Marcelo Zarvos out take

Out Take: Marcelo Zarvos

It’s not enough to love music. An aspiring film or TV composer has to be as much a fan of movies and TV as the notes that accentuate it. That’s clear from the work of Brazilian-born Marcelo Zarvos. The composer started as a 10-year-old classically trained pianist who was also a child film buff.

As he grew older, Marcelo Zarvos supplemented his classical training with skills in rock, electronic and jazz, and 10 years after he moved to the U.S., he scored his first film—1998’s Uma Historia de Futebol (A Soccer Story). It was a short work, but it received an Academy Award nomination––and someone higher up saw it and liked it.

“In the beginning I’d do everything myself; I had no orchestrator, no anything. And I’ve played jazz. Whatever ‘baggage’ a composer has can certainly help,” Zarvos says. “And if you do a good job, hopefully your circle gets a little wider.”

Ultimately that led to his most recent project, the Denzel Washington-directed Fences. “Throughout, I never stopped reading the play. The words are incredibly important, almost sacred. ... Music should help you relate to it, but never get in the way of the words.”

Zarvos advises aspiring composers to seek opportunities in television, which are now more ubiquitous than those in film. But whichever avenue is pursued, it is advisable, he feels, to be an aficionado of film and TV as well as music.

“I love film and TV,” Zarvos says. “You have to have that interest, not just as a viewer, but an interest in how the sausage is made. You have to say, what can I find out? Who’s doing what? Know what Stranger Things is. Know your history of film. Know what came before you. And try to meet other filmmakers. When I started, I would stop by film schools, leave my name on bulletin boards and try to meet everyone.”

Most Recent: Fences

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