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Composers Marc & Steffan Fantini Make Musical Magic For "Mom's Night Out"

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I'm a huge fan of the series "Criminal Minds" and after the opening credits the names of Mark Mancina, Scott Gordon and then Marc Fantini and Steffan Fantini appear soon after. Marc and Steffan are brothers and the composing duo who have been providing the musical suspense to the hit CBS series for quite sometime now. Their immense talents have really provided the show a very firm musical footing that will include the upcoming tenth season for the show.

"Marc and Steffan were also very busy with another hit series in Lifetime's "Army Wives" until recently when the show ended after 7 successful years, but their biggest coup is their latest theatrical film, "Mom's Night Out" starring "The Lord Of The Rings" Sean Astin, "Everybody Loves Raymond's" Patricia Heaton, Sarah Drew and Trace Adkins"

For this very special interview with Marc and Steffan, they candidly talk about the film and share their experiences in composing the music, the recording sessions, their current work on "Criminal Minds", working with renowed composer Mark Mancina and their upcoming projects. So sit back and enjoy this fun Q&A with these wonderful gentlemen!

Please tell the readers about what made you become interested in music.

Marc: I have always been interested in music. From a very early age I can remember connecting with musical expression. I've never known anything else. My mother played guitar and sang to me when I was very young and I loved it. My parents were huge music lovers from classical to rock and everything in between and there was always music and dancing in our house.

Steffan: My mom first got me into music by singing to me with her acoustic guitar to put me to sleep. She also taught me to play guitar and piano and exposed me to tons of music.

Let’s talk about your recent work on the upcoming film “Moms’ Night Out” which is being released theatrically this Friday. What got you interested in this project?

Marc: Being a husband and a Father to start. I read the script and related to it immediately. It was funny and warm and something I felt my wife and I could bring our child to. I was also thrilled to work with the Erwin brothers and Kevin Downes. Kevin and I have done many projects together over the years and I would never miss a chance to work with him.

Steffan: It started with the script which was super funny and chaotic. Then it was meeting the directors, the Erwin Brothers and the producer Kevin Downes that sealed the deal.

What was the collaboration with Andrew and Jon Erwin like in terms of composer/director and did they give you the freedom to write the score you did after spotting it?

Marc: They are very knowledgeable about music and its importance to a film. They had a great influence on the music. It was very collaborative and fun. They wanted us to do something new and special and encouraged us throughout the process. They are wonderful to work with.

Steffan: These guys are incredibly adventurous, fun and loved that we all wanted to push the envelope. They have great ears so it was completely symbiotic. We were really on the same page from the first meeting. We said lets combine the components of an Italian or French street band with instruments like accordion, clarinet, drums played with brushes, acoustic bass and so on with a crazy rock and roll energy and then add a 90 piece orchestra to it. So the freedom was absolutely there from the directors.

After initially watching the film for the first time, did the themes come to you quickly or did it take a little time for you to come up with the material that you ultimately came up with?

Steffan: After watching the film, a sense of the feel and pace for the music came quickly to us. The overall character of the music came pretty quickly. Once we got back to the studio, the actual themes to most of it were written in the first week. Then it took about 3- 4 weeks to write the full score and get it ready to be orchestrated.

How much music did you end up recording for the film?

Marc: I think somewhere around 60 or 65 minutes.

What were the recording sessions like?

Steffan: The orchestra was recorded in Bratislava. We did it over the Internet which is a very fun process. Basically, we were in a studio in Santa Monica and we could see and hear the entire orchestra in real time in Bratislava. One of the most surreal parts is that you write all the music somewhat isolated in our private studios in Los Angeles then when the recording day arrives all of a sudden you have a huge orchestra playing your music. These players bring incredible life to each note. Also, we were very fortunate on this score to have an incredible orchestrator and conductor Tim Davies and his team involved. He actually flew over there to conduct the orchestra which made a huge difference.

Marc: I am a guitar player and played a lot of guitar on this score, which was great. The sessions with John Torcello playing accordion were a blast as well as Victor Andrizzo playing amazing drums for some of the action scenes.

You’re both heavily involved in one of my favorite television series in the hit CBS mystery, “Criminal Minds”. How did you both get the job on the series?

Steffan: Wow, so happy you are a fan of the show!! I am a fan as well which makes work not feel like work. We got very lucky nine years ago and had an opportunity to submit music to Mark Gordon and the other producers who were auditioning composers for “Criminal Minds”. Fortunately, they were very happy with what we submitted. We even got an ovation after they heard the music. That was a good day as they say and it has been an amazing relationship ever since.

How do you guys get the show assignments that you each end up getting?

Marc: We discuss the episode and then it sort of happens organically.

How exactly do you both divide the work that you get for each episode?

