For those who came in late... in the early 2000's there was a little known film. This one I will say was one that got lost in the shuffle of big budget films such as Gladiator, X-Men, The Perfect Storm, Mission: Impossible 2 and The Patriot, this one written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who had won a well deserving Oscar for the surprise hit of 1995, The Usual Suspects and his follow up film, The Way of the Gun would find a major audience soon after getting lost in the summer shuffle of those films on Video and the newly minted DVD format. This film introduced Composer Joe Kraemer, who's fresh and distinctive voice for this score really cemented the film as cult classic in the actions circles soon after.
After strong word of mouth and of course, IMDB, I went ahead and bought the film and much to my surprise, not only the film was a great as it was, but the one thing that I've always remembered from it for the longest of times is Kraemer's score. From it's thunderous opening to it's finale musical note, the music was very memorable and still is as the soundtrack is one of the gems in my collection years and years later.
Now, flash forward to 2012 and now a decade later Joe Kraemer is still had at work writing the elegant noir music for the hit Cinemax series, Femme Fatales and again found himself working with Christopher McQuarrie on his adaptation of Lee Child's graphic novel, Jack Reacher starring Tom Cruise, which is due to be released on Blu-Ray and DVD this Spring. Joe was gracious enough to spend sometime talking to me about Jack Reacher and his past works which is quite fascinating and very engaging. So here is the fun interview that transpired several weeks ago with Joe and THIS IS PART TWO of it where we continue our conversation about more of his work and his opinions on films today. I hope you enjoy!
PART ONE OF THE INTERVIEW COULD BE FOUND HERE:
You’ve also branched out into the horror film genre a few times with Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead , The Hitcher 2, and The Thirst for example. Did you find it a little difficult to transition from the Mystery Woman films and Way Of The Gun for example to working in a different genre altogether?
JK: I don’t think so. One of the things I pride myself on as a film composer is being able to work effectively in any genre. I would never presume to record a hip-hop album, say, but I would feel entirely comfortable composing a score with hip-hop elements, such as my score to the TV movie “Detention”. This skill came is especially handy on FEMME FATALES, where the show danced from genre to genre from episode to episode.
Do you prefer to work mostly action or horror films or do you prefer to work in other genres personally?
JK:I have no preference on way or the other, although I do prefer to work on films that have strong characters in them.
Do you find it difficult for your work to compete with pre-recorded music when it’s used in a particular film?
JK: Not really, no. In fact, I welcome it. I think in general, modern films have too much score, so any time a piece of source music can lighten my load, I take it!
You’ve also worked on documentary features such as “We Run Sh*t, So Right So Smart and Official Objection for example. Is it that much different scoring a documentary than a regular feature film?
JK: The biggest difference I think is that one doesn’t need to be quite so acrobatic scoring a doc, that is, I don’t need to contour the music quite so much to fit the dialogue or editing. The music tends to be more of a bed and less of a moment-to-moment commentary on the drama.
What is the process that you go through differently scoring wise on a documentary as opposed to that of a film such as Jack Reacher for example?
JK:The main similarity is that you are trying to create music that fits the film without intruding. The difference is basically the degree to which one needs to jump through hoops to do so. Docs tend to be easier that way.
You also worked with composer John Ottman on films such as Cruel Intentions, which ultimately went unused. Did he have any influence on the way you’ve scored films in your career since then?
JK: No offense to John, who is a great guy and a very talented composer and editor, but I wouldn’t say that either one of us influenced the other in any significant way. He definitely has his own style, and I have mine. That said, it was fun to pay a little tribute to him in one of my pieces for FEMME FATALES. By the way, his score to CRUEL INTENTIONS was very good, and its rejection had nothing to do with his work, but rather a late-in-the-game change in style at the studio level.
It is hard for you do action films as opposed to something more dramatic for example?
JK: Not really, no. The hardest part is when one must do the score using sampled instruments for budgetary reasons, which limits the kind of writing one can do. So creating something fresh and exciting that doesn’t sound canned becomes an entire job unto itself, and has nothing to do with whether the score works for the film dramatically or artistically.
