ANDREW LOCKINGTON (2008, Part A)

October 20, 2010 | By

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Way back in 2001, Andrew Lockington was orchestrating Jeff Danna’s exquisite score for The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002), and in the passing years he’s made the transition to composer, scoring a number of TV and theatrical projects, but New Line’s expressive Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (2008) may be his best work – a richly harmonic, classically written fantasy/adventure score that is happily available as a downloadable album in North America, and as a CD and MP3 album via Europe’s Silva Screen.

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Andrew Lockington : I guess I’d always wanted to get into film. It seemed like some of the most interesting music was happening in film around the time that I was young and impressionable in the music world, so after studying composition at Wilfred Laurier University in Kitchener, Waterloo, I came to Toronto and did some jingle writing for a year and enjoyed that, but ultimately decided what I really wanted to do was film scoring.

So I did what a lot of young composers do – and I went around and talked to a bunch of film composers and other people in the music business, just to find out what are the secrets, how do I get involved, and one of the people I talked to was a composer named Mychael Danna, and he had just signed on for two films in a short period of time. Shortly after I met with him, he called me back and asked if I’d be interested in being an assistant and apprentice, so that was sort of my entry into film scoring.

Mark R. Hasan : One of the oddities of the Canadian film industry is that we depend on a lot of American productions and co-productions, but it’s nice to know that there are enough working composers taking part in the apprentice system and helping new talent get their foot in the door. It’s not as impossible to become a film composer as it seems.

AL : It’s amazing how few young people I run into who are trying to do that… I had studied music at university, and I have to tell you I learned far more about film scoring and even composition in my experience of working on films with Mychael and with other composers as their orchestrator-conductor.

MRH : Did you find the years you spent orchestrating were probably the best training ground, because you tackled a lot of different genres at the time?

AL : I did. It’s interesting to see how other composers tackle problems in film scoring, and what different peoples’ techniques are; even in orchestrating you learn a lot about actually writing scores. There are techniques that are used in orchestrating that I often use in writing now as a composer.

You know, it’s funny. One of the best things, as far as composition goes for me, was singing in a choir at Wilfrid Laurier University . There was a choir and it was part of the requirements for the music degree, and just singing all of these old pieces – singing the bass part, sometimes I’d sing the tenor or the baritone – [I’d see] how all of these different composers from all these different eras were writing four-part, sometimes five-part harmonies and chord progressions. I honestly learned so much about music just in that experience, and it ended up being a study without even realizing it was a study.

MRH : Was it tough to make the transition going from orchestrator to being a solo composer yourself?

AL : It wasn’t because I was always composing on my own. I was fortunate that my foray into bigger films was through orchestration, but it was actually because of the orchestration that it wasn’t tough, and in my assistant work for Mychael I did some orchestrating for him, but my orchestrations for other composers really gave me a glimpse into the process, and allowed me to participate in the scoring of some big films… so when I finally did go and record with those orchestras and take films of my own, there was never really an anxiety there, because I’d been through the process so many times before.

MRH : For Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (2008), I just wonder if you had to make any unique scoring decisions to accommodate the interactive nature of the visual effects, because obviously the 3-D effects make the film much grander and more robust than a standard 2-D film.

AL : That’s a great question. Before I’d done the film, I probably would’ve thought that wasn’t a great question…You automatically think ‘2-D, 3-D… How is that going to impact the music?’ but director Eric Brevig was great in saying, ‘You really want to see this in 3-D. You have to see these scenes in 3-D,’ and seeing them in 3-D really informed how I wrote the music.

There are elements in 3-D that really call for recognition from the music, especially peoples’ facial expressions, and the depth of field of some of the landscape shots. There are elements within it… that really warrant musical recognition. It actually had a very significant effect on how I scored the film.

MRH : Several years ago I interviewed Marybeth Solomon regarding the IMAX film she scored,Space Station 3D (2002), and she was really excited about doing the film because she said one of the most aspects of the scoring process was basically going down to the theatre, putting on the glasses, and during the spotting session just being wowed by the footage because it’s something you don’t normally see in a 2-D film, and I guess because it’s effects-driven, you have to balance your initial reaction to it, and step back as a composer and figure what’s the best approach.

