Philly Creative Guide

Creative Personality

Jack Bowden Faulkner |

Interview :: Jack Bowden Faulkner
by Ruth Weisberg, 6 Jan 2006

Jack Bowden Faulkner is a music composer for movies, television, corporate and interactive sites. He’s from Philadelphia and can be reached at: [email protected]

PCG: What were some of the motivating factors that influenced your decision to get into music composing and film scoring?

JBF: I had a huge interest in film music when I was a Music Education major at West Chester University, but I never did anything about it. Around 1985, I started freelancing around the Philly music scene. You name it, I did it: musical theatre, jazz gigs, original rock gigs, recording sessions. One day in June 1999, the thought came back to me that I had always wanted to try film scoring. Not even a week later, I was at Sigma Sound Studios, where I ran into Rodney Whittenberg. I had played some gigs with Rod, but we had lost touch for a while. When I casually mentioned to him that I had been thinking about film scoring, he said, ‘That’s great, because I've been doing film scoring for about 5 years. It’s getting busy and I’ve been looking for someone to work with.

I am sure that a lot of your readers know Rodney and his company Melodyvision. He has done TV production for PBS, HBO and video production for many non-profit and corporate clients. He’s an Emmy Award winning composer who’s written music for several feature films and TV series. We’ve been working together since 1999. Melodyvision is a company that really supports their creative team and helps them do great work, which of course is a good thing for thing for the clients.

Would you like to here a sampling of Jack's music clips? Click on the link to launch an MP3 montage. Listen

PCG: As the old adage goes, be careful what you ask for!

JBF: You bet. Everything happened really fast after that. It really sunk in when I was sitting in the Prince Music Theatre watching the premiere of a documentary I had scored which aired on PBS called "Voices of Ages." By 2001, I had finished work on 12 episodes of "A Cook's Tour" for The Food Network. Later that same year I was sitting in the Director's Guild Screening Room in New York at the premiere of "American Chai”, which went on to win an Audience Choice Award at Slamdance and has played here in Philadelphia at The Ritz, on the art house circuit across the US, and in about 22 countries around the world. Those two projects really kicked the doors open in a big way.

Since then, I have worked on two other TV series, four other feature films, and a bunch of corporate and non-profit production projects. I am constantly amazed at the people in Hollywood and New York who take my phone calls. But you know what? I am also astonished at the quality of multimedia production work being done here in Philadelphia!

PCG: What’s the DNA of writing original music?

JBF: With feature films, it usually starts with a long conversation with the director. It is the job of the composer to help establish the emotional subtext of the action on the screen. I want to hear about the story the director is trying to tell.  It's a bit of a marriage, at least for the duration of the project. You want to build communication. I want the director to trust that I will respect his vision. Some directors have a real specific sense of what they want.  Many of them don't, and most of them know almost nothing about the technical aspects of making music. It becomes a bit of a journey, with a fair bit of trial and error. Of course these days the rough cut usually comes with a temp score that gives you an idea of what the director wants.

PCG: A temp score??

JBF: It's used all the time. The editor or the director will insert music from other films. It helps the editing process by establishing a rhythm to cut the picture. It also helps the director communicate to the composer what he wants to hear, and also with "spotting", the places were the musical cues begin and end. Sometimes the director says, ‘I want these instruments, this tempo, etc.’ Sometimes he just says, ‘Give me something that 'feels' like this.’

Some composers really don't like dealing with temp scores, but I actually kind of like it. It really puts me into the director's vision. Occasionally you can run into a problem when the director gets too attached to his temp score, but this can actually push you to deliver exceptionally good work.

PCG: What about composing for television?

JBF: For television, the call usually comes from a producer or an editor.  While there are deadlines for composing film scores, with television, it becomes even more intense. When you’re in the middle of a 10-15 episode TV season, the ability to do good work with a more immediate deadline hanging over your head becomes the first consideration. I’ve noticed that much of the TV stuff I do also comes with a temp score.

The prevailing reaction I get from a lot of directors and editors is that I am good at demystifying the scoring process for them. Once they start to understand how the music is working in a scene, they are able to give me notes that really tell me what they want to hear, which moves things along. From there, I usually watch the rough cut until I start to hear how I am going to approach things.

And here is something important: I almost never do the piece in order from beginning to end. I look for a couple of visual cues that will give me the door into the piece. This can be a good way to establish a basic sound for the score. When you are looking at writing 45 minutes to an hour of music on a short deadline, it can be a good thing to get a little momentum. By time you get to scenes that are more challenging, you have a framework for what you are doing. This makes it easier to hit very subtle emotional marks, which will be expressed musically.

PCG: You’ve cut quite a musical swath on the national television and film scene. Any locally-based music projects that also resonate with you?

JBF: Rodney and I have done a couple of projects with Carlos Fink at Fink Productions. We did a series of educational films about life in Mexico, and another teaching basic economics to young people. They had great looking footage, and the editing was as good as anything I have seen coming out of New York or Los Angeles. I have also done quite a bit of work with Shannon Creamer-Franke’s team at Odd Graphic in Collingswood, New Jersey. She always has cool projects. I recently worked on an end-of-year presentation for one her big corporate clients. I have also composed original music for some websites that her team has developed.

PCG: What's next in your musical pipeline?

JBF: A west coast producer that I have done three projects with has an amazing premise for a TV series. It is currently being shopped around, so we will see what happens. I have an ongoing relationship with a music library, which has placed my stuff on Jane Pauley's show on NBC, Tom Joyner's new show on The WB, and Pat Croce's syndicated show among others. Also, a LA-based director I have worked for wants me on his next project, which is a horror/suspense film. As busy as I am with my professional music career, I also strongly believe in giving back to the community, and I enjoy working with film students on their projects.

PCG: Just for kicks, what are the three film scores that you wish you had written?

JBF: Only three? OK, here goes. The first would be Elmer Bernstein's score for "To Kill A Mockingbird". Totally amazing, every note spot on. Second would be Thomas Newman's work on "The Shawshank Redemption." He really set a new standard for scoring certain kinds of drama. And third would be the new King Kong movie. James Newton Howard really blew me away on that one. He really did a cool update of the classic Hollywood Max Steiner sound. Of course, if I had written any of those scores, we’d be having this little chat on my 50 foot boat! (laughs)

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