What was the hardest film you’ve had to score to date and why?
JK: THE WAY OF THE GUN, mostly because of the politics behind the scenes. But it all turned out great in the end!
Do you think movies have changed for better or worse since you’ve become a composer?
JK: No, I think it’s all pretty much the same complaints, just differently voiced. If you read Fred Karlin’s book about film scores (not ON THE TRACK, the other one - Music for the Movies?) you see composers from the 40’s saying many of the same things we say today.
I DO think digital editing has allowed editors and directors to create much more definitive temp scores, which has straight-jacketed composers more than in the “old days”. But even then, composers have been fighting temps since the beginning.
What do you think about films today in general?
JK: I think movies are awesome. I am so happy to be working in a field that I love so much. The digital revolution has enabled us to do so much more with so much less, from HD cameras to sampled orchestras to CGI.
I think television has made a quantum leap in quality. The new paradigm of season boxsets on DVD and streaming on Netflix and such has enabled long-term, serialized story-telling to be practical. Before that, shows like LOST or FRINGE were much more difficult for producers to justify, since syndication didn’t guarantee episodes would be rerun in the correct order. But now, writers are able to craft really unique characters and develop them over hours and hours of programs, rather than cramming everything into one ninety-minute movie. And with this sophistication in the writing comes a wider acceptance of cinematic scoring styles as well. I think STAR TREK: NEXT GEN and THE SIMPSONS are the two pioneers we have to thank for that - they really brought the orchestral, movie-sized scoring style to television.
Of course, in films, I’m as frustrated as everyone else by the heavy reliance on temp scores and the cautious attitude of financiers to taking chances. But I can see their side of it, investing so much money into one project is sort of like putting all your eggs into one basket. That’s what made working on JACK REACHER so exciting. I believe Chris (and Tom and Don Granger, the producers) managed to keep the budget within a certain range that practically guaranteed the film would not lose money, and this freed them to take artistic challenges that a more expensive film might not risk.
What is your favorite film score that you haven’t written?
JK: I’m still waiting for the chance to write my Star Wars-type score, my Superman-type score, a score for a film that can really handle a dense, truly Williams-esque soundtrack!
What is your favorite film that you have scored to date?
JK:Oh boy. Favorite film or favorite film score? Because the two are different. I think JACK REACHER is probably overall the best movie I’ve worked on. I’m also terribly proud to have worked on the documentary about Ralph Nader. I can’t be objective enough to say what my best score might be. Of course, I like to think it’s JACK REACHER and that I’m always getting better, but there are things in my catalog that I’m really proud of, cues from WAY OF THE GUN, POSEIDON ADVENTURE, FEMME FATALES, to name a few.
What is your dream project?
JK:Chris has a sci-fi film he wants to make. I am really excited to work on that!
Please tell the readers about your future upcoming projects you may have.
JK: Ken Kokin, who produced THE WAY OF THE GUN and THE USUAL SUSPECTS, is making his directorial debut this year with a film called BLOOD MOON, which I am just now beginning to compose the score for. I’ve written my main theme and done a few cues in the film. They are still locking the edit, so it will be a little while until I get into it in earnest.
There is a rumor that Chris will be directing MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 5, and if that does happen, I would love to score it. I take nothing for granted, but I hope Chris has enjoyed our collaboration enough to invite me back.
I, would like to thank you once again Joe for granting me this interview and I’m looking forward to your future projects.
JK:You are very welcome :)
A very special and heartfelt thanks to Joe Kraemer for being gracious and allowing me the opportunity to interview him. Thanks brother!
Jack Reacher soundtrack is availble from La-LaLand Records http://lalalandrecords.com/JackReacher.html
Joe's music from the Cinemax Series Femme Fatales is available from MovieScore Media through Screen Archives Entertainment http://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/19709/FEMME-FATALES/
The Way OF The Gun is available from Milan Records http://www.amazon.com/Way-Gun-2000-Film/dp/B00004WH73/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1361775038&sr=1-1&keywords=the+way+of+the+gun+soundtrack