Writing Music for the Big Screen: Jed Kurzel on life as a Screen Composer

When it comes to music it seems Australian artist Jed Kurzel can do no wrong. Before shifting his focus to films, Kurzel first came to prominence as a founding member of Australian band The Mess Hall. Together with band mate Cec Condon, the blues-rock duo saw success around Australia winning a number of ARIA Awards.  Now, with a growing list of feature film scores to add to his resume and having won awards for his work on Slow West and Snowtown, Kurzel has established himself as an acclaimed film composer.

Currently residing in London and recently working with renowned director Ridley Scott, Kruzel’s musical career has taken several different (and successful) turns. With two 2017 Screen Music Award nominations under his belt, including Feature Film Score of the Year and Best Soundtrack Album for his work on Alien: Covenant, it is clear the success isn’t slowing down any time soon.

Ahead of the 2017 Screen Music Awards, Kruzel gave us the low down on what its like composing music for the big screen.

How different is it composing music for screen as opposed to writing music for your day to day band / project?

Very different. One has a deadline.

What are the challenges of composing for the screen?

Knowing when silence is best.

Does the television or film director give a specific brief or a general outline for you to explore creatively?

We kept everything very open right from the beginning so as not to box ourselves in and let a great idea pass us by.

How much creative input does the director have?

Film is a collaborative process, so by the time it comes to the score you’re being influenced by the performances, cinematography, editing etc and all of this is being guided by the director.

What (emotions) can music add that is not already present in a film or television piece?

I think the most interesting thing music can add to a film is tone.

What are the rewards of composing for the screen?

No lyrics.

There’s an influx of contemporary / rock n’ roll musicians making a foray into the world of screen composition. Why do you think this is and is it good for the screen composition landscape?

Music’s function in film seems to have widened so I guess a more contemporary musician offers something different or maybe a unique voice. If it’s making people approach film scoring in new and interesting ways then it can only be a good thing.

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The 2017 Screen Music Awards ceremony will be held on Monday, November 13 at the Melbourne Recital Centre.