Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer / 2007 Composed

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer / 2007
Suite from Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
# Title Duration
Silver Surfer Theme 4:22
Galactus Destroys / Opening 1:53
Pursuing Doom 3:12
Wedding Day Jitters 1:21
Chasing the Surfer 2:32
Camp Testosterone / Meeting the Surfer 3:35
A Little Persuasion 2:07
Botched Heroics 4:36
Someone I Once Knew 2:24
The Future / Doom's Deal 2:58
Sibling Switch 1:41
Outside Help 2:38
Springing the Surfer 1:58
Doom's Double Cross 2:41
Mr Sherman / Under the Radar 1:55
Four in One 3:04
Silver Savior / Aftermath 5:55
Gunshot Wedding 1:18
Norrin Radd 0:49

John's Thoughts

Lifting the Box

Just after putting Superman to bed, I was editing (and scoring) a Hitachi commercial when I got a call on my cell. It was Tim Story saying something like, "Hey, Ottman, Fan Four 2 is going, and well, I was just wondering if you were interested in scoring it." I thought I'd be the one calling Tim making sure he was going to hire me, not the opposite. So I said something like, "F%*& yeah, of course I wanna do it. Are you crazy?!" So a couple weeks later I was sent the script.

I was really looking forward to Fan Four 2 for many reasons. Above all, working with people I like and who trust me makes the process so much more fun, and inspiring. Not only did I miss my friends at Fox, but it was also great to see Tim, his crew, and editor, Bill Hoy. Tim's a sweet guy and really lets people do their thing in a welcoming environment. And that alone was something I was looking forward to after a very weird year.

Way before I began working on the film I read the script on a plane trip. It doesn't happen often - but a crude little melody popped into my head for the Surfer, and it became one of those little tormenting things. The next few months I was humming this fragment of a theme to myself all the time. Of course after awhile I forgot what the heck I was humming.

I was anticipating walking into the editing room a year from then, bright eyed, bushy tailed, and diving in. Things never happen the way you imagine, of course. As it ended up, I was a zombie on painkillers walking into the editing room. Months prior, I had damaged a disc in my back from stupidly offering a Fed Ex guy help with a huge box he couldn't lift to my front door. Don't do that! Tell them to bring someone to help. What I didn't know is that I shattered some bone in a bad disc, and the fragments had embedded themselves into my spinal nerves. As painful as that sounds, it was worse! So, in my delusion that it would "heal", I began my foggy Darvocet existence. I don't know how people get addicted to this stuff. It's like being drunk without the giddiness - at least for me. Of course the last thing you want to do is have anyone worry that you won't deliver. So I grinned and bared it making my way to the spotting session. I remember getting out of my car, thinking I could make it to the editing room and already be sitting when everyone walked in, as to not look too "crippled." Naturally as soon as I got out of my car, Robert Kraft and Daniel Diego (Fox music guys) drive up and wave. Me: "Hey guys!" Kraft: "Are you limping, Maestro?" Me: "Just a little stiffness." So as we're screening the film, sweat beads are coming down my forehead as I'm squirming in my chair, thinking to myself, "this is just F&^%*NG great. What the heck am I gonna do? Curse you, Fed Ex man!"

Over the next few days I began writing some basic introductory cues, but it took a massive amount of concentration. It would be just too impossible to get through the project tanked up on drugs. It was still early, so it was now or never to get surgery. I could only get scheduled for a Monday, so that was the plan. But things never happen the way you think - remember. So a few days before the planned procedure, I'm riding to the hospital on a stretcher with a siren blaring overhead. (I had nearly blacked out from the pain in my house.) I spent the weekend in the hospital tanked up on the GOOD stuff. Now THAT s&^t is like taking the best vacation on Earth - or maybe not on Earth. I was home in a couple days, fully rejuvinated from my "excursion" and all fixed up with just a little scar to show for it. My brain was back! And that was going to come in handy….

Get Out the Electric Guitars

Suddenly swirling about on the production was an assumption that the higher ups were looking for a "hip/modern rock" score - especially for the Surfer. The early cut had some action scenes temped with this type of music. This was partly responsible for the perception that the marching orders would for a synth/rock score. You see, the flavor of the moment was the film, 300. Rock music was successfully used in its trailer, so, of course, the thinking was to go in this direction for the Silver Surfer score. The kids were going to want this. And I was thinking, "Don't these same kids go see a Star Wars film scored with the London Symphony?" Those movies seem to do pretty well. I always think audiences can smell it if they're being pandered to. The emotion and adventure of a film is what they get sucked into, not music trying to tell them "this film is 'off the hook!'." Well, needless to say, the little theme I had planned for the Surfer had to stay tucked away - for the moment. At this point we're just a few weeks from recording, and the main character's theme is up in the air. Thus began the days of drum loops, guitar sessions and groovy demos. It felt so tragic. Here's this character with so much mysterious history behind him. He's a torchered and ultimately sympathetic soul. And we're scoring him as if he's a beach boy. Sigh. I could tell Tim wasn't sure about this approach either, as no one ironically was, but the feeling was that the studio would want to go this way.

