Playing at drive-ins across the United States and in homes later this year is the supernatural thriller Followed, which takes viewers on a terrifying ride that’ll change the way you look at vloggers and elevators. Composer Jason Soudah took to the studio to layer the film with a soundscape designed to scare the pants off of viewers.
Followed is the story of DropTheMike, a controversial vlogger in the vein of Logan Paul or PewDiePie who goes missing while exploring a haunted hotel. Mike’s channel has surprised 50,000 subscribers by delivering mostly tasteless videos with the help of his crew. In this case, Mike is exploring the Hotel Lennox, the site of grisly murders that went unsolved. Urban myths claim the hotel is haunted; viewers are taken on a wild ride to learn the truth.
PopAxiom and Jason discussed making the music for Followed and his movie-like road to great opportunities.
Jason’s connection to music began as early as four or five years old when he “… started playing piano … One of my older cousins played piano, and she used to get all us grandkids together to put on shows for the family.”
A few years later, for reasons unknown to Jason, a now seven-year-old started “… writing rubbish songs. I just wanted to write my music from quite a young age.”
For Jason, creating music never stopped, and it “… lead to playing piano and keyboards in bands; learning the guitar.”
Like any kid of the past few decades, Jason “… grew up with movies like Star Wars and Back to the Future and score-driven films …” Naturally, he fell, “… in love with that kind of music.”
Jason played live shows with the band while flirting with scoring by creating “… music for small films and theatrical productions at college. But I still focused on becoming a singer/songwriter.”
Around 2006, the young musician’s skills as a pianist earned him work on “… an album with Sylvia Massy and Michael Ross …” Jason recalls them “… saying that my piano stuff should be in movies. But I didn’t know if I could do that because I could read music but not particularly well. They were quite encouraging to go into that world.”
Another spark setting Jason off in the direction of film scoring was an interview with legendary composer Hans Zimmer who discussed, “… how he uses technology to make music … I found that inspiring. It opened my mind to the idea that it’s possible to do it without classical training.”
Jason continued to work as a singer, songwriter, and engineer.” I got introduced to people through ASCAP at music conferences. I got connected to Simon Greenway in London who specialized in film music. He told me about this place in LA called Remote Control.”
Little by little, these encouraging moments added up. One night, an old-school friend showed up watch Jason perform at a show. They rode home together. “I told him that I was craving playing the piano because I hadn’t played a real piano in a long time.
Jason’s friend answered, “Oh, you should come in, my girlfriend and I have a piano, and it’s all sound-proof.”
“So, I go into this very up-market London townhouse …” Jason says, “… At the end of this huge library, there’s a massive, nine-foot grand piano. So, I start playing.”
Perhaps feeling the room’s presence, Jason says, “I turn around, and there’s a studio space behind me with awards on the mantle. It turned out that my friend’s girlfriend was Michael Kamen’s daughter.”
To continue expanding his musical career, Jason and his wife moved to LA circa 2009. Jason was having a drink with a friend. “My friend brought a friend who was also from London. I told her I was a musician and interested in scoring. She started asking me some detailed questions, and I asked, ‘How come you know so much?’ She said her dad was a composer. Later that evening, she says, ‘My dad’s studio is just up the street if you guys want to check it out.'”
Jason was excited to see a studio. “I was expecting some small, garage studio, and we get there, and she points to half a block and says ‘This building’s my dad’s and this building …”
“We go in … and sit in this huge, red, dimly lit room with equipment everywhere. I said, ‘Who’s your dad?’ and she replies, ‘Hans Zimmer.'”
“It was like something was trying to tell me this [composing] is something I need to get into.” Jason thought and says, “As soon as I took the plunge into the film scoring world, it seems to me that everything started moving faster than it had.”
Intern To Assistant
Once Jason was able, Zoe Zimmer introduced the up-and-coming composer to the studio manager. Zoe made no promises but did offer little tips about keeping her dad happy. “… her dad doesn’t like cold Coca-Cola, so if you get one for him, get it straight from the cupboard. Little things like that, so I wouldn’t get fired right away.”
Jason was eager to dive into whatever work came at him at Remote Control. “My second morning there, I asked to go to Matthew Margeson’s room, a composer on campus. I thought it was about getting him lunch or something, but when I walked in, he had my resume. He interviewed me and hired me to be his assistant on a trial basis.”
