazing to help us get that sheen that makes the tracks gel together.  But if it’s one thing we have to pick, frankly it’s our crew. It’s the skilled people we work with that we rely on the most. Our players, Drew, Sara, Joel and Kirk as well as our music editor Joe Mancuso and all the post-production editors and mixers at Technicolor.

What are some of your favorite instruments to use?  What makes each so appealing?

AMIN and ARI:  Piano is one instrument that we both use a lot since it’s such a great accompaniment instrument and luckily we both have reasonably good keyboard skills. It’s also an instrument that was used a lot in the score. But we’ve learned that a piano is not always simply a piano.  In other words, the way it is tuned, recorded, sampled, and the space that it’s in, will all make dramatic differences to the way this instrument can color a scene.

What in your background inspired to pursue a career in film/television composing?  Was it a conscious decision or did you kind of fall into it?

AMIN:  For me I was captivated by film scores since age eight or nine watching movies on TV and loving all this kind of “classical music” that was in the background. Of course I then learned about the genius of Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams and others. I had wondered about what it would take to become a composer like that but never realized that the synthesizers and tape machines I was playing with as a hobby would actually lead to being a composer now.
ARI:  My first leanings in music were towards songwriting.  It was my dream to write songs for artists and have them recorded.  But the first songs I ever got paid to write were actually for children’s television shows and after that advertising.  It was through those mediums that I began to learn about scoring and subsequently never really looked back.  To this day though, when an opportunity comes up to write a song for a show or film, I still really get a kick out of that process.

What kind of advice would you offer to others looking to become a film and television composer?

AMIN:  My stock answer at any lecture or interview is this: The job is 50% music (abilities, style sound etc) and 50% people skills. Writing good music is only half the job. You have to work with and listen to others in order to create a good collaborative score.
ARI:  I learned the hard way that in the early stages of your career, you don’t really have a lot of control over the types of opportunities that come your way.  I think it’s important to keep your eye on where you want to go, but still be willing to take all the little detours that present themselves along the way. You truly never know where they will take you and to what next steps they will lead.

Being previous Emmy nominees and achieving the success that you all have had so far, are there any cool perks you are now experiencing that you didn’t when first starting out?

AMIN and ARI:  Well, we are now always being considered for the bigger projects in town, and that’s nice. We’re having meetings with and being turned down by some of the best productions in the business, lol.  Another perk of being a member of the Academy is during voting season when all these DVD’s show up at home filled with incredible shows that we can watch. There’s some amazing TV out there and every now and then we stop and marvel at how lucky we are to be a part of it.

What is one of the best pieces of advice you have received from someone about the industry?
AMIN and ARI:  “Remember, this is a service business. This is people working with people.”- Audio producer David Greene

Do you all have any other upcoming projects that you can share that fans should keep an eye out for?

AMIN and ARI:  Each of us have features coming out in the next few months.
AMIN:  I got to revisit my fantasy/thriller roots with an indie film called “Blood Honey” by director Jeff Kopas, coming out later this spring. My solo albums “Interstellar Suite” and “Virtuality” are doing well. They’ve become demo reels for my film and TV work!
ARI:  I’ve just been wrapping up a wonderful movie called “Tulipani” directed by Mike Van Diem.   It’s the first time I’ve ever scored a foreign film and it was truly an amazing collaboration and learning experience.  Very shortly I am about to begin on season two of a very fun animated show called “Supernoobs” created by Scott Fellows.
AMIN and ARI:  …..And we’re all waiting word on ANNE WITH AN E Season 2…

To hear the beautiful compositions that Amin and Ari have created for ANNE WITH AN E, be sure to tune in for the premiere on Netflix on Friday, May 12th when all seven episodes will be available for binge-watching.  Then also keep an eye out for their upcoming films “Blood Honey,” “Tulipani,” and “Supernoobs” coming out later this year, as well as Amin’s albums “Interstellar Suite” and “Virtuality” showcasing his neo-orchestral work.

To hear a preview of their work from ANNE WITH AN E, here is where you can hear “Picking Up A Girl”:

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/319605390%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-Ns0Rz&amp

And here is the composition for ANNE WITH AN E “Broken Trust”:

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/319604764%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-fiYb2&amp

More information about Amin and Ari’s wide-array of work can be found at their respective websites:

http://www.arimusic.com
http://aminbhatia.com

Then to find out more about their future endeavors, you can also follow Amin and Ari on Twitter: @aminbhatia and @ARI_Music

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