Composer Jonny Mendez Talks Keeper Score

How do you creatively approach producing the music for a film?

The first step in my creative approach is connecting with the director so that I can understand their creative vision. I like to think of them as the treasure map for the project. They give me clues and ultimately guide me, but there’s some room for interpretation along the way. From there, I create a sound journal. The objective is just to get my ideas flowing. I essentially “throw paint at the wall,” trying new sounds and building rough pieces of music. Then, once I receive picture lock, I begin to write for the nuances of the film.

Jonny in his studio

What about Keeper made you interested in composing its score? 

I had really wanted to score an action thriller for some time. After seeing the rough cut, and learning about Anna’s ideas for the music direction, I was in. Our collaboration felt really natural and spurred on my own creative process. 

What emotions did you focus on evoking from the audience?

I wanted to build tension and keep it high, but there was an additional layer of discomfort to consider. Anna wanted to make it clear that the main character is exhausted, and possibly high, so we’re getting a frenzied view of her world. I pulled in a lot of screechy, elongated cello sounds to keep the audience aware that things are just a little off.

Beyond that, I tried to follow the action. For one scene in particular, I brought in loose percussion to make a sloppier sound, but as the character gains control over the situation, the percussion tightens up. The sound for that scene was meant to mirror the character’s battle for control over the villain. 

Tell us a little about your background. How did you start in composing music? 

While working as an art director for a large retail brand, I was approached by a film director who asked me if I would score a short film. I grew up as a musician, playing in bands and recording, but I thought my music days were behind me. I reluctantly accepted the scoring gig, and once I got in the studio I realized I could never leave it behind.

See more of Jonny’s process and work on Instagram at @jonnymendez__ and at www.jonnymendez.com

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