Brian Tyler interview: Emmy nominated composer scores top films
June 15, 2012 by Dana Feldman
by Dana Feldman
The impressive list of composer Brian Tyler’s accomplishments includes his recent nomination for “Film Composer of the Year” by the International Film Music Critics Association. His strong work ethic warrants such recognition, of this there is no doubt. He’s composed and conducted scores for over sixty films including Eagle Eye for producer Steven Spielberg, Fast Five and Fast and Furious, The Expendables and Rambo directed by Sylvester Stallone, Law Abiding Citizen starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler, the Keanu Reeves thriller Constantine as well as the epic science fiction film Battle: Los Angeles. Also included on this list is the score of the fastest grossing entertainment event in history, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which grossed $775 million in its first five days. In addition, he recently arranged and conducted the new film logo music for Universal Pictures and composed a theme for the hundred-year anniversary of the studio.
When asked how he manages a constant influx of multiple projects at once, he at first laughs at the sheer enormity of it all, and then he explains his system. “It’s tricky to juggle all of this! I don’t really have time to second guess, I just go in and start writing.” Adding that he loves what he does, “It’s great waking up and going out and writing music every day. It’s pretty wild.” Tyler says that the schedule serves as a great incentive and motivator. “It’s never really been a problem, I’m comfortable with the schedule. I’m used to it.”
In addition to his current work on Hawaii Five-O, he is also scoring the highly anticipated The Expendables 2, which opens August 17th. Of his second go-around with The Expendables franchise, Tyler says, “It’s a great thing to go back and work on a franchise. I worked on the first and now the second, and it’s a cool collaboration. I don’t remember scoring a movie with so many of the people that I’ve grown up watching in movies. It’s fun and I’m having a great time doing it, no doubt.”
The road that led to where he is today began shortly after he received his bachelor’s degree from UCLA and then his master’s from Harvard University. It was at this time that he began scoring features and it was his score for Frailty, starring Bill Paxton, which earned him recognition as a stand out in his field. Winner of the 2002 World Soundtrack Award in addition to The World Soundtrack Award as Best New Film Composer of the Year, he has received two Emmy Awards, seven BMI Music Awards, five ASCAP Music Awards, and was recently nominated for a record six Gold Spirit Awards (2012) including Best Composer of the Year.
As a multi-instrumentalist playing drums, piano, guitar, orchestral and world percussion, bass, cello, guitarviol, charango, bouzouki, amongst others, he’s a true wonder. It was after composing the score for The Hunted for Academy Award-winning director William Friedkin, that Tyler found himself on the cover of Film Score Monthly Magazine dubbed as “The Future of Film Scoring.” He then composed the score for Disney’s The Greatest Game Ever Played starring Shia LaBeouf. His score for The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift hit #1 on the iTunes soundtrack sales charts while his soundtrack for Children of Dune reached #4 on the Amazon.com album charts.
His advice for anyone out there with similar aspirations is practical and wise. “This type of music composition takes two separate things and puts them together. There’s the music side and the story telling side and the thing that many people focus on is the music compositional side. That’s great, it’s your wheelhouse, but you don’t want to ignore the craft of film. There’s a specific language that a director speaks and that’s story, character development, editing, lighting, set design. All of these aspects are important to making your music come alive.” Adding with a chuckle, “Don’t even bother if you don’t already love what you’re doing. I don’t even think about working until three or four in the morning. You have to make sure that you end up working in something that you enjoy regardless of the long hours and the pressure. For me, it just speaks to me directly.”
Other credits include The Final Destination, 20th Century Fox’s science-fiction film Timeline directed by Richard Donner, Alien vs Predator: Requiem, Star Trek: Enterprise, and Terra Nova, a possible Emmy contender this year, produced by Steven Spielberg.
In regards to Terra Nova, which he composes with a live orchestra, Tyler says the choice to go in this direction was one that he and Spielberg agreed upon early on. “Originally when we were all talking about the show, we agreed that we wanted to approach each episode as its own movie. It’s unusual to use a live orchestra for a television show, but I go to FOX every week and we work on it. It’s challenging, but a live orchestra does something that we can all grab onto. It’s a way of really humanizing the music. It gives it an epic feeling.” Going further, he tells me that the nature and look of the show calls for it. “The storyline really begged for something that had an epic scope instead of simulating an orchestra. There is a time crunch to be able to write music for an orchestra each week, we really went for it, but it was worth it to be able to create something very human.”
His music has been used in a multitude of film trailers including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Departed, and The Chronicles of Narnia. Deservedly, Tyler was recently inducted into the music branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Not quite sure if he has any room left on his mantle, but fingers crossed he brings home the Emmy for Terra Nova in the coming weeks.