Composer Kurt Oldman was, I argue, born to create music, and his talent and skill lead him to the movie business and projects like the recent The Spy Who Dumped Me, some Marvel films, indie films, and currently SuperMansion on Sony’s Crackle streaming service.
Monkeys Fighting Robots talked about SuperMansion with Kurt and about the process of making music for projects of wildly varying budgets and genres.
In the Beginning …
Kurt’s parents are both musicians, so it’s safe to say his DNA was coded for an aptitude in music. Film scoring came a little later “It was really something that developed slowly for me. I knew I wanted to be in music since I was very little but it really wasn’t until I got my first chance to score a film that I considered it.” The film was a two-and-a-half hour Swiss docu-drama called Endless Escape.
Kurt’s work on Endless Escape was the spark “I was in UCLA studying film scoring a year and a half later, and the rest is history.”
What’s SuperMansion all about? “SuperMansion is about retired superheroes. They’re trying really hard, but they’re always pretty much failing. I came on board pretty late in season one … and ended up writing the music for season two and from there.”
Picking Kurt’s Brain
What mental steps does a new project entail? “The process is always different. Sometimes I get to read a script early on, but most of the time the spotting session is where we first really discuss things. I think the tone of the final film is hard to get from the script. Seeing the film is a must.”
With age comes experience “Something I try to do now … write 10-15 minutes worth of just initial reactions to the project. Write whatever feels right. Most of the time it’s the right general idea, this gut instinct, that just needs some refinement instead of thinking things to death.”
What’s Kurt’s go-to instrument when he first sits down to work on a score? “… it’s always the piano.”
Big versus Small
Kurt’s worked on projects from large tentpole films like both Guardians of the Galaxy films, smaller budget films like Hardcore Henry, to projects on TV that typically don’t boast film budgets. How does the money behind a project affect Kurt’s process “A lot of the studio films, you’d be surprised how much gets replaced, reshot, trimmed down. You can go from a four-minute scene to a minute and a half scene and the piece you wrote for it doesn’t quite make sense anymore. So, you have to kind of rethink it.”
However, for indies, things work differently because you can’t afford to tinker forever “That’s the good thing about smaller films, you don’t have the money to take that into consideration.”
Another significant difference between a smaller project and a bigger one “It’s amazing how many people are involved [on big-budget films], how many opinions have to be considered.”
Challenge of Change
Composers sometimes see various cuts of a single film “You might plan ahead for something that’s going to happen, create a theme but the storyline [with an edit or two] changes …”
Part of the filmmaking process for all players to understand “At some point, you have to let go, confident that you delivered the best version you possibly can.”
As with every creative process, there are frustrations and breakthroughs “There was one TV movie I did where I was pulling my hair out for a week. Something about it did not gel. I did the obvious kind of stuff for a thriller, suspense type of TV movie, but it just did not gel. So, we sat down and said let’s try something else … we went full film noir and tried to be as unsubtle with the music as possible, and it worked.”
Influences Now And Then
Like many people, Kurt cites films like E.T. and Hitchcock movies as early influences “I grew up on people like [Jerry] Goldsmith and [Bernard] Herrmann. I studied these guys to death. I’m still studying the score to Vertigo to this day.”
Later on in life “Chris Young was a big influence for me. Everything I ever learned about horror films came from him.”
And today “The person who comes closest for me these days is the writing style of James Newton Howard. I think he sort of has the same sort of influences, the same sort of a point of view as I do.”
What’s Next …
On the agenda for Kurt “SuperMansion season three. I’m on a project with Hasbro that I can’t really say much more about. (TEASE!) A few more TV movies too.”
Thanks to Kurt Oldman and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.