In September of 2020, while most of the country and world was stuck in lockdown, I was hired to write the score for a new action/adventure film called Weekend Warriors. The film, directed by Richie Greer and produced by Scott Gross and Schalet Jackson, starred Jack Gross, Juliet Rusche and Daniel de Weldon, as well as Country Music’s Jason Michael Carroll and veteran film actors Corbin Bernsen and Jason London.
I first heard about this project from my sister Shelli sometime around Thanksgiving in 2019, I think. They had just finished filming and she was really jazzed about what they had accomplished. She had shown me a clip of some dude jumping off of a cliff into a river. It looked really cool. The film still had to go through the grueling task that is post production, but filming was in the bag. I was excited for her, but as usual, my next question was “Do you know if you need a composer?” She told me that she was pretty sure that the director had someone already lined up. Oh well, it was a long shot anyway!
Time passed as it does and the world came to a screeching halt because of the Covid-19 pandemic. I had no prospects on the horizon, so I jumped into a project that I had been contemplating for several years, that of writing an original score to the 1931 version of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi, but that’s a story for another time.
Sometime in August, I was talking with Shelli again and I asked her what she was working on. She said that they were still trying to finish up the film we had talked about before. Well, I’m nothing, if not consistent, so again I asked “Do you know if they need a composer?” This time, however, she said, “You know, I don’t know! Email Scott, the Executive Producer.” So, I did!
Long story short, I emailed Scott and asked him if I could send him my demo reel, which, I assume he sent to the director Richie Greer, who got in contact with me.
My initial conversation with Richie was not very productive. To be honest, I don’t think he was that impressed with me or my work. We talked on the phone a bit and he told me that he had a composer out there in L.A. that he usually worked with, but that maybe we could work together on something in the future. He told me to keep an eye on his Facebook page and to get in contact with him of I ever see him posting about something.
The conversation was winding down and I could sense that Richie was trying to get off the phone, when, somehow, the conversation came back around to the score for Weekend Warriors. I don’t quite remember what happened, but I remember saying, “Look, how about I write something and send it to you and if you don’t like it, no worries?” I guess there was something about that approach that Richie liked and he said something like, “Yeah, sure, let’s do that!”
I don’t know what he expected or if he expected anything really. I completely understand his point of view. He had a million things to do and here was some no name dude who kept bugging him about a problem that he had already solved. Fortunately, he gave me a shot and I took it.
That night, I sat down and wrote about 3 minutes worth of music. It was made up of 2 contrasting parts; a slow melancholy piece that built into a muscular action tune. Not very balanced, but it’s what I came up with. Anyway, I wrote it, fired it off and kind of expected not to hear anything back from him.
I got the job the next day!!
The Scoring Process
Alright, so I had talked my way into getting the gig. Now, I had to produce some results.
The first scene of the film that I received was a slow motion shot of the film’s protagonist, Scottie, running through a woods. This sequence also happened to be the opening of the film. There wasn’t going to be a traditional Opening Credits, so this was where I had to make my mark.
I watched the scene several times and I marveled at how good it looked and suddenly, it hit me…
… the scene was completely silent!
So, not only did I have to come up with an engaging piece of music, it also had to be a centerpiece, something that could catch the attention of the viewers and bring them into this world. How cool was that? I can’t think of another film that opened that way.
You know what, I take that back. Gladiator kind of opened that way. If I remember correctly, the first shot of that film is the hand on the wheat while Lisa Gerard moans out Hans Zimmer’s beautiful Score.
Anyway, I sat down to write something and, as usual, forgot how to do it. I must have stared at the blank computer screen for an hour before I had a spark of an idea. Eventually, I managed to bang out a cue that I was happy with. I felt that it was very important to get this scene right. That’s why I struggled with it so much. I think I instinctively knew that this particular cue was going to contain most of the musical DNA that would be found throughout the rest of the score.
This theme is the very first thing that we hear in the film. I call it the Hero Theme. It is made up of a perfect 5th, followed by a minor 6th and concludes with a half step up or down, depending on the situation.
It’s not a traditional theme. It’s really just a fragment of a larger melody:
It’s a bit abstract, but, if you compare the two, you can see the general shape of the first in the second. The perfect fifth from the Hero Theme (E to B) is transposed down a major third (C to G) and the minor sixth (A to F) is transposed up a minor third (C to A) in the second part of the phrase.
Most of the melodic material for the score is derived from this theme in the same way. I call it Melodic Distructivism. There’s probably an actual name for what I’m doing, like melodic fragmentation or something like that, but I like my name better. It sounds much more EPIC!!!
Anyway, I don’t usually write a ton of themes and assign them to characters or situations. I write one or two main themes and tear them apart to form whatever melodic material I need. It’s unconventional, but I find that this method of writing allows me a huge amount of freedom while still maintaining a cohesive idea or feeling. In this way, a character can have multiple “themes” tailored to whatever situation they find themselves in without them running the risk of feeling out of place or chaotic.
There’s a motive that I use to underscore anytime someone is in danger. Plot Twist: I call it the Danger Theme! It’s usually orchestrated with lower register winds, tremelo cellos/basses and bass notes on the piano and sits underneath suspended chords, usually in the extreme upper register of the strings. Basically, it is an augmentation of the second half of Scottie’s theme.
Sometimes, a scene or character demands to have its own theme. In those instances, this method really doesn’t work and I’ll have to come up with something new. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be based off of another theme or fragment, though. I can write a separate theme and still have it be a relative to the original. I guess you could call it a theme and variation at that point.
Another way I like to create “themes” is to build a specific texture or sound for a particular character or situation. In this scenario, there is no dedicated melodic material used to depict something. For example, on the cue “The Warriors”, I created a rhythmic bed made up of percussion, piano, electric piano and bass guitar and incorporated motivic fragments on top of it. The idea is that anytime the Warriors are on screen, they are sitting on top of this rhythmic bed and it’s only purpose is to support the scene. This technique works really well underneath dialogue.
I came up with this little bass guitar riff for the Warriors that sits right in the pocket on the rhythmic bed. It is a diminution of the Danger theme.
This audio clip shows the Warriors’ bed and their Bass guitar riff. I thought it was pretty cool, but, unfortunately, I was overruled in this instance. Most of this was cut out of the final score. Oh well, that’s the job!
The Warriors Bass Guitar Riff
There is a character in the film named Wesley, who, SPOILER ALERT, is just not a very nice guy. I didn’t really do anything with him musically, until about halfway through the film, when everything goes to hell.
I came up with this growling, very ominous bass synth to accompany his shenanigans. It’s definitely not a traditional villain theme, but you know he is on screen and in a bad mood when you hear it. The cool thing is that this “theme” (I guess we’ll call it that), is that it can be manipulated not because of the action on the screen but based on his mood at any given point.
These three audio examples depict his mood change throughout the film. I’ve given them subtitles based on escalating amounts of anger; Dangerous, Seething and Murderous. That was kind of fun.
Honestly, I could write several more pages worth of anecdotes, observations and processes from working on Weekend Warriors. Maybe I’ll address those things in future posts, but for now, I’ll conclude this one by saying that I throughly enjoyed my time on this project. Ritchie, Scott and Shelli were great collaborators and the cast and crew all did a fantastic job! I hope I added a little bit to this already great film and that everyone enjoys it!!