Mister Zanelli, how did you start on the Into The West series project?
I’ve had a long relationship with Dreamworks, going all the way back to when I was an assistant for John Powell during Antz. So I submitted some music, and the filmmakers sat down with Hans Zimmer and me, and it clicked.
May you tell us about the story?
It’s about a 100 year period of American history. It follows the generations of white and Indian people and tries to tell the story from both points of view through the intimate details of the lives of the people.
May you tell us how you’re working on? Let’s see, this was a few years ago. The score was mostly orchestral, and we recorded it in Bratislava. This was one of the times where the film really wanted to be acoustic most of the time.
What are the similarities and the differences between the three (series/movie) from your working point of view?
On one hand, you can say music is music is music. So it’s always just about the composition process, but in video games you aren’t constrained by the story or the edit or the picture. So maybe in that sense, video game music is easier but I hesitate to really say that. Game music is the most different though, and that’s why many game composers don’t make the jump into music for picture, because whenever there’s picture, there’s storytelling, there’s filmmaking, and that’s a crucial part of it.
What do think about the growing number of series and about the growing audience for them?
I don’t really know about that.
More and more first-rate film music composers come to video game music. And you too? What do you think about that? Do you think it is the normal venture for a composer nowadays?
Yes I do think it’s normal. I think many composers like the idea of being able to write without the additional burden of storytelling. I do a little bit of game work and enjoy it.
I don’t think it’s ever easy to be honest.
Have you been inspired by any other Tv series music?
I can’t think of anything off hand. But that’s really because I don’t have time to get into a TV series these days, and so I’m not really watching much.
What was your musical approach of the series, considering the amazing musical tradition associated to western films (from Tiomkin to Morricone…)
I just responded with my instincts again. I wouldn’t have been interested if they asked me to write a derivative score, and thankfully the filmmakers were as ambitious as I was. It paid off, as far as I can tell. The score has a more contemporary feel, and it tells the story to people in a new way.
Do you write a long suite with different themes that you cut afterwards to put pieces into the different episodes? Or did you write 2 or 3 different themes to weave into your score, different for each episode? Or do you work another way?
I did write most of the themes first but each episode would introduce new ideas or characters, so only the main themes, the global story arcs and character arcs, only those would appear in each episode. It wasn’t so much cut in though, as it was arranged specifically for each scene.
How much time did you have to compose an episode, and how would you describe you music for Into The West?
By the end of it, 2 weeks per episode but there was a very long time period before I wrote the first episode where I was writing the themes. It was nearly 9 months in total, but episodes 5 and 6 were each 2 week schedules. I’d describe the music as a contemporary take on a traditional theme.
How did you characterize the music?
If you’re asking if it’s thematic or atmospheric, then I’d say it’s very much a thematic score, with themes for certain characters, families and ideas. I approached it as though it was one film, with five sequels.
Is a score cd envisioned ?
I’d love to release it. I get emails nearly every week actually, asking about this, but Dreamworks thus far have not allowed a score release.
What did the experience bring to you, personnally and as a composer ?
This was the first large project I took on in my own name. So for me it was a step up, and for that I’m very grateful.
Do you have any anecdote ?
Just that I very much appreciated being recognized by the Academy for my work on it.