How to Help Composers Speak and Sing for Your Character

Photo Source: Beth Dubber/Netflix

Known for his fervent electronic soundscapes, recording artist Eskmo broke into television composition with Showtime’s “Billions” before he was tapped for Netflix’s teen thriller series “13 Reasons Why.”

Composers are a character’s therapist.
“The approach [to scoring] is straightforward. It’s diving into the characters themselves and trying to get that balanced with a sense of what the showrunner is looking for. It’s almost like you’re therapeutically analyzing the characters. You’re trying to convey what’s happening inside of them, even if that’s not what they’re showing anybody else onscreen.”

READ: 5 Ways to Get Into Character

An actor’s commitment informs the composer.
“When an actor is doing their thing well, that absolutely changes my dynamic. If the scene is shot really well and the actor is nailing their scene, it’s so much easier to tap into what is needed. If I’m already completely sold on the character, I’m with them…. I’ve sat here just tearing up watching some scenes when I’m writing.”

Composers must be selfless.
“When you’re a solo artist, you can be super selfish. Part of the experience [of scoring television] is, ‘How can I take something that I’ve been crafting, the sound I’ve been working on, and put that into someone else’s creative vision?’ A lot of it is about communication and a lot of it is about not being precious with your writing. Revisions happen and…you’re ultimately trying to [convey] someone else’s creative vision, which can be really cool.”

Thematic sounds are central to “13 Reasons Why.”
“For each episode, we would do a spotting session and watch where music would need to be. [Showrunner] Brian Yorkey and I would talk about getting into the characters’ heads and seeing where they’re coming from…. One of the things that was really cool about ‘13 Reasons Why’ is that there’s a number of different characters. Each episode kind of centers around a certain character, and Brian was really into the idea of going really thematic, which was awesome for me to be able to dive in and write very specific themes for each character and have them carry throughout the whole series.”

Sharpen your specific sound.
“I think the fact that I have been working on my own career for a long time and have developed a certain kind of aesthetic and sound has really helped me be seen in this world [of composing] to a degree. I imagine the more traditional route might be challenging for some people if they’re going up against people coming out of more traditional backgrounds, kind of all sounding the same, and trying to figure out how they can get jobs. I’m sure that can be amazing as well; I just know [that] from my perspective, trying to really hone in on what my own individual voice is has contributed to my getting involved in this work.”

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Casey Mink
Casey Mink is the staff writer at Backstage. When she's not writing about television, film, or theater, she is definitely somewhere watching it.
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