As we were doing different versions of the theme, I was also scoring the movie with no Silver Surfer theme to plug in. Then came the big day to play the final rendering of the "hip" Surfer theme to the higher-ups. I wasn't there, so I waited for the reaction. Robert Kraft called (paraphrasing): "John, I have good news and bad news. The good news is they were horrified and want 'John Ottman to do what John Ottman does.' They want an emotional and introspective theme for the Surfer. The bad news is you have to come up with it, well, soon." WHEW. I thought, "Movie execs with taste! It can't be."

Out of the Back Pocket

It was time to revive that little melody I had tucked away. Uh oh. What was it?? I never wrote it down. Did I have memory damage from all that Darvocet!? But soon it came, and I had two days to sit down at the keyboard and develop it into a full-fledged theme. After coming up with the intro and other parts of the theme, I took sections of it and placed it on picture in order to try and sell it. Time was ticking away, and I really believed in it. So my music editor and I placed sections of it over key moments in the film and transferred the presentation to DVD. It began with the synth demo of the entire theme (we placed it over a still of the Surfer) and then after that we showed three moments from the film. The most important two scenes were when Sue speaks to the Surfer in the prison - utilizing the sympathetic part of his theme - and when the Surfer heals Sue at the end and takes off to save the world - just to show where his theme would ultimately go. So, weeks into supposedly writing the score, I'm walking into a production executive's office (Alex Young), DVD in hand, with Kraft, Diego and Amanda (music editor) to show the Surfer's new theme. Heart palpitations. A techie pushes play on the DVD - agonizingly low sound, of course. I whisper across the room with my hands flailing upward, "Can you turn it UP, please?!" To my relief, Alex was relieved with the "new" approach, and I was re-invigorated to quickly and finally dive full throttle into the score - which we were recording in two and a half weeks.

With this new-found enthusiasm, I also began sprucing up the past themes from the first film and putting a little modern twist to areas like Victor Doom's "up to something" music, because the story focused a lot on his antics. With a sequel you don't want to abandon the musical world you created on the first film (although it's all too commonplace), yet you want to feel it's also going somewhere. So I made the love theme richer, Victor's music more quirky, and came up with new variations to the main theme. The surprising thing about the film was how much of it revolved around conversation and anticipation of things. Therefore there was far more underscoring of dialog and tentative moments than the overt musical sequences you'd expect from a super hero film. Although not pumped with adrenalin, these interpersonal scenes were some of the most rewarding to play with. Supporting conversation - like Sue's discussion with the Surfer in the prison (the cue, "Someone I Once Knew") was very tricky with subtleties that supported the psychology of the characters. As mentioned before, there was also a lot more of Victor's interaction with the Four, and this required a lot of sly underscoring to both create suspicion while unobtrusively propelling the long dialog scenes forward (i.e. "Outside Help"). It was a lot of fun to make this music an amalgam of quirky synth sounds combined with light orchestrations featuring tremolo chromatic string lines and sustained woodwind colors. I found that going to older vintage sounds added to the quirkiness. Thank you Yamaha Motif ES! (That's my keyboard with some of the coolest internal sounds.)

Because of budget constraints (believe it or not) we had just four days to record the score. I had prepared the Silver Surfer theme to record with the orchestra (which was basically the demo I had presented). But it was over four minutes and we ran out of time to record it. I thought, "boy the CD's gonna suck if we don't record that theme. And what do we put on the end titles for a film about the Silver Surfer?" We had to prioritize to recording the cues for the scenes in the film. But as it turned out, there were some substantial changes to picture, and a main title visual was never completed by the time we recorded. So a new last minute recording session was scheduled for a couple weeks later (as they were dubbing the film.) Two days before this session I finally got picture to write the opening title music. Plus some other scenes had been altered or added. So at this session we hauled ass recording new cues as well as the Silver Surfer Theme.

