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Frizzell, John (Primeval Score)

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Composer John FrizzellDespite the dreadful reviews that have accompanied the “inspired by true events,” crocodile-as-a-serial-killer flick Primeval, there is at least one bright spot in this cinematic miasma. That bright spot is the ambitious score provided by composer John Frizzell, a score that is far more impressive than the film it accompanies.

While many of today’s horror (or in this case, pseudo-horror) films tend to rely on orchestral scores which employ large doses of screeching violins and pounding percussion, Frizzell opted to include many of the sounds and instruments that are unique to the nation in which the movie is set. In the case of Primeval, this meant that Frizzell actually traveled to Africa to capture sounds and utilize instruments that would bring the film’s setting—the nation of Burundi—to life.

In fact, Frizzell enlisted some of Cape Town’s finest musicians to create a “composing library” of over 800 sound clips, which served as the inspirational source material for his score. Some of the sonic samplings from these recording sessions included the traditional Burundian musical story-telling technique Inanga Chochotee, where a soloist plays a low-pitched harp and whispers in an ominous tone. Frizell also incorporated Burundian drumming, originally used by African kings to express their power and authority.

But that’s not to say that Frizzell’s Primeval score isn’t without its more traditional moments. On the contrary, Frizzell blends the two aspects of the score seamlessly, resulting in a unique hybrid that makes the Primeval score a true rarity.

Dread Central had the opportunity to ask Frizzell (who has also scored such horror flicks as Ghost Ship, Alien: Resurrection and Stay Alive, along with such mainstream movies as Beavis and Butthead Do America and Office Space) about his unique experiences in Africa, and how they may have forever changed his approach to scoring films.


Dave Manack: Many composers would be satisfied by simply creating a “traditional” horror (or in this case, pseudo-horror) film score. You, however, elected to actually travel to Africa and utilize many of the sounds, instruments and musical techniques that are unique to that continent and to the country of Burundi, specifically. What was the main motivation for your approach on the Primeval score?

John Frizell: Director Michael Katleman and I spoke in great depth before he started shooting. We knew that the score would need a great deal of drive and intensity, but we both had a great desire to make it stand out from other scores and, in particular, scores to films set in Africa. We noticed that while many scores to African films were beautifully composed and produced, many introduce African sounds in an imitative way. Our talks led to the conclusion that to get a unique sound, we needed a unique process, and to do that, I would need to do work with masters of African music. The best way to do that was to go to Africa.

Primeval (click for larger image)My goal was to put you into the mood of the film by using very traditional African instruments and performers. I did research on traditional African instruments, performing techniques and the structure of African music. Much traditional African music differs from European music, in that often the performer and the audience are not delineated. I have heard traditional African music described as being so completely intuitive, it is ‘like breathing.’ Capturing this idea and blending it with filmmaking proved quite a challenge, but I think our goal was achieved and serves to put the audience in a unique place.

DM: Is this the first time you’ve traveled to a different country to utilize their specific musical sounds, instruments and techniques? If not, when have you done it before? If so, will you do it again?

JF: Yes! This is my first time. It is definitely a priority for me to do more projects this way.

DM: Burundi is located in a tragically war-torn region. What can you tell us about your experiences in Africa and what you may have taken away from your experience there?

JF: It was very moving getting to know the Cape Town Burundian drummers. These guys had escaped the atrocities that spilled over into Burundi from Rwanda and had traveled on foot, all the way to Cape Town. That is several thousand miles. The trip had taken several years and not all of the group survived. They were taken in by the Catholic Church in Cape Town and have created good lives for themselves. These guys were so excited to play on the score. Several of them are on camera in the film too.

DM: Which of the sounds, instruments or musical techniques you worked with in Africa most intrigued you, and will you utilize any of these in future scores?

JF: Melding the African instruments into a score was a massive challenge. I recorded in South Africa while the film was being shot. I ended up with about 800 short performances and phrases, which were painstakingly looped and loaded by my associate, Frederik Wiedmann, into Native Instruments Intakt software. Then I was able to adjust the tempo and the key of each phrase as I was composing to picture. Electronic instruments and a 70-piece orchestra ended up making this 80-minute score, by far the most complex I have ever created.


