Awards Daily : Let’s talk about your key inspiration when you first read the script. What was your first inspiration when reading through it?
Howard Shore: Well, it’s a fantastic script, it really is. I was excited to work on it and to be a part of it. The discussions I started to have with Tom McCarthy were interesting because he was describing the story to me really in terms of themes and motifs and we were talking about ideas that were inherent in the script that could be used as inspiration for themes, like the pressure in the church. It was such an important part of the story and the things like legacy journalism, that type of insight into this type of journalistic investigation, Deference And Complicity was really important. It’s so much about what the story is about.
AD: What can you tell us about the opening music and composing that piece that runs over the opening credits?
HS: The piece is actually written for a ten piece chamber group. There’s of course the piano and other keyboards that are used, there’s Fender Rhodes and Hammond, I used classical harp, the bodhran, an Irish drum, a small drum kit is used, fiddles, accordion, there’s two French horns, electric guitar, acoustic six-string guitar and mandolin, electric bass. I featured the piano because I thought that the piano, just by it’s very nature of being this black and white instrument, I think it was a good instrument to convey the newsprint and the idea of the investigative aspect of the newspaper reporters. I thought the piano had a truthfulness to it and a certain grace and honesty. That was kind of the thinking going into choice in instrumentation.
AD: What conversations did you and Tom talk about when you were composing the music?
HS: We talked about the story in terms of these thematic ideas, I mentioned a few of them. We also talked about the victims, the children, and to me that was kind of like the right angle and the tragic consequences that were a result of what was actually taking place within the church. We talked about things about investigative reporting and how it’s an art form that is well worth supporting to keep that alive in journalism, so we get to the core and heart.
AD: What about the conversations you had when working with Tom McArdle and the editing process?
HS: Tom McArdle was always part of the conversations with Tom, Mary Ramos as well, so they were sessions with the input of definitely the editor and Mary, who was working with Tom, was very instrumental in finding the use of the music and why is it in these scenes and asking questions. We tried to achieve something creatively in filmmaking that was maybe better than all of our ideas combined.
AD: Something that I always wonder about the creative process is, you read the script and you’re working with the director and editor to get the feel for it, but do you hear it in your mind first, do you play it until it sounds right? What creates your creative process?
HS: Music is an emotional language and I leave myself very open almost as if I’m viewing the film as the audience would view it. I write a lot to the story. I’ll write a body of work based on the themes that I’ve mentioned. In actually scoring the film, I’ll go through the body of work that I’ve created for the film and then place those themes and motifs in the storyline. It starts from a very emotional level and then it goes to a more technical level of how actually. The emotional part is “what IS the music” and the technical part is “how do you use it in the film.”
AD: What was your favorite piece to work on?
HS: I would say “Deference and Complicity,” the theme for that piece. Really, what you hear in the very beginning of the film. That very first piece is a piece I wrote based on the idea of “Deference and Complicity.”
AD: You’ve worked on composing the score for The Lord of the Rings. How did the two differ?
HS: Lord of the Rings is a story from a classic novel by JRR Tolkien out of the 20th century. It’s arguably one of the most complex fantasy worlds every created in print, whereas Spotlight is an investigation into an actual real story that took place in 2000 or 2001. In many ways they’re very different, but in some ways they relate. The emotional use of music, the idea of using themes and motifs to tell a story are both techniques that they share in common.
AD: What do you listen to?
HS: Hmmm. I listen to a lot of very different music. I’m an average concert-going and opera attendee so I really listen to a lot of music. Not so much recorded music as I do in live performance.
AD: You’ve been a musician since you were 10? Does music run in your family?
HS: Yes, my dad sang and my mother played the piano.
AD: Well there you go [laughs]! So what’s next for you, Howard?
HS: [laughs] I’m working on a concerto for guitar and orchestra for a very special artist, Milos [Karadaglic].
AD: That’s exciting! It’s been an absolute pleasure getting inside the Spotlight score. There’s a lot buzz around that. All the best and happy holidays!
HS: Thank you. You too!