Horror films are very tricky to score or are they? Most sound errily similar to every other horror score known to man and there are complete originals like Jerry Goldsmith's "The Omen", Bernard Herrmann's "Psycho" and John Carpenter's "Halloween" that have continued to thrill fans of the genre for decades. The remake of "Evil Dead" by Roque Banos featured a fresh original orchestrial score last year, while The Newton Brothers' "Oculus" has created a nice little stir.
That leads us to composer Frank Ifman's work on "Big Bad Wolves", a fine little horror score that is now getting attention thanks largely in part to the films release on Blu-Ray and DVD recently. Ifman is a newcomer to the scene and I hadn't heard of him until this score. Ifman is a very talented composer who's composed a variety of different scores including one called "Cupcakes".
For this very special interview, Frank candidly shares with me his thoughts on working on Big Bad Wolves, the recording process of the score, working with multiple directors, the soundtrack and other fun things you'd want to learn about this stand up guy. So sit back and enjoy reading Frank's very pleasant thoughts.
Please tell the readers about what made you become interested in music.
I got involved in music at a very young age. My parents loved music so they had a large album collection of all sorts. I grew up just listening to everything they would play from opera, classic stuff to rock and roll. I didn't come from an artistic family, both my folks were very hard working people but they supported me when I decided to study music and have done so since.
Let’s talk about your recent work on the horror-thriller “Big Bad Wolves”. What got you interested in this project?
FI: I met directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado when I scored their first movie ‘Rabies’, that was our first collaboration. I love how they manage to combine genres in a very unique and original way, it makes my job more challenging when writing the score, so it's always a learning experience with the guys.
Did you spot the film before you started writing and did they had a specific plan as exactly what they wanted the music to sound stylistically?
FI: I wrote a few thematic ideas based on the script and discussed with the directors until we had our main theme for the movie. We then spotted the film a few times, once when they just had an assembly and then a few more times as the movie changed and reached its final cut. They then re-cut the film, so I needed to change parts of the score and write some completely new material.
What was it like working with two directors on the film?
FI: I have had a few projects where I had to deal with two directors. It can be very easy going or a tough experience. It all depends on how sync they are with one another and how they see the film and what's needed. On Big Bad Wolves, Aharon and Navot knew precisely what they wanted musically and what the film needed, like always it's about balance and creative difference, but we have a working language, so everyone ends up happy.
How much music did you finally ended up recording for the film?
FI: I wrote about 2 hours of music. We recorded about 90 minutes of score and I think that about 85 minutes of it ended on the film.
What were the recording sessions like?
FI: I worked with my friend Matthew Slater who orchestrated and conducted the score, making things a breeze. Matthew is a composer in his own right so he understands film and what I am doing, even if it is not the best for the orchestra and not the easiest to play at times.
I always try and record in London at Air or Abbey Road with Casey Stone as the scoring mixer and with the London Metropolitan Orchestra. We have a great working relationship and it makes the sessions fun and relax. We have some of the top musicians in the world here, they bring so much to the table, It is simply an amazing experience every time.
Let’s talk about the soundtrack album on MovieScore Media/Kronos Records. How did you end up putting it together?
FI: I know Mikael Carlsson for a few years now and so does my agent, but we never had the chance to do an album together, Big Bad Wolves was the right project that made that happen.
Are you happy with the way the album ended up and do you think fans of the film will enjoy it?
FI: Without a doubt. The album is built as a listening experience. We combined some cues together and we also included some unreleased cues that we recorded with orchestra but didn't end up in the film.
What was it like working with such a great soundtrack producer such as Mikael Carlsson?
FI: It was great! Mikael has a great ear to know what will work for the listener. Once we had a running order, Matthew Slater and myself had a listen and suggested a few things. We also put a deal together with UK based Death Waltz Records to release the album as a Vinyl in the coming months.
You’ve also scored many documentaries such as “Football Gladiators”, “Shadow In Bagdad”, “Seekers” and “The Irak War” to name a few. Do you enjoy doing them?
FI: Yes, there have been a few directors I had the pleasure to know and work with for over 10 years now and even more. Some are now good friends. They are filmmakers who love working in that field and every time they do something I get a call, sometimes even before they start shooting just to make sure I will be available to score. We have a very trusty relationship.They know that they can leave me to just do what's needed and deliver the score to the editors while they deal with other issues of the process. It is very a different way of working than on a movie also on how music is used. Most of the times I will deliver final cues while they are still editing.
Do you find it easier or harder to compose for a documentary as opposed to that of a full-length movie?
FI: Growing up cinema for me was always escapism, a way to dream and have some amazing adventures. It's great and a very different challenge to score documentaries. You need to keep a balance of emotions with the music and opposite to fiction, not to tell the audience what or how to think and feel, you are letting the realism do that. The emotions of real people and the stories, those are real powerful emotions that no actor can recreate and you don't want your music to make manipulations like in a film and take over. Music is just there to give support when needed.
Do you enjoy orchestrating as much as you do composing?
