Pumpkin / 2002 Composed

Pumpkin / 2002
Suite From Pumpkin
# Title Duration
Lofty Goals* 3:08
Pumpkin 2:01
Outcasts 2:25
Separation 4:16
First Day* 3:51
I'm in Love 2:09
Bad World* 1:25
A First Step 2:08
To Class* 1:16
Torn Souls* 4:29
I'm Not Retarded 2:52
Goodbye, Cruel World 2:27
Friends and Family 4:42
Destiny 3:48
Carolyn's Poem* 2:32
Lofty Goals Reprise 2:17

John's Thoughts

A Strange Whirlwind

I was hired on the first of April to have 54 minutes of music on the stands in two weeks. The irony is that I had met on the film a few months prior to being hired. I went to film school with directors Adam Broder and Tony Abrahms, and recognized them in the meeting. It's funny 12 years after graduating to walk in a room and say, "Hey, I know you. What's up?"!

The film interested me because I loved the script, but found out in our meeting that there was no budget to record a score. (How DOES this happen?) Anyway, a synth score was out of the question since my current synth set-up was not up to par to give them a quality product. So we kind of shook hands to work again together, and talked every so often about editing or musical ideas, etc. God knows I have a soapbox on hand at all times for both subjects!

Because I was frustrated not to be able to take on this low budget film, I decided to upgrade my studio for such ventures and for more technical flexibility. So I hired my engineer, Casey Stone, to bring the studio up to 2001 standards so I could feel comfortable taking on a different array of projects -- and also to save me the frustration of having to kick things to get them to work and agonize why buzzing or static was happening, etc. So after a buying spree, the new studio was barely up and running when the folks from Bubble Boy wanted a synth demo in order for me to be considered for the film. Talk about timing! I still had wires hanging out everywhere as I wrote the demo in a panic, barely knowing how to work the new studio. Even though I was given a few days to write the demo, I really didn't have things running until 48 hours before it was due.

After getting signed on Bubble Boy, I began doing synth mock-ups for its early cut, but the production went into a re-editing hiatus a few weeks later. It was at this moment I started getting calls from the guys at Pumpkin again. One day, Tony Abrams showed up on my doorstep with a copy of the film to look at. (The production was so low budget, they couldn't even afford messengers!) They needed to dub the film in about 3 1/2 weeks, I was on a break from Bubble Boy, and I had this new studio which could supplement a VERY small ensemble of strings. I wasn't sure I could pull it off in time, but they were up against the wall, and the film did something for me. So I resigned myself to living on caffeine and 4 hours of sleep per night for the next three weeks. I lost a few pounds for sure, which is not a good thing for a skinny guy already! But the decision to hire me still didn't come down until a week later, further crunching the time into the surreal.

The "Creative Approach"

It's no wonder I was the third composer on the project, given the strange and counter-instinctual requests Adam and Tony were making musically -- and I say this lovingly, guys! So my goal was to somehow create music that played both sides of the coin, bringing us into consensus while still serving the film. Acoustically we could afford about 13 strings, a clarinet and a flute, and four sessions to record it all in. Yikes. As I said, the requested creative approach to the score was quite unconventional, which made the process even more difficult and worrisome! Deemed philosphy #1 was to make many scenes feel like they were not scored to picture. They wanted the scenes to almost feel a little muscially off, as if we layed some music over a scene for hit and miss value. UGH. Adam even said one night, "I want it to seem like the music doesn't work totally perfectly, like it almost doesn't belong." I thought to myself, oh boy, what am I putting myself through this for if I'm going to be a laughing stock!? Fortunately, I convinced them to warm things up and to loosely tailor most scenes to the major nuances on screen; for the most part I'm happy with the contributions made to the scenes. As eclectic as the score would be, it needed to add a vestige of humanity to the film. In this regard I think the film benefitted greatly, especially for the themes for Pumpkin and Carolyn. However, I remain a bit dubious of just a couple sequences where music I had written for general use was edited over sequences in, uh, interesting ways. Oh boy.

Like Cruel Intentions, Pumpkin is about troubled/"wrong" love. In Cruel, Sebastian feels somwhow wrong falling in love with Annette, just as in Pumpkin, Carolyn's love for him is taboo and confusing for both of them. Those familar with my Cruel Intentions score will recognize some influence. It just seems to work so well for tortured love! Its dark yet moving tones work because if it's too sappy, a scene between a sorority girl and a retarded boy would be laughable, yet if not emotional enough, the music would wrongly convey some darker unintentional subtext. I'm probably happiest with Carolyn's sad/rejection theme ("Outcast" and "Carolyn's Poem"), which is sort of a minor key version of the sorority song I adapted to introduce the film. Then I added a saddened girl's "daydreaming" voice reflecting Carolyn's state of mind.

Even after recording the score, it was a marathon getting the music to the dub stage. There was no money for a profesisonal music mix, so I did it myself at home, getting the cues to the dub stage in the nick of time. What a blur the whole thing was.