Jason’s run as Matt’s intern assistant was short-lived. “Matt trained me on how to run a studio. I did that for about two months …” But it wasn’t the end for Jason “… Matt was able to hire me full-time. I worked for him for about three years as his assistant. Gradually, I got to the point where I was writing cues.”
Jason leaves no doubt, “That opportunity was so good, and I was determined to do my very best and make sure Zoe didn’t regret introducing me.”
During this time, Jason’s support system, his wife, had his back every step of the way. “For the first five weeks I wasn’t getting paid, and then, it’s not like studio assistants make a lot. There were nights I’d come home super-late or even days where I’d be sleeping in the studio. She’d bring me clothes and stuff like that. I couldn’t have done any of it without her.”
Working at Remote Control did involve things like “Panic attacks and sleepless nights and working on multiple projects at once.” But Jason says of this experience, “It’s great training. Any time that I’m in a stressful situation on a new project I can say ‘I’ve done this before and it’s going to be fine.'”
Jason adds, “It was a great experience being in that studio. There are so many people working hard, and we all learn from each other. I’ll be chit-chatting with someone in the car park, and they’ll say ‘Oh, I need some guitar on this,’ then I end up doing guitar for someone.”
Getting the gig for Followed in 2018 involved “… another random meeting. I was in Venice Beach looking for a sushi restaurant. I ask a random woman, and she was English, so we got to chatting. She ended up inviting me to a Thanksgiving gathering she was having. We ended up chatting with Todd Klick, the writer of Followed. We became friends that night. He’s a huge Hans Zimmer fan and fan of music.”
Jason’s relationship with Klick, well, clicked. “He came by the studio and came by a few shows when I was still performing in LA. He introduced me to Antoine Le, the director, and Matthew Solomon, the lead producer. They came around my studio, and I played them an idea I had, which they liked.”
As Klick, Le, and Solomon neared the post-production phase of making Followed, and they called Jason. After watching a rough cut of the film, Jason, “… based the first idea on the Korean Elevator Game. For the main melody, I assigned notes on the piano a number and then followed the sequence of floors, which gave me the melody.”
The Korean Elevator Game goes by other names but mainly involves riding elevators in specific patterns. Jason explains, “In the game, when you freak out and want to come back, you’re supposed to do everything in reverse order. Later on, I had another idea for the sort of ‘friendship’ or ‘love’ theme. We called it the ‘Come Home Suite.’ Surprise, surprise, I a melody with those notes in the reverse order and put nicer chords under it to make it sweeter, which was Antoine’s favorite.”
Followed features a mix of music that includes a healthy dose of hip hop. “On a couple of tracks, I got teamed up with a rapper. He came in a performed on a couple of tracks.”
Jason doesn’t recall there being a lot of references to the music of other movies. He says, “Antoine wanted to feel the music, so I used a lot of sub-bass and low-end. So, sometimes the cue is barely audible, but you’ll feel this rumbling … something uneasy to make viewers feel on edge.”
The conversation turns to influences and Jason, those other artists who inform his creative DNA. “Definitely Hans Zimmer. Before I even had a window into his world, I was a big fan and continue to be. He’s always pushing boundaries with music and his work ethic. Also, his collaborative nature.”
Jason continues, “Michael Jackson was a big influence. Engineer Bruce Swedien had a massive influence on me and his recording techniques. Dr. Dre and The Chronic. Mixing funk and hip-hop beats. Pharrel as well. I’m a huge fan of the Goo Goo Dolls and Paramore.”
When asked about getting his hands on a dream remake, Jason says, “I would love to have a go at Memento. I love the music, but that film was groundbreaking for me. The way the story was told. That would be one I’d love to have a go.”
Memento isn’t the only thing he’d like to do. “I’d love to do something like a Bourne film … action-thriller-mystery. I love the way John Powell had that cello, and bringing in what to me is British dance beats and middle-eastern drums. I love music that’s not stuck in one sonic palette.”
Followed is out in theaters and drive-ins. Fans can also request that the film gets released on a screen near you. “They’re talking about doing a sequel to Followed. I’m working with another group of filmmakers on a project called the Daugherty Gang based on a true story.
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