I was brought into the Oasis team in September 2007 after a few meetings with the co-directors due to my connection with Sally Fryer, the Editor. We had worked together on an ABC series a couple of years before. Sally had the foresight to see that I would fit stylistically and personally with the creative core of Ian, Sascha and herself.
When I received my first cut of the film it was October and there was already a soundtrack in place, but all were tracks from other movies or CDs that had to be replaced. These 'temp tracks' are now the norm and we composers have to contend with them on a regular basis. They are both helpful and not very constructive depending on the material that has been chosen and then the way in which the director proceeds to connect with the composer through the temps.
I was fortunate in that firstly, I liked the temp tracks that had been laid in. This was a big help! Secondly, I was pleased to see that they reflected an overall clarity from the directors about the film's desired musical aesthetic, being largely consistent in style. Where temp tracks can often throw a spanner in the works is that they are sourced from many different places and may collectively create a soundtrack that varies wildly in mood, instrumentation, style, period, and application. The result is often a bit of a dog's breakfast and leaves the composer with little idea of the overall musical design the director is going for. Composers then have a kind of second guessing task to ascertain what is required of them, whereas without any temps in the first place we would have relied on our own judgement about which directions to take; a more direct and original way of going about things. But when temp tracks are thoughtfully handled they can be very helpful, and such was the case on The Oasis. Finally, I was blessed with a team that understood full well that they were not allowed to use the temp tracks they had laid in and were able to let go easily of them once the original score started being written.
I had been wondering how I would go having two directors to please. In fact, I enjoyed it. Sascha and Ian are very different directors and very complementary and I found that often one would perceive what I was trying to achieve with a music cue and be able to articulate that to the other if they were having a problem catching it. Sometimes they would have a difference of opinion about what kind of music they wanted and it would be up to me to find the meeting point so that everyone was happy. I enjoy these kinds of challenges in communication and also the healthy exchange of ideas that results and see it as a vital part of the job I do. At the end of the day it is about not only doing a good job artistically as an individual, but making the entire film successful on all levels. The fact that there were two directors meant the process had a more democratic nature than when there is only one director assuming total control and credit for the end product. In fact, filmmaking is a team effort and the fact that the directors were in themselves a team helped our sessions. They were very respectful of my process and my skill in carrying out the task of composing for their film.
Stylistically the music sits in a very dark place, which is natural to me. I am usually told to 'brighten up' a cue or make it sound more up beat. This time I was told to make the music darker on a regular basis!!! When you hear the kids' stories and put the score into context, although it is dark, it is absolutely right. I feel we achieved a real emotional honesty in the soundtrack without going into sentimentality and the dark beauty that the directors leant towards is fortunately just about my favourite place to be, musically.
So, with an aesthetic marriage made in heaven, it was just a matter of creating enough variety, enough light in among the shade and enough hope at the end to achieve an overall balance. The credits track was a tricky one to get right and several assaults were made on this. Ian wanted a feel-good acoustic folk rock kind of number while Sascha wanted to retain the darkness and fragility of the stories and the underscore. I persuaded them to meet somewhere in the middle. An early draft I produced was deemed too frail and not driving enough. So I kept the harmonic and melodic content exactly the same and merely changed the metre from 3/4 to 4/4 and suddenly it was working for everyone. All about feel!!! My dear friend and guitarist John Encarnacao came and played acoustic guitar oh so sweetly and Veronique Serret added her magic fiddler's touch. Then I myself had a bit of a hum, a bit of a sing, a bit of a whistle and a bit of a tinkle on the piano and it was in the bag. During the mix, it was a matter of keeping the rawness we had captured in the recording, not overproducing anything.
Rawness was actually part of Sascha's direction consistently through the music production. She asked for big fatness and bulge in the bass lines, so I miked up the bass amp instead of going direct into the audio interface as I would normally do. When John accidentally scratched or twanged a string that was kept as sonic gold! Imperfections within limits were what we were after. After all we were creating music for very flawed people struggling to function in a very flawed society, why pretend?
The track I wrote for Darren's ice psychosis was expressly electronic in order to create a sense of dislocation and jitteriness not present in the warmer/sadder live tracks. When electronic production, loops, samples and synths were chosen it was quite deliberate, and hopefully these digital sounds achieve the sense of isolation, anger, coldness and danger going on regularly in the Oasis kids' lives. The live component of the soundtrack reflects the humanity running like a rich undercurrent through the whole film as we come to know and care about the characters. Hopefully, it deepens this connection between audience and characters too.
I owe a huge thanks to my two fantastic musicians who brought their intuition and skill so beautifully to my music. I also want to thank Sally for her endless and tireless support, empathy and general brilliance. Editors are a composer's greatest ally!
Thanks too to Ian and Sascha for making me part of your wonderful film and being such gifted and reasonable human beings.