AL : Yes, that’s very true. By the nature of the technology it really sucks you in, and I’ve heard people say (although I’m not an expert on this) that in a normal two-dimensional film, our brain has a certain way of processing, and certain parts of our brain actually go to sleep and in a 3-D film, because you’re in a three-dimensional world, your brain is reacting as if you’re in an environment as opposed to witnessing storytelling. It’s a very different experience altogether; there are no slow moments in a 3-D film; you are in an environment; even if things are still and quiet, you feel like you’re inside, you’re on an island, you’re on a shore, and the waves are lapping… It’s almost a shame it’s called 3-D because I think everyone feels they have a relationship with 3-D and they know what 3-D is, but until they see this film they can’t realize the game has completely changed now.

MRH : I was very struck by the score’s heavy melody content, and it sort of recalled some of the large-scaled Steven Spielberg-produced of the eighties, particularly those scored by Bruce Broughton, who wrote some large, robust orchestral scores, and I wonder if that was deliberate on your part, or was that something the filmmakers wanted?

AL : It’s funny. It was not deliberate, however, the director, Eric Brevig, has worked on films with Steven Spielberg (Hook) and George Lucas, James Cameron (The Abyss), and Michael Bay (Pearl Harbor). He’s worked on a lot of those big films, and his musical experience is those scores that you’re talking about, so I think he wanted the score to be [very adventurous].

Although we were dealing with such an advanced technology, there’s a real retro feel to this film. It’s based on a 150 year old book; they go down to the center of the Earth, there’s not a lot of technology involved, and Eric and I discussed really wanting to have a strong theme that would encompassed the entire film… I think ultimately we were trying to do a similar thing filmmaking-wise, so the score ended up falling into a similar genre which was fun, actually, because the score definitely has a retro feel in that sense, and those are the films that I grew up with and grew up loving.

MRH : The Journey to the Center of the Earth album also contains some really vibrant action cues, and I’m curious if you think that classical scoring style has fallen out of vogue over the last 20 years, and if it’s something like a lost art, because there’s not many opportunities to write in that grand style?

AL : For better and for worse. I think a lot of the films being made to day don’t call for that type of score, so it was a real treat to be able to write and have an opportunity where that type of score was appropriate. I think part of it is the fact that the genre is changing, and part of it is that music evolves and composers evolve, and filmmakers evolve and are always trying to do something new and creative.

In some films you end up doing creative things by paying homage to some earlier films and trying to do a modern take on it, and in others you just try and come up with a new element in the art that will expand the art form, kind of slightly go outside the boundaries while still keeping an element to it which is comfortable and that your audience can relate to.

MRH : Two quick questions. Some of the most respected composers in the industry like Howard Shore , Mychael Danna, and Jeff Danna are Canadian, and I wonder if you think if there’s some kind of a unique cultural difference that’s enabled them to expertly score some very strong or daring films over the years?

AL : I don’t know. I would say that across the board there are a lot of talented Canadians in every industry, though it’s nice that the music industry is represented so well. I can’t think that there’s any special trait other than as Canadians we all work hard and try to have fun with what we’re doing.

MRH : And finally, what are your current projects?

AL : After I came home from London after scoring and mixing Journey to the Center of the EarthI started a film called One Week, which is written and directed by Michael McGowan (Saint Ralph) and it starts Joshua Jackson and it will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival as a gala presentation in September.

A few weeks ago I started working on a film called City of Ember which is a Walden Media and Playtone co-production. Tom Hanks is one of the producers, and it stars Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, and Saoirse Ronan, so I actually go back to London and record at Abbey Road in about a week and a half.

MRH : I guess that’s part of the fun – globe-trotting and working with some really great orchestras.

AL : The fun is working with the great musicians, wherever they are. The traveling gets a little tiring from time to time, but to be able to work at a place like Abbey Road is very humbling and a really special experience. We’re also really fortunate here in Canada . We have an amazing collection of musicians from all different genres of music and all different cultures so you really don’t have to travel far to find great musicians to work with here in Toronto.

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KQEK.com would like to thank Andrew Lockington for discussing his latest work, and Melissa McNeil at Costa Communications for facilitating the interview.

Visit Andrew Lockington’s wensite HERE.

Visit the official Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D website HERE.

To read Part 2 of this Q&A, click HERE.

All images remain the property of their copyright holders.

This interview © 2008 by Mark R. Hasan

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Related external links:

CD:  City of Ember (2008) —  Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (2008)

DVD/Film:  Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (2008)


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