This was in many ways a dream of a project for us – a beautiful, cinematic piece of film, working closely with a long term collaborator, for a worthy cause.
We were initially approached to supervise the music through researching potential artists to collaborate with on the film, including Max Richter, Nils Frahm and the godfather Hans Zimmer himself! As the picture edit developed and the music brief was formed, Joe and Will were asked to write a piece themselves for the film to see what came of it.
The brief was to create something that had cinematic weight, but which also highlighted the ‘jeopardy’ that the world is in. The film showcases the varied conservation work that the WWF are involved in across the planet, both human and animal, so the composition needed to have this sense of scale.
Joe began by fleshing out a chord sequence, before passing it over to Will who developed the first section and the woodwind theme that comes in at around 30 seconds; this was programmed using delay and reverb to give it a dreamy effected sound right from this early stage… more on that later.
We spent considerable time getting the sections of the orchestra to work with the dynamic of the film: controlling the feel of the strings to work with the emotional content of the film, using deep drums to accent poignant shots, the lingering high bassoon on the city shot, brass crescendos to build the drama and percussion to drive the last section.
The organ features heavily, both in glistening arpeggiated patterns and deep rumbling pedal notes, combining with the drawn out strings to create the frozen in time feeling of the first section. We used the Spitfire Audio ‘Union Chapel Organ’ instrument for this sound. The grandeur and mystery imparted by this incredibly detailed instrument created by the guys at Spitfire was exactly what we needed for the project, it’s incredibly playable – the way the samples interact when playing fast arpeggios does something magical it’s difficult to put your finger on!
We wanted to bring more contemporary elements to the composition in order to expand into a more cinematic sound. These included Joe’s trusty Roland Juno 106 and his ‘E-bow’ (a sustaining device for a guitar).
Once the 1st draft was in place, we played it to Anthony the director and he loved it!
Before presenting to the WWF, Anthony and the guys talked about trying an alternative version that was more dramatic, with more energy and impact – the client had always talked about making sure the music had enough drama and they wanted to make sure they had an option that pushed it further. Will worked up a more dramatic version – it was reassuring to note that when presented with the two options, Georgie from WWF signed off the original.
With the draft now signed off by the client, we brought in talented orchestrator and arranger Simon Whiteside to prepare the parts for the orchestral and choral recordings. Simon made some adjustments based on the ranges and abilities of the musicians, including suggested parts to try to replicate Will’s woodwind theme he had written that proved to be impossible to play! Simon also contributed a couple of parts that he had on his system that became part of the final soundtrack – namely his incredibly deep Russian ‘Basso Profundo’ part!
The orchestral and choral sessions were on two different days, both done remotely with the F.A.M.E. ‘S Macedonian Symphonic Orchestra – Will and Simon directing via a synced Pro Tools session from the String and Tins studios in London. Anyone who has been involved with these sorts of sessions will know that time is always tight, but the experience here was very smooth, not least because of the work of Aude Nassieu Maupas and her fantastic team at F.A.M.E.’S. We recorded in sections and had time to record some alternative parts, including the ill fated woodwinds – the ostinato theme being the only part that didn’t make the cut in the final mix due to Will and Joe preferring the sound of the original programming they had done.
All the recordings were brought together at String and Tins HQ for a final mix, where we also recorded George Irving’s rich sounding voice; finally, Will took the project over to Goldcrest to complete the cinema mix.
This was a great one to be involved in, thanks Anthony and Mark for bringing us on board!
Composers: Will Cohen and Joe Wilkinson
Sound Design/VO Record/Final Mix: Will Cohen and Joe Wilkinson @ String and Tins
Cinema Mix: Will Cohen @ Goldcrest
Director: Anthony Dickenson
Producer: Mark Harbour
Production Company: All Mighty Pictures
DOP: Ben Fordesman
Editor / Editing House: Ruth Hegarty @ The Assembly Rooms
Grade: Jack Mcginity @ Time Based Arts