Monkeys Fighting Robots

Composer Jim Dooley loves making music, and he’s done so for a long list of films and TV shows over the past few decades, including Obsessed (2009), The Last Ship, and A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix.

In a rare interview, it kicked off without a question. I mentioned to Jim that I hum the Batman theme from Danny Elfman’s Batman score any time that I step on the gas while driving. He laughs and says “How about this?” He proceeds to play a few exciting seconds from Back to the Future on his piano.

“The <omitted for suspense> soundtrack is
the one that made me say ‘yeah, I want to do that.’”

Sitting in his studio, Jim is currently working on the third season of Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events. The Netflix series is a hyper-real, dark-comedy adventure that’s perfect for a composer who grew up with and cherishes the music of Danny Elfman.

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“A guy in high school, he made a short film … he took a cueball and rolled it down the hall. Essentially it looked like a fast car. He put a piece of the Batman score to it. I thought ‘that was the most amazing thing, what was that music?’”

The Batman-wave pushed on “The Danny Elfman Batman score is the one that made me say ‘yeah, I want to do that.’”

“The raising of the X-Wing out of the swamp.”

“There’s always two or three scenes to me that are, without music, just a whole different experience.” Go on … “Han Solo being frozen in carbonite. That cue, it’s doing so much heavy lifting.” Jim adds “The raising of the X-Wing out of the swamp. It’s just breathtaking how much patience and restraint he [John Williams] has with that.”

Jim’s work in A Series of Unfortunate Events is equally breathtaking. If you watch the show from the beginning, you’ll notice a change in the score. Throughout season one there was a change in composers. However, once Jim came on board, it became his sonic show and it’s great stuff.

“You try to have as much variation as possible.”

Jim’s work as a composer isn’t limited to film and television. Jim has worked on video games such as the SOCOM series and Infamous. “In a TV show, they want you to blow something up in five minutes. In a movie, the level of commitment [from the audience] is different. You’re not going anywhere for a couple hours. In a video game, that level is even greater.” Players actively sit for hours engaged in video game worlds. “We have no idea how long it’ll take individual players to do something. The music has to fill this world. You try to have as much variation as possible.”

In a moment of weakness, I went a little fanboy for a second. You see, Jim worked on Pushing Daisies, a show I absolutely loved and was canceled far too soon. Pushing Daisies fell within a moment of Hollywood history that would change the course of many shows  “We were doing well before the [writer’s] strike.”

What’s happening now?

Jim reveals that as we speak “I’m working on episode five [of Unfortunate Events], and I have three more to go. There won’t be anything else after that.” Snicket’s plan from the start was to complete the book series and do no more.

At the end of the summer, Jim will score “… the live-action Kim Possible movie.”

Last but not least, I ask Jim to spread the love and tell us a few composers he admires “There’s a lot of people out there doing great work. I’m a big fan of Thomas Newman’s work. Also, my collaborator on Last Ship, James Levine. I really admire his sensibilities.”

“Watch your favorite shows without music. It’s such a different experience.” Challenge accepted.

Thanks to Impact24 PR for the images
and the opportunity to speak with composer Jim Dooley.

Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.