After being lauded for the compositions that underscored the 2012 film Beasts of the Southern Wild, composer and producer Dan Romer is again collaborating with True Detective director Cary Fukunaga for the drama, Beasts of No Nation.
The film tells the tale of a child soldier separated from his family to fight an African country’s civil war under the direction of a drug lord. Tackling the score from the child protagonist’s perspective, Romer found that ambient synthesizers harkening back to the ’70s and distorted submarine sonar sounds captured the chaos of the child’s experience. It’s far from the grandiose, soaring score of Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Romer emphasized the importance of composers paying attention to the story.
“It’s so story-based,” Romer says. “With Beasts of the Southern Wild, we kept saying make it louder, make it louder. Then for Digging for Fire, it was make it tougher, make it tougher. There’s nothing worse than a score that’s loud and overly emotional when it doesn’t need it.”
Because the trajectories of art are complex, Romer says newcomers shouldn’t enter the field thinking of themselves as composers. “Thinking of yourself as a composer when you’re young is premature,” he says. “Think of yourself as a writer or someone who makes music. If you just say I’m going to be a film composer, then you’re going to miss a lot of great opportunities. Do as many different projects as you can in whatever capacity. If someone says arrange horns for a funk group, do it. It could lead to something.”
To find those opportunities, Romer surrounded himself with talent and fostered those relationships. “The most important thing is to find other people who are talented. Form really good relationships with people who you think are amazing. People are so important.”
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