Scoring In The Third Dimension…

Andrew Lockington on Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Jules Verne’s thrilling adventure about a scientist who discovers a path to another world in the Earth’s core has been ‘done’ on screen a number of times before. But never like this… Using the latest three-dimensional camera technology, Journey to the Centre of the Earth is bigger and more in your face (quite literally) than ever before. Illuminating Brendan Fraser’s quest into the bowels of the planet is a dazzling orchestral score by Canadian composer Andrew Lockington. While his is not a name the average film music aficionado may know, this score will surely serve to make you remember it. While this film is as ‘Hollywood’ as you can get, the producers didn’t follow the herd to Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control studio. Instead they opted for a relatively little known composer with an impressive showreel who would go onto capture the heart and pulse of the film with strong thematic material, performed by large symphony orchestra and choir.

With films like Cake, A Touch of Pink, Saint Ralph and SkinWalkers, Andrew Lockington has proved himself to be a composer who can deliver well conceived and memorable music, with the latter a vigorous and exciting romp (still available to download courtesy of MovieScore Media). While his name may not yet be high in the public consciousness, his presence in the industry has been fairly longstanding thanks to his association with composer Mychael Danna, whom Andrew worked with as assistant and sometime orchestrator for his composing brother, Jeff. Present for projects such as 8MM, The Hulk, Monsoon Wedding, The Ice Storm and Girl Interrupted, the film composer-in-waiting was able to see first-hand how to work magic on screen. So it is little wonder that he has been able to impress in such a small run of projects and right now Journey to the Centre of the Earth is at the top of the heap (though there’s more to come).

Andrew took time out of his busy schedule – twice actually due to unforeseen technical problems – to talk to me about creating a score in the ‘classic’ mould for one of literature’s biggest adventures.
So Andrew this is really the highest profile movie you’ve been attached to so far – how did your involvement come about?

I was sitting in the office of New Line Music VP Robert Bowen discussing his upcoming projects when he brought up this 3D adventure film they had on their slate to co-produce with Walden Media. I read the script and immediately put together a demo reel of my material that I thought might be in the same vain. He liked it and sent it along to his counterpart at Walden, Lindsay Fellows. Lindsay introduced me to the director and I was fortunate enough to get the gig.

What did you set out to do with this; what was your gut reaction when you were first signed to the picture? What was your approach?

The first thing I did was go on ebay and purchase an early edition of the book. The main character in the film walks around with an early edition of the book and it contains all of the lithographs and illustrations from Jules Verne’s original publication. I re-read the story and really wanted to immerse myself in the original text again. Then it was coming up with that main theme for the film. A theme that could have fun and adventure yet still work in perilous moments when it needs to. Basically this would be the theme that hopefully the audience would be humming as they leave the theatre.

Now of course this is an effects-laden adventure and is itself somewhat groundbreaking. Were you able to see a finished version in 3D before you began work on the music?

Not a finished version, but I was continually viewing scenes in 3D whenever I could. It really did inform how I composed certain scenes as there would often be something in the depth of field of a scene that would be more deserving of influencing score in 3D than in 2D.

What was your way into this score; was there a specific scene or moment where you felt you knew how to tackle it?

I guess when I came up with the main theme and was able to figure out how it could be evolved to work through moments through to the end of the film, I knew where I was going. There are three themes in the film. The Main Theme is really the adventure theme. It’s representative of the journey as a whole and I used it whenever the characters were in control of their situation. The second theme I referred to as the Peril theme. It comes up in the score in the moments where the characters are in a dire situation but are having little influence on how it ends up. The third theme is reflective of Sean and Trevor’s relationship with Max, and then ultimately represents their relationship with each other as it develops throughout the film.

This is a first feature for the director… Was he a hands-on musical collaborator, giving ideas or having a definite sense of what he wanted from you? Or were you left to do your thing?

He was a definite collaborator. I was very impressed with his ability to view the film as an overall approach and make sure the score would work on a macro level before concentrating on specifics. Despite his attention to detail with visual effects, he is very much a storyteller at heart, and much of his direction was helping shape the music to help tell the story in a parallel way to the picture.

It’s quite a large score, tell us about the ensemble – how many did you have out there?

Approx. 90 players plus choir, though it was recorded in sections so some cues have less…

You recorded at Air in London, what was that experience like for you?

Air is an incredible studio, and has such a unique sound. It’s a real pleasure whenever I have an opportunity to work there.

You used the Kiyoshi Nagata Taiko Ensemble… what was the thinking behind that?

I knew from the get-go that this would be a more retro adventure orchestral score, but I was continually looking for something other than orchestra to draw on. I spent some time exploring the Icelandic connection but there’s really no interaction with Icelandic culture in the film so that quickly fell by the wayside. More than anything, the big Japanese Taiko drums Kiyoshi has in his collection – these large hollowed out logs – sonically made sense with the film. They’re not a feature of the score but occur in many places with the orchestra adding some unique lower end to the sound spectrum.

Obviously it’s a score written in the classic tradition; are you influenced by any composers in particular? Who do you admire?

I don’t listen to scores anymore outside of seeing the films they’re written for, but I’ve got to say pretty much everyone working in the industry has a lot of talent.

You have done a handful of movies now and your score for SkinWalkers was released by MovieScore Media, but not many will know your name yet – where did you spring from, what’s your background and why did you aspire to be a film composer?

I emerged from studying music at University and spent a year writing Jingles for various advertising companies here in Toronto. After a year of doing that I decided I really wanted to be a film composer and started meeting different film composers and offering to be a fly on the wall. One of the composers I talked to was Mychael Danna. He suggested that the best place for me might be LA. A few weeks later, I’d been to LA and was all set to move there when the phone rang and it was Mychael asking if he could talk to me about an assistant position. That evolved into a 6 year working relationship with him and some additional projects orchestrating for his brother Jeff as well. They’re both incredibly talented and I learned an enormous amount from that great experience. Mychael is really one of the pioneers of incorporating non-western influences in Hollywood film scores and working with him really expanded my musical vocabulary and exposed me to lots of amazing musical worlds I’d never really explored.

What sorts of things have you taken away from the time you spent working with him?

One of the great things that happened working for him was that when he would get a new project, he and I would spend a lot of time doing research on various new (old actually) instruments and musical cultures. The other side of that was I able to experience the scoring of numerous films from the writing stage to the recording stage, and travelled all over the world recording with many amazing orchestras. It was an amazing mentorship.

You’re based in Toronto. Does that make forging a career in Hollywood more challenging?

While I live in Toronto, I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles for meetings, so there are people who assume I live there. It provides some challenges regarding communication, but we’ve always made it work. It’s actually really nice in many respects. I’m an early riser so I can often get 6 or 7 hours of writing in in the morning before the phone starts ringing from the west coast.

There are some great moments in the score; ‘Storm’ is a favourite of mine. Are you particularly proud of a cue, or moment in the music?

There are some moments and scenes where the music is at the forefront and driving the action or the narrative. I particularly enjoyed writing those scenes. ‘Storm’ is one of them. ‘Building the Raft’ would be another.

Well this is a great calling card for future projects – the only way is up surely? What have you got lined up?

After working on Journey I wrote a score for Michael McGowan’s film One Week which is premiering at the Toronto Film Festival in September. It’s a very minimalist score, which was very therapeutic after coming off of writing Journey. Then after that I started working on the film City of Ember which will take me back to London in August for recording.


My thanks to Andrew Lockington and Melissa McNeill at Costa Communications.


Originally published at Music from the in the Summer 2008.