Tyler Perry’s A Madea Homecoming is the 11th film in the long-running series about a loud and proud Black woman played by writer-director Tyler Perry. Composer Philip White blends family drama and comedy for the film’s score.
The new film in the Madea franchise centers around the return of Madea’s great-grandson, Tim (Brandon Black), who is coming home from college. Tim brings Davi (Isha Blaaker), his biracial roommate home with him. Unfortunately, Tim also has a secret to share with his family. The film descends into hilarious chaos with fights between romantic rivals and a botched marriage proposal. A Madea Homecoming delivers when it comes to everything the franchise promises.
PopAxiom and composer Philip White discussed instruments, becoming a composer, and scoring Tyler Perry’s A Madea Homecoming.
Philip grew up in Madrid, Spain, where he picked up guitar at thirteen. But he moved across the pond for college. Philip went to Tufts and New England Conservatory for a five-year, double-degree program. Philip says “It was great. I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed going to just one or the other. I felt I needed a liberal arts education, but I wanted a strong musical education.”
“I moved out to USC to do a one-year program for composing,” he says. Soon after, he met Christopher Lennertz and started assisting him in 2005. “I could not have asked for a better mentor. In 2008, he gave me a shot at the “James Bond: Quantum of Solace” video game.”
A lifelong Bond fan, Philip’s time on Quantum of Solace was “heaven getting to use those themes. From then on, Chris brought me into more projects on which to collaborate.”
One of those collaborations included a show with a legendary run on television — Supernatural. Philip started programming when the show began. By the third season, he began writing additional music, and by season 13 was a credited co-composer.
About Madea’s Homecoming
Philip’s collaborations with Chris brought the young composer into the world of Madea. Tyler Perry asked Chris to score Boo 2: A Madea Halloween. Chris was stretched thin by other projects at the time, so he suggested that he collaborate with Philip on it. “Tyler Perry and his team were very gracious to bring me on board. A Madea Homecoming is my fourth collaboration with the studio,” Philip explains.
“He’s a performer in the true sense of the word. He can inhabit anybody,” Philip says about Tyler Perry. After Boo 2, Philip scored Nobody’s Fool, A Madea Family Funeral, and A Madea Homecoming. He spoke to the filmmaker’s impact: “Besides his incredible creative output, he’s created this incredible studio outside Atlanta that employs a world of people. I have tremendous respect for him.”
Philip came on board when the cut was almost locked. So, the process for this project began with viewings with key collaborators. “I sat down with Joel C. High, the music supervisor for Tyler Perry Studios, who is Perry’s musical right hand, along with Sami Posner and Johnny Caruso, the music editor.”
“We figured out where the music should start and where it should end,” he says about the results of those meetings. “We figured out what styles we were looking for in different areas.”
Philip explains that the music “needed to serve the comedy and the more intense family moments.” So how did he accomplish that balance? “For the comedy, I relied on a band sound with drums, upright or electric bass, electric guitar, Hammond B3 and Rhodes, and hand percussion. That provided a feeling for whenever Madea and her entourage were on screen.”
“For the more family moments,” he continues, “we had a 22-piece string ensemble with piano and a couple of woodwinds. We had a month-and-a-half before it had to be delivered. So, a month of writing and a couple of weeks of recording and mixing.”
The filmmaking process is an ebb and flow of creativity and compromise. “There was a little bit of flexibility,” Philip says about the process for A Madea Homecoming. “Our music editor created a temp track for about two-thirds of the movie.”
“So, when we spot it, we can play with it and come in or out of a cue sooner or later,” he continues. “Even at the mix stage, we’re still making adjustments. A spot might feel empty, so we’ll need something there, or another spot might feel like the music’s competing with dialogue or sound effects, so it will have to be dialed down or taken out entirely.”
The rhythm of creating for film and television requires multiple viewings to understand the whole picture. “Sometimes when you’re spotting, you’re stopping and starting a lot, so it’s hard to get a flow. So, there’s always little adjustments.”
Philip explains what instruments he uses to get started on a project. “It depends on what I’m hearing the score should be. I find that if it’s going to be guitar-centric, I’ll start on the guitar. If I write for guitar, it tends to be for the guitar,” he continues. “The advantage of the piano is that it can be for anything, at least for me. I can imagine it for any number of instruments. I might also hum or sing if I feel it should be more lyrical.”
Philip’s brief list of influences begins with John Williams. “Not to be cliche, but it’s true. I remember watching Raiders of the Lost Ark in theaters when I was seven. I was blown away by the movie. I feel like he scored my childhood. Raiders, Star Wars, Jaws, and ET formed the soundtrack of my youth.”
“I love Thomas Newman. I think he’s so unique,” he continues his list. “Gabriel Yared, who is most famous for The English Patient. I love his writing. Tōru Takemitsu, who scored Ran, is just phenomenal.”
He also admires Bernard Herrmann and his collaborations with Hitchcock. “There’s a flashback scene in Madea Homecoming that we scored in a noir style, as a nod to Herrmann.”
“If I could collaborate with any of my previous collaborators, I would be in heaven. It was such a joy working with everyone at Tyler Perry Studios,” Philip declares.
Finally, what’s a dream project Philip would like to work on someday soon? “I love animation. I’d love to do more animated projects or a musical. I have a real soft spot for musicals.”
Is Tyler Perry’s A Madea Homecoming on your watch list?
Thanks to Philip White and Impact24 PR
for making this interview possible.
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