A Score to Settle: Brian Tyler

GIM: From there, you were able to leapfrog this scoring apprentice system that’s been going on in Hollywood forever. Were you looked on as this young punk who didn’t do his time?
BT: Definitely. The apprentice system is so ingrained in film scoring. Most people do apprenticeships for eight to 10 years before they become a composer on their own. So it was a little bit strange at 23 to jump into composing film. I think it’s still, even after all these years, it’s a good thing depending on which side you’re on. Sometimes it haunts me, and other people think it’s cool. I think I come at it from a different angle, because it is strange. But there was a bit of friction at first. I definitely felt like I was back in high school and eating lunch by myself.

GIM: A film composer is in such a unique position in the process, since you’re able to see the finished product. You know what you’re working on, it will probably see the light of day; you can see the big moments, where the actors went with it, the lighting, all of that. Does it make it easier on composers?
BT: It cuts both ways. If you’re working on a film and you can see how it’s edited, you can see the shape of the film and that’s typically how composers work. The disadvantage, of course, is you’re the last person working on the movie. So when the film’s being made, the 10 or so producers and 15 movie executives and director all are having to look around at the 400 different people working on sets, costumes, script supervision, actors. Everyone’s looking in a million different directions. Then, when you’re composing the film, all of those eyeballs only have one place and one person to look at: the composer. So sometimes you get undue attention on you. You’re under a magnifying glass. That makes it more difficult. The fact that you’re artistically able to work from something that’s put together and in shape helps the artistic process. But of course, the artistic and political process go hand-in-hand. The thing that I found, more and more as I become more in demand, is that studios and directors want to sign me up for their films before they shoot them. It’s really hard to say, “You know what? I really want to wait and see how well you shot the film.” It’s a bit rude. So about half the movies I score now are films that I sign on for at the point of which there’s a script.

GIM: How do you do that? How do you translate a script into a score?
BT: You can’t. So really I invariably get signed up and they have me on a contract and I wait until they shoot the film. So it’s the same magnifying-glass process anyway.

GIM: Does your relatively young age work for or against you most of the time?
BT: I get demos all the time from guys my age trying to break in.

GIM: That must be heartbreaking.
BT: It is. It’s such a bottleneck. There’s only about 200 movies made every year, total, and you have hundreds of students coming out every year from programs in film composing. It’s not like composers are dying at the rate composers are coming out of school. You maybe have four or five people, at most, every year bowing out of composing, either from retiring or dying. What composer retires? You don’t. As a film composer, you just pass away eventually.

GIM: Your grandfather was drawn to spectacle: crowd-pleasers, maybe not so much “prestige” fare. Your filmography mirrors that, as well.
BT: Definitely a parallel there.

GIM: Is that what you’re drawn to?
BT: Not really. My favorite films are dramas, and yet I work in blockbuster-type and genre films. I love those, too. I’m not a movie snob by any means. You know, there is the desire in me to do prestige-type films that would be recognized and make an artistic impact, but at the same time I want to do films that people see because I want people to hear my music.

GIM: Do you think Walter would’ve enjoyed The Expendables?
BT: I think so, yeah, because it’s a throwback. I think he would’ve enjoyed it.   Get In Media

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