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The Dreamlife of Amit May Cohen | FilmInk

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The Dreamlife of Amit May Cohen | FilmInk

Can you discuss your journey to becoming a screen composer? Is this something you always aimed to be, or did you have aspirations to be in a band/musician?

My house was always very musical. My mother is a big fan of music and would always play ‘80s hits, classical music, and ‘70s rock at home. My grandma loves old Israeli and Ladino songs and would sing every day with the radio on. I’m the first in the family to make music a profession, but the love for music was definitely something that was always around.

I grew up a single child in a single parent home, so I spent many hours alone. To pass the time, I’d read books and then invent melodies on the piano for the scenes I liked. At one point, I started asking my mother to guess what emotions my music was describing. She was the one to tell me that there’s an actual job called film composing, and since I was 14, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I went on to major in Jazz Guitar at a private high school for arts where they used arranging and harmony books from Berklee College of Music, so the path to go there afterwards seemed to be clear. When I studied Film Scoring at Berklee I met George S. Clinton (composer for Austin Powers and The Santa Claus movies) who was the chair of the major at the time. He left the department and moved back to LA around 2015 and after I graduated, he asked me to become his assistant. As his assistant, I got to work with him on the 2017 Disney Channel film ZOMBIES, and then I became his co-composer for the sequel. Working with George opened up many doors for me in the industry and I’m very grateful for him and everything he taught me. Most recently, we co-scored ZOMBIES 3 and it’s coming out on Disney+ on July 15th!

You have worked on two of Australian filmmaker Maya Newell’s projects. What is your working relationship like?

Maya Newell and I met at the Sundance Music and Sound Design Lab at Skywalker Ranch in 2018. We were paired at the workshop to work on her film In My Blood It Runs. We produced about 5 minutes of music, recorded it with an orchestra, and had the Lab mentors review it with us. After the workshop Maya finished the film with composer Benjamin Speed but also included the music we came up with together in the final version. It was a really great experience that formed a friendship and led her to ask me to compose the score for her most recent film The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone. Working with Maya is always a very collaborative process. She brings a lot of ideas to the table but leaves room for me to experiment and try new ideas as well.

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Photo by Kelly Davidson

What information do you normally get before you start a project?

Before the beginning of a project, I always get a synopsis and the latest edit of the film. Usually that edit will also have temporary music to help indicate where the director wants the music to start and stop, and often what style they’re going for. After reviewing all of that, I’ll have a meeting with the director to talk about the musical approach, and then I start writing.

I usually start coming up with ideas after watching a rough cut of the film, but scoring to picture officially starts with an edit that is closer to being locked. There could be lots of big changes in the edits between the Rough Cut to the Locked Cut, so I like using the early edits as a brainstorming stage. For the film The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone, Maya did want some pre-written music cues to edit to, so I supplied her with multiple tracks inspired by themes and emotions she wanted to convey. Then once the edit was complete we customized those tracks to fit the final timings.

photo by Arianna Soto

What’s the difference between working as an Orchestrator and a Composer?

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As the Composer, I come up with all the melodies and musical concepts. I would write on my computer with sample libraries, sometimes record live elements, and be in charge of making all the creative decisions. As the Orchestrator, I follow the composer’s lead and preferences, and interpret their musical intentions in a way that can be performed by the musicians.

Does working on a documentary differ to fiction?

Yes and no! The production process is similar in both. Artistically, in both genres the music is setting a tone and helps with understanding the story. But to me, the main difference between Documentary and Narrative scoring is the amount of emotional space left for the audience to infer. Fiction uses music as part of the narrative, as a way of manipulating a scene and telling a story from a certain point of view. In Documentaries, we don’t want to spoon-feed the audience or completely take a side. On the contrary, we want the audience to think and come to their own conclusions.

Who are some of your composer heroes?

I can’t answer this question without talking about George S. Clinton. He’s been such a great influence to me as a mentor but I also admire his music. I grew up watching the Austin Powers movies on repeat, so his music was playing at home very often. I’m a big fan of Danny Elfman’s music and all the work he’s done with Tim Burton, and similarly Joe Hissaishi and all his work with Hayao Miyazaki. My current influences are Hildur Guðnadóttir and her soundtrack to Chernobyl and Joker, and Adam Taylor who scored The Handmaid’s Tale.

Does living in today’s tech world help the career of a composer?

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Tech is an integral part of contemporary film composition. Whether a score is written for a full orchestra or a string quartet, the composer always has to create “mockups” to present to the director. Technology has gotten so good that mockups sound better and better. That’s also helpful when facing a tight budget on a project and having to pick only a handful of instruments to record, if any. That’s especially true when starting out in the industry.

I imagine it’s still a relationship business, do you try to sit in the same room with the filmmakers you work with, or can you do everything virtually?

Personally, I prefer in-person meetings because I think it’s easier to get people more creatively excited about an idea when you can feel the energy in the room. Regardless of the pandemic, some of my projects this year were international collaborations so virtual communication was essential to the project. While we worked on The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone, Maya Newell was in Australia while I was in LA. Similarly with the ESPN show 37 Words, the production team was both in North Carolina and New York, while the music team was in LA. Either way, having good communication with the filmmakers is essential.

What’s coming up for you, and are there any filmmakers in particular you are very keen to work with?

I definitely hope to continue working with Maya Newell. I really love her artistry and sensibility for good stories, and I love writing music for her projects. I also hope to continue working with the people at Disney Channel like Stene Vincent and Paul Hoen. I really enjoyed my experience working with them. I hope to collaborate one day with Alma Har’el. I was really moved by her film Honey Boy and I think she’s a very unique filmmaker. I also hope to work one day with Ari Aster. I watched his film Hereditary four times in the theatre and thought it was incredible. I also really love his film Midsommar. The musical approach that he takes with his films is very interesting and inspiring.

The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone is screening at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival

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Main Photo by Nick Krassowski

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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