Steffan: There are actually 3 of us on the composing team. Scott Gordon is the other composer and adopted brother. After we have a meeting to discuss sounds, feels or themes for the episode, we just divide the music and conquer.

Have you both collaborated on particular episodes in the past?

Steffan: We all collaborate on every episode. Our studios are all tied together with Skype, iChat and source connect so we can see and hear each other's music and even play on each other's cues remotely. For example, if I want Scott to add something to one of my pieces, it can all be done over the internet with some of the new technologies. With the super fast 3-5 day turnaround for 30-40 minutes of music a week for “Criminal Minds”, we need to take advantage of all the incredible technologies that saves us huge amounts of time.

You also worked on Army Wives. How was the musical tone for that show different than what you do on “Criminal Minds”?

Marc: Vastly different. A lot of acoustic guitar and earthy instruments. All live with the exception of the orchestra. Totally organic score.

You both ended up providing additional music for the hit film, “Shooter” starring Mark Wahlberg which Mark Mancina was the composer for. How did you end up working on that film?

Marc: We had already developed a good working relationship with Mark on “Criminal Minds”. We all wanted to continue our collaboration so he asked us to write some music for that film. We wound up doing quite a few projects with Mark.

What was your favorite part about working with Mark Mancina?

Marc: Seeing true talent at work. He is the real deal. I spent many days watching in awe. He is also very fun to work with and not pretentious at all.

Steffan: I learned a tremendous amount from Mark who is very talented. He really showed us the ropes and we are much better composers for having spent all those years working with him and learning from him. We also cracked each other up and laughed like crazy at some ridiculous stuff. You have to have fun in the studio or you're in trouble.

Which is easier for you to score, film or television?

Marc: They both present unique challenges. TV has weekly deadlines and a lot of pressure. Movies give you a chance to be super creative but the pressure can be just as intense as television, sometimes more. I like both.

Steffan: Both are challenging. Once you find the character for the music, usually the panic subsides. I used to fear the clock. Knowing that the fuse is lit and we only have so much time to write all this music. It can be ponderous. Now I kind of work better under pressure. With film projects, generally you have more time as opposed to TV where you have 3-5 days and there is no negotiation. The show needs to air usually a couple days after the music is completed. I would venture to say the most difficult thing to do is write the score for a TV pilot. It's a very hectic, time crunched, dynamic process where the direction changes frequently as many people are involved and you need to adapt extremely quickly because the stakes are high. I enjoy it all and the more you do it, the better and usually faster you get.

What is your favorite film score that you’ve written to date?

Marc: I love "Moms Night Out". It is an original approach that works very well with the story.

Steffan: I think that would be a toss up between “Mom's Night Out” and another film we just did called “Space Station 76”.

Who is your favorite director that you’ve worked with so far in your career?

Marc: We got along so well with the Erwin Brothers and the immediate familiarity of working with another team of brothers made it feel like an instant family. I love those guys. We had a great working relationship and they are also super talented and really cool guys. I would work on anything they asked me to.

Steffan: I don't think I have a favorite. Each time is a unique challenge and learning experience that I feel so lucky to get to do. In the last few months we have worked directly with some super talented directors. Matthew Gubler from “Criminal Minds” is always a joy to work with as he loves when we push the envelope in to uncharted waters. Both Thomas Gibson and Joe Mantegna directed fantastic episodes this season. Jack Plotnick was another amazing director to work with and the movie he made, “Space Station 76” is bold and original and not like any other sci-fi dramedy. He is a great actor too, which I'm sure goes into his directing approach. The Erwin Brothers were a blast. They come from a background of doing music videos and they have great musical sensibility. They made such a fun for the whole family thrill ride with “Mom's Night Out”.

Which composer or composers have influenced your careers?

Marc: All of the greats from John Williams to The Beatles have influenced me and given me a unique musical voice.

Steffan: The Beatles were the ultimate composers for me. I also love Mutt Lange and have learned so much from listening to his records. I love all the great classical music composers as well. I think Hans Zimmer is an absolute genius. He is an incredible story teller. Of course, John Williams has influenced everyone.

What is your favorite film that you both wish could’ve personally scored?

Marc: “The Godfather”

Steffan: My favorite films like “The Godfather”, “Animal House”, and “Scarface” were all scored to perfection. I wouldn't touch a note. I would love to get to work with great film makers in the future.

Please tell the readers about your future upcoming projects.

Marc/Steffan: We just finished a pilot for ABC. Possibly the new Erwin Brothers, Kevin Downes film and season 10 of “Criminal Minds”.

Very special and heartfelt thanks to both Marc And Steffan for this wonderful interview with you both and I hope we can do it again in the future. You're great. Also very special thanks to Jordan Von Netzer for going to bat for me and arranging to meet these awesome talents.

"Mom's Night Out" opens theatrically nationwide today.

"Criminal Minds" airs Wednesday's on CBS.