Big thanks to John for dropping in for a while.

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Graham Humphreys Reveals His Poster For An American Werewolf In London

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Graham Humphreys continues to cement his position as one of the top horror artists in the business with his stunning new poster for An American Werewolf in London. This piece was created as a private commission, and fans of John Landis’ 1981 classic are going to love it. You can view the final design of this incredible poster below.

Final design with text.

Graham also provided us with a detailed statement about the creation of the piece, along with a bunch of screen grabs taken throughout the process. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you can see how the final image looks before the text was added. In case you missed it earlier, you can also check out our extended interview with Graham here.

Exclusive Statement from Graham Humphreys
As a commercial artist and illustrator, there is only limited scope to make a job entirely your own – so with each project you are answering a brief in order to fulfill the needs of a client. Of course, the client may choose to give you free reign, though this is with the understanding that you are acknowledging their needs and thus expected to work within certain unspoken parameters. Mostly, these confines are defined by how a product is to be sold, licensing instructions and an understanding a market. With this in mind, the client is paying and thus nominally always right… though it would be unprofessional not to make them aware that other options might work better for them!

Without these commercial constraints, a private commission can remove the barriers because no market is to be met and there is only the artist and the private client to answer to. Creating a poster for a familiar and heavily licensed title is an entirely different prospect if it is not going to be generating money in the public domain and is thus essentially ‘fan art’. Unlike say, a T-shirt company ripping off someone elses art and charging money for the printed image, or perhaps a poster reproduced without permission by either the license owner or artist, then sold for profit.

Here, Dread Central have asked me to talk through one such commission, ‘An American Werewolf in London’, painted as a private commission for an individual that wishes to own a unique image that they themselves have made happen. NB: All likenesses and specific imagery (including the title and names etc) are subject to license and copyright and not for any use other than as examples of a work in progress (and of course, all rights are reserved!). Just need to make sure that it absolutely clear!

The client had commissioned two previous posters from me (as well as numerous poster designs from fellow artists), so a basic understanding of expectations had already been established.

My work begins by watching the film from beginning to end – to re-establish my own connection to the film (if one already exists). I saw ‘An American Werewolf in London’ (in London!) on it’s first run and the proximity to many of the locations (Tottenham Court Road tube station, Piccadilly Circus, being the obvious ones) made it instantly impressionable for me. Existing posters, in particular the official theatrical versions and various home-entertainment sleeves, focused on a limited image pool. My job was to find new ways of representing the film, free of the past baggage, but also to listen to my clients requirements.

Looking for a fresh perspective means avoiding the familiar stills that have defined the past marketing, this is achieved by making screen grabs from the DVD or blu-ray. As with most commercial jobs, I generally make a selection of about 40 images, then review these reducing the number to about 15 that have the best narrative potential, including a good visual range of actor expressions and reactions. My client required the Werewolf, London references, the moors, David and Jack, a full moon and the ‘Slaughtered Lamb’ pub sign… then whatever else I chose to include.

On the basis of the selected screen grabs, I make necessary light and contrast adjustments in photoshop, make them greyscale (removing the distraction of colour) and print them out at a size I can easily trace in pencil onto paper. All the pencil sketches are then scanned into photoshop, so that I can rearrange, resize and move around in order to determine the best layout, one which tells a story and has a visual impact. (I find it’s better to present sketched layouts rather than a photocomp’s, partly because the photographic material is usually of varying quality, but also because a pencil rough is more fluid and does not dictate the final impression).

Selected screen grabs.

Selected screen grabs 2.

My first idea involved a portrait of David looking lost and frightened (I felt this was essential to the story), the Werewolf with it’s head bursting through the cinema shutters/signage (the idea of breaking the fourth wall), the decomposing Jack (a perfect metaphor for David’ s own life falling apart), his nightmare of the home invasion (one of the most effective and horrific moments in the film, I felt), plus Brian Glover’s ‘Slaughtered Lamb’ local – a look that defines rednecks and racists the word over when confronted by ‘other’!). I also wanted to add the tube attack victim to open up the carnage. Although Jenny Agutter’s nurse added the romantic dimension for an audience that expects the convention, I wanted to concentrate on David’s story, so chose to only include her face as if she were painted on the shutters, ie. a film poster element.

