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 Phillip 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’s brought Davi (Isha Blaaker), his biracial roommate. Unfortunately, Tim’s also got a secret to share with his family. The film descends into hilarious chaos with bulls having erectile dysfunction, fights between romantic rivals, and a botched marriage proposal. A Madea Homecoming delivers when it comes to everything the franchise promises, from film to film.
PopAxiom and composer Phillip White discussed instruments, becoming a composer, and scoring Tyler Perry’s A Madea Homecoming.
Phillip grew up in Madrid, where he picked up a guitar at around thirteen. But he moved across the pond for college. “I went to Tufts and New England Conservatory for a double degree program. It was a five-year program where you go to two schools and have two degrees. It was great. I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed going to just one or the other. I felt I needed the 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 “Chris Leonard and started assisting him in 2005. Super-guy, I could not have asked for a better mentor. In 2008, he gave me a shot at a video game named James Bond Quantum of Solace.”
A lifelong film fan, Phillip’s time on Quantum of Solace was “heaven getting to use those themes. From then on, he brought me into more projects to collaborate.”
One of those collaborations included a show with a legendary run on television — Supernatural. “I started programming and assisting Chris. Then, he gave me more opportunities to write until I wrote entire episodes.”
About Madea’s Homecoming
Phillip’s collaborations with Chris brought the young composer into the world of Madea. “Perry asked Chris if he’d come work on Boo 2: A Madea Halloween, but Chris was getting pretty busy. So, Chris suggested that he collaborate with me on it. Perry and his team were very gracious to agree to the whole thing. So now, Madea Homecoming is my fourth collaboration with the studio.”
“He’s a performer in the true sense of the word. He can inhabit anybody,” Phillip says about Tyler Perry. After Boo 2, Phillip scored Nobody’s Fool, Madea Family Funeral, and Madea Homecoming and spoke to the filmmaker’s impact. “He’s created this incredible studio outside Atlanta that employs tons of people. I have tremendous respect for the guy. Also, considering his tough upbringing.”
Phillip came on board with a “close-to-locked cut.” So, the process for this project began with viewings with key collaborators. “I sat down with Joel High, the music supervisor for Tyler Perry Studios, and is like Perry’s musical right hand. He and Sammy Posner, who worked together on this along with Music Editor Johnny Caruso, were there too.”
“We figured out where the music should start and where it should,” he says about the results of those meetings. “We figured out what styles we were looking for in different areas.”
Phillip 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 bass, electric bass, electric guitar, hand percussion, and I think that’s it. That provided a feeling for whenever Madea and her entourage were onscreen.”
“For the more family moment,” he continues, “we had a 22-piece string ensemble with piano and a couple of woodwinds. We had a month or a month-and-a-half before it had to be delivered. So, a month of writing and a couple of weeks of recording.”
The filmmaking process is an ebb and flow of creativity and compromise. “There’s a little bit of flexibility,” Phillip says about the process for A Madea Homecoming. “Our music editor created a temp track, not for the whole movie but about half or two-thirds.”
“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.”
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.”
“It depends on what I’m hearing the score should be,” Phillip answers about whether or not he has a ‘go-to’ instrument. “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. 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, even at a keyboard. I’ll hum or sing different tunes if it’s a more lyrical instrument like a string or wind instrument.”
Phillip’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; Star Wars, Jaws, and ET, then later Schindler’s List.”
“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 did Ran, is just phenomenal. It’s an orchestral score with a few Japanese instruments.”
Phillip also admires Bernard Herman and his collaborations with Hitchcock. “There’s a flashback scene in Madea Homecoming that we scored in a noir style nod to Herman.”
“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,” Phillip declares.
Finally, what’s a dream project Phillip 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 in my heart for musicals.”
Is Tyler Perry’s A Madea Homecoming on your watch list?
Thanks to Phillip White and Impact24 PR
for making this interview possible.
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