Please follow Marc on Twitter @ http://@marcfantini
Plase follow Steffan on Twitter @ http://@steffanfantini

Here's Marc Fantini's Bio:

"Composer Marc Fantini has had his fair share of screaming fans and rock performances in venues peppering the East Coast, but it wasn’t until Fantini became a film and television composer that he transformed into a true storyteller.

Since 1999, Fantini has taken viewers on a journey through the music he creates. Alongside his brother Steffan, the two composers have enhanced the darkness and suspense on CBS’ “Criminal Minds,” as well as heightened the warmth, vulnerability and strength on Lifetime’s “Army Wives.” “Criminal Minds” has been renewed for a 10th year. They both are attached to score the next season.

For their work on both shows, the two were honored with sixteen American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Film and Television Music Awards for “Top TV Series” along with a Hollywood Music in Media Award for “Best Score- Criminal Minds”.

On the film side, the brothers recently composed the score to TriStar Pictures’ “Mom’s Night Out,” directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin. The composers also scored “Space Station 76,” an independent Sci-Fi dramedy that premiered at the 2014 South by Southwest Film Festival and is being released later this year.

Born in New Jersey and raised primarily in Massachusetts, Marc Fantini’s music career began at 16 when he played guitar for New Kids on the Block. Then as a rock band billed as The Fantini Brothers, they performed in venues that pepper the East Coast. Soon after, they moved to Los Angeles for a publishing deal with Warner/Chapell Music. Later, they scored a record deal with RCA Records where they worked with Ringo Starr, Bon Jovi, the Eagles, Hall & Oates, and other music legends.

Marc Fantini became a composer after producer Kevin Downes hired him to score the Sci-Fi thriller, “The Moment After,” released in 1999. Fantini credits composer Mark Mancina (Warner Bros.’ “Training Day,” and CBS’ “Criminal Minds”) for showing him the art of subtlety and using melodic content in film and television scores.

In an Examiner feature, Mark Morton said: “Criminal Minds” bears some of the most intense, cinematic music that has ever graced the airwaves. The music virtually pulls us out of our seats and into the program, luring us along with sympathetic resonance one minute and graphic horror the next.”

Marc Fantini’s other credits include: Downes Brothers Entertainment’s “To the Wall,” Lifetime’s “Army Wives: A Final Salute,” Freestyle Digital Media’s “The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy Stone,” CBS’ “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior” and additional music for Paramount Picture’s “Shooter”.

Fantini resides in Venice, Calif., with his family."

Here's Steffan Fantini's Bio:

"Composer Steffan Fantini walks a fine line when he creates music for the popular Emmy-nominated CBS’ drama “Criminal Minds.”

His goal is to make viewers feel something amazing, yet go unnoticed. So he turns the music into a character, and the result can bring something dark, emotional and thrilling to the project. His musical touch has helped breathe life into the upcoming Sony Pictures’ comedy, “Mom’s Night Out,” as well as Lifetime’s most successfully rated show “Army Wives,” and the indie Sci-Fi comedy, “Space Station 76,” which premiered at the 2014 South by Southwest Film Festival and is being released later this year.

Born in Philadelphia and raised in New York and Massachusetts, Fantini musically gravitated to the piano and studied classical jazz and rock at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst. He started a rock band with his brother Marc called The Fantini Brothers and performed at various colleges, small concerts and civic centers on the East Coast. They moved to Los Angeles for a publishing deal with Warner/Chapell Music, and scored a record deal with RCA Records. He lended his vocals Ringo Starr, Bon Jovi, the Eagles and other music legends.

Steffan Fantini went from recording artist to composer when he was hired to score the music to Providence Entertainment’s film, “Mercy Streets,” released in 2000. Since then, he has composed music alongside his brother and Scott Gordon on “Criminal Minds”, which has been renewed for a 10th year. All three are attached to score the next season. They also worked together on “Army Wives.”

For their work on both dramas, they were honored with sixteen American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Film and Television Music Awards for “Top TV Series” and won a Hollywood Music in Media Award for “Best Score-Criminal Minds”.

In an Examiner feature, Mark Morton said: “Criminal Minds” bears some of the most intense, cinematic music that has ever graced the airwaves. The music virtually pulls us out of our seats and into the program, luring us along with sympathetic resonance one minute and graphic horror the next.”

Steffan Fantini’s other credits include: Downes Brothers Entertainment’s “To the Wall,” Lifetime’s “Army Wives: A Final Salute,” Freestyle Digital Media’s “The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy Stone,” ABC’s “Partners,” CBS’ “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior” and additional music for Paramount Picture’s “Shooter”.

When Fantini isn’t in his privately owned studio, Sage and Sound Recording, he can be found boating and continues to support animal rescue organizations. He resides in Venice, California."


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