FI: Yes I do, it's also part of the process nowadays. Directors today want to hear every cue mocked up before heading to the scoring stage, so there are no surprises when recording.Also its a big part of my style of writing and musical voice, where and what each instrument plays, Matthew Slater then gets the files and click tracks and opening it to the full orchestra, adding and changing things, to fit better with the players. After that we go over everything and put the final touches to the manuscript. These days there is never enough time to do it all, so it's great to pan stuff out as best as you can and hand it over to people for whom orchestration is something they master, same goes for conducting.
What is your favorite film score that you’ve written to date?
FI: I would say it's always the last movie I did. As I learn and evolved from each film I do.
Who is your favorite director that you’ve worked with so far in your career?
FI: There is never a favorite one! each director has its or her own way of working.I would say that as long as the director challenges and inspires me to be bolder with the score, that is my favorite.
What is your favorite film that you’ve personally scored to date?
FI: I scored a short movie called Coward directed by my friend Dave Roddham. It’s a WWII drama and we recorded it with the LMO at Air studio last December. It’s a very different type of score, very traditional old school orchestration, in the vain of The Bridge On The River Kwai. It was a very challenging and rewarding experience at the same time.
Name a film that you wish you wrote the score for?
FI: Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, such powerful and evocative characters.
What is your favorite film score that has influenced your career?
FI: It’s a hard one, there are so many I like! I am a big fan of composer Leonard Rosenman film scores, others are Herrmann’s Citizen Kane, Morricone’s Once Upon A Time In The West, Goldsmith’s Planet of The Apes, to name a few.
Please tell the readers about your future upcoming projects?
FI: I am just finishing a ten minute suite from Big Bad Wolves to be premier at the Palladium Theater in Rome in mid May. I'm also in the early stages of composing the music for a new drama/thriller TV series called, Mermaids and a few other films are on the horizon. However, the best of all is gearing up to pop over to LA for the prestigious Saturn Awards ceremony in June. Big Bad Wolves is nominated for best music together with John Williams for The Book Thief, Howard Shore for The Hobbit, Danny Elfman for Oz The Great and Brian Tyler for Iron Man 3.
Very special thanks to Frank for being so gracious with his time to do this interview with me. I hope the questions weren't too tough! You're first class. Also very special thanks to the MovieScore Media/Kronos Press Team for arranging me to meet Frank. You're the best.
"Big Bad Wolves" is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD by Magnolia Entertainment and available to order @ http://www.amazon.com/Big-Wolves-Blu-ray-Lior-Ashkenazi/dp/B00HYRYMZQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1398723596&sr=1-1&keywords=big+bad+wolves
The soundtrack to "Big Bad Wolves" is available on MovieScore Media/Kronos Records @ http://moviescoremedia.com/big-bad-wolves-frank-ilfman/
Please feel free to visit Frank's official website @ http://www.frankilfman.com/ for updates on his latest projects as well as samples of his work. Also check out his official Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/officialfrankilfman
Here is Frank's Bio:
"The moment an eight-year-old Frank Ilfman was given Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the seed was sown – the ambitious, budding musician had his heart set on a career in film music.
With an unwavering desire to achieve his goal, Ilfman has successfully dedicated himself to performing and understanding music.
He studied trombone and piano at the Jaffa Conservatorium of Music in Tel Aviv and as a young teenager was playing lead trombone with the Tel Aviv Dixieland Band. However, the tenacious young composer became frustrated and bored with the structured methods of the Conservatorium and was eventually asked to leave for playing truant – Ilfman wanted to be more imaginative with how he created music, so went it alone.
In 1984, during a visit to Berlin, Ilfman got introduced to German composer Klaus Doldinger, who happened to be scoring The Neverending Story at that time. A visit to the film’s recording sessions made Ilfman fall deeper in love with the art of film music and commit fully to his ambition.
He worked on his first television production, when he was just 17 years old, with composer Jan Hammer on the acclaimed television series The Chancer, starring Clive Owen, and since then has scored more than forty films and numerous television shows.
Among his many talents is his ability to diagnose how music can best contribute to a film; from brooding melancholy to playful joviality, his work covers a wide spectrum of genres and has gained him much respect in the field.
Frank Ifman’s recent scores include the award-winning films Big Bad Wolves and Cupcakes, with scores performed by The London Metropolitan Orchestra at the legendary Air Studios. He has also scored: May I Kill U?, a dark comedy, directed by BAFTA award winner Stuart Urban and starring Kevin Bishop; Mercenaries, directed by Paris Leonti, starring Robert Fucilla and Billy Zane; the three-part documentaries The Iraq War and Putin, Russia and the West for BBC and the internationally acclaimed heartbreaking film Bitter Seeds, directed by Micha Peled.
Forthcoming films include Apples and Oranges for director Richard Scobie and the romantic comedy Emotional Rescue, starring Heather Graham and Timothy Hutton.
In 2008 Frank Ilfman was invited to join The European Film Academy (EFA) and The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA)."