Unexpected VIsitor

So zero hour on the final session is fast approaching, and we're rushing through the music for the final wedding scene - a cute little cue, but hardly one that I'd want a visitor to witness as indicative if my work. I hear Robert Kraft talking to someone behind me. I turn around to see this sweet-looking man smiling at me. He says hello. Holy crap. It's Patrick Doyle. It never fails. Whenever we're on some "goofy" cue (as I call them) some luminary walks in and I feel like putting a bag over my head. On top of that, I want to be social with such a visitor, but the conductor's out there wanting comments from me as the clock ticks to the pull-the-plug moment. My concentration is gone. So as we're recording the takes, I'm exchanging pleasantries with Patrick, completely self-conscious of the cue that's playing behind me, yet I can pay no attention to it. Damon on the talkback mic: "John, John! Hello!! What the hell's going on in there? Did you like it?" Me: "Um, well I really didn't hear most of it - we'll do a playback." Damon rolls his eyes looking at the clock. Patrick waves me on to do my task. I apologize and re-focus to hear a playback and make some notes. Damon starts the cue again. Suddenly someone sits snuggly next to me as the cue starts: It's Patrick. I look to my side, keeping a smiling demeanor. I turn back and see Damon out there waving the baton and see musicians playing, but I really hear nothing. All I hear in my head is, "Patrick Doyle is sitting right next to me, and we're recording this lame little cue, and I'm not really hearing it, and I have no instructions to give Damon that are going to make any sense. This guy's gonna think I'm a moron, and I'm gonna end up green-lighting a cue full of things I don't like." During the cue, of course, I'm telling Patrick that this is just our pick-up session for the silly little cues, and that I was sort of embarrassed. "Oh, no no, it's beautiful, really." He kindly replies - five inches from my face. I so badly want to chew the fat with him and tell him how brilliant I think he is, talk about his career, work, etc etc. Yet I gotta work. "He's going to think I'm a total jerk just ignoring him," I fret. So we just ended up recording this cue over and over again as I sit there catatonic. (Kraft reminded me that this was like that time years ago when he walked into the Eight Legged Freaks session. I had always wanted to meet Robert Kraft. We were recording a lot of fun wild music in the session that was sounding great. We then decide to put up an intentionally cliché cue to be used as source from a bad TV show. Just then, Robert walks in. I sink in my chair. Of ALL cues that were kicking ass, THIS is when he walks in. So, like I said, it never fails. I get a little too self-conscious, but that won't ever change.)

So anyhow, we finished the little wedding cue. I think to myself, "Well, I'm sure it was fine." Thankfully we move on to mindless string overdubs (doing another pass of strings over cues we already recorded). I figure, ok, now at least Patrick will get to hear some good stuff we did. Only, when you're overdubbing onto a previously recorded cue with another string pass, you want to hold back the original cue just so you can hear the additional strings you're laying down. So the cues sounded totally unbalanced and lacking their original punch. I look to my side and see Patrick smiling. I turn back, with my forced little smile, dying inside. In ventriloquist style I scream out to Casey (my engineer) "Can we play the original pass louder?? (With an expression on my face explaining to him we have an 'audience'.) He puts up the volume slightly, but we had to be able to hear the lone string pass clearly. So I figure, that's ok, Patrick will want to leave in a minute. It's just string overdubs. I guess he knows now from my relentless explanations that the cues will sound great when mixed. He's gotta be bored. Well, I guess he was pretty entertained. He remains in the chair. Damon is getting perturbed wondering why I sound like I've had a lobotomy. When Patrick turns to talk to Kraft for a second, I whisper in the mic that Patrick Doyle is sitting next to me. For some reason, Damon thinks this is some silly joke. (Patrick, if you're reading this, I hope you know I love you! I just get easily rattled when the likes of you walk in.) I remember when Alf Clausen walked in during a cue from X2. But it was perfect timing. It was during a great-sounding cue, and we'd just gotten all the kinks out. Anyhow, Patrick finally gets up and walks into the recording stage with Robert. Damon looks to his side oblivious (not knowing what Patrick looks like.) I talk into the mic, "I told you." "Oh, you're Patrick Doyle," Damon exclaims in his lively tone. "Everyone, (talking to the orchestra) Patrick Doyle!" As the orchestra says hello, Damon looks at me through the glass, and then I think both of us looked at the clock at the same time. How could this be happening NOW? (Damon also is a fan of Patrick's and I think was also feeling the frustration of having to ignore him as we played "Beat the Clock.") It was great meeting you, Patrick. I hope we meet again in a more social situation!

Anyway, we finished by the skin of our teeth. I asked if the CD could be delayed so we could get the cues from the late recording session on the album. Thank goodness everyone agreed.

Not Over Till It's Over

But you really can never relax until the final dub is done done done. On films like this, and with today's digital technology, films are in editorial flux even on the final dub stage. When the phone rings, I can't help but think, "Oh no. Something's gone horribly wrong." (That's why by the way, I've learned to hate the sound of a phone. I find it to be extremely disturbing.) But in anticipation of making musical changes on the final dub, we purposely record musical phrases and chord sustains for the music editor to work with. But in rare occasions, well, that doesn't work. So on the second to last day of the final dub I get a call from my music editor lamenting that there was nothing she could piece together for a little scene in the airport. "Any ideas?" Subtext: hint hint "Could you write something?" After a long pause. I relented. Ugh. "I guess I can try something on synth and email it to you." "Oh goodie!! We need it in an hour or so though." Ugh. So, I emailed a quick synth cue and they threw it in just to create a pulse under the scene to keep the energy up a bit. That's modern technology at work.

So, although exhausting as usual, the experience was a good one. In the end we had fun, and I got to bring home a great momento that Tim gave me - A beautiful large Silver Surfer statue which looks great in my office. Thanks, Tim!