I was surprised that the client didn’t want the home invasion creatures, nor the reference to the sleazy cinema hordings (which I thought made a good location gag – obviously not!), they also did not want the rotting Jack. It was disappointing to lose these great horror elements, especially as they’d particularly wanted ‘horror’! But a compromise was reached by including the transformation scene at the bottom, and reinstating the moors (which I’d thought unnecessary).

Fortunately, my second sketch was well received and the painting could commence.

On the basis of the selected screen grabs, I make necessary light and contrast adjustments in photoshop, make them greyscale (removing the distraction of colour) and print them out at a size I can easily trace in pencil onto paper. All the pencil sketches are then scanned into photoshop, so that I can rearrange, resize and move around in order to determine the best layout, one which tells a story and has a visual impact. (I find it’s better to present sketched layouts rather than a photocomp’s, partly because the photographic material is usually of varying quality, but also because a pencil rough is more fluid and does not dictate the final impression).

Once I have my sketch approved I reintroduced the photographic source material over the sketched parts, so that my layout remains exactly as approved and so that I’ll have the best possible likenesses to trace onto the watercolour paper.

Early sketched elements.

I usually have a basic idea of what colours I’m going to use. In this instance I knew that I wanted a silvery blue moonlight to bathe the entire image, but also the contrast of the orange glow of artificial lighting, the pub and cinema foyer. I knew the big splash of red in the wolf’s jaw would jump out, becoming the focal point. This painting took about three days to complete, the sketch process (including the grabs) about a day upfront.

Composition design.

The final painting was scanned and all the text added in photoshop.

My client will now make a full size poster print, to be framed, from the file I send him. Next up, ‘The Thing’!

Final painting before text was added.

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Syfy Renews Z Nation for a 5th Season; Season 4 Finale Airs Tonight!

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Syfy’s popular zombie series “Z Nation” just keeps shambling on, and tonight the two-episode Season 4 finale, “Mt. Weather/The Black Rainbow,” airs. If you’re a fan of the show, we have good news for you… it’s not over yet as David Latt of The Asylum has announced on Twitter the pickup of “Z Nation” for a 5th season! So you can expect lots more adventures with the gang in 2018.

Below is the official word from David along with a brief synopsis of what’s ahead tonight in the finale, which kicks off at 9/8c.

Synopsis:
In the mind-bending two-hour Season 4 finale, Warren and the team must stop Zona from launching operation Black Rainbow, which will cleanse the landscape of both zombies and humans. In Part 2 the secret of Warren’s Black Rainbow dream is unlocked when they reach their final destination. The cast includes Kellita Smith as Roberta Warren, Keith Allan as Murphy, Russell Hodgkinson as Doc, Nat Zang as 10K, Gracie Gillam as Sgt. Lilley, DJ Qualls as Citizen Z, Ramona Young as Kaya, Justin Torrence as President Donald Trump, Michael Berryman as The Founder, Micheal Daks as Mr. Sunshine, Anastasia Baranova as Addy, Sydney Viengluang as Sun Mei, Joseph Gatt as The Man, and Natalie Jongjaroenlarp as Red.

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First Look at Chris Alexander’s Space Vampire

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Who says all vampires have to be all extra-broody or sparkly or take up residence in Transylvania? Certainly not indie filmmaker Chris Alexander, who has just unveiled the first images and posters for his latest foray into film, Space Vampire!

The movie stars Ali Chappell as a beautiful female alien parasite who falls to earth with an intent to drain women of their life forces. As if women don’t have enough problems in this day and age!

Alexander wrote, directed, edited, filmed, and even provided the score for this intergalactic terror tale. Talk about a jack of all trades, eh?

Enough talk! Dig in!

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