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Interview with Laurent Ziliani, Composer

Laurent Ziliani

How did your work relation with Benoît Ameil begin, and how did your collaboration develop ?

I first meet Benoît through the film association Maison du Film Court. I had read the description of the film on their website, which I found a little crazy and very funny. I quickly got in touch with him, we met, and we started to think about what the film music would look like. At first, Benoît had firm opinions about the way the music should be composed. There were even very precise musical indications in the script: what instrument would play, how, and when! It was obviously very scary for a composer, but, at the time, the film was in preproduction and I knew that once the editing was done, certain choices would emerge on their own. The screenplay asked for one instrument per character, but when the film was finally cut we progressively drifted away from the original indications and I aimed for a more global approach.

What musical atmosphere did you have in mind, and how did you technically create it ?

Benoît wanted music that could simultaneously evoke comedy, suspense, tension, strangeness, and a sense of the bizarre. That was an immense challenge! In addition, I had to create music that was both catchy and adaptable to the different ambiances of the movie. The music always has to accompany the action and penetrate the viewers’ unconscious. Now, in a 13 minute film like that one, there is not much time to develop, so I had to be concise. I decided to use only one theme throughout the whole film, and vary it in a different manner for each scene. I don’t know how many viewers have noticed, for instance, that even the music you hear when the woman in the film watches “ER” on her television reuses the film theme !

What did inspire you ?

If Benoît Ameil had a bigger budget for this movie, he probably would have hired Danny Elfman ! Actually, the first musical example he sent me was from the movie Beetlejuice, and after I saw the opening credits of Benoît’s film, Tales from the Crypt would constantly come to mind. At first it was hard to break away from it, but my mental unblocking came from the scene in which the father goes to get his daughter in her room; the music box theme became the theme of the film.

What composers had the greatest influence on you ?

It is difficult to sum up in a few words the dozen of composers I admire, but at the top of my playlist these days you will find Ravel, Mahler, Dukas, Puccini, and Korngold.  For film music, the big names are Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone, and John Williams.

Aude Roman et Nicolas Buchoux

What’s your philosophy of composition?

Composing the music for a film is, to me, like composing a poem. First, there are technical constraints that are metric and rhythmic. In the stead of feet or hemistiches, we have cuts and visual actions to synchronize. The challenge is then to make a fluid composition that sounds natural and transcends the original structure. The rhythm and the form of the music are therefore dictated by the action in the film; it’s the starting skeleton on which I build my compositions. The sounds or harmonies that I choose next are more about inspiration and emotional response to what I see on the screen.

How would you describe your relationship with the director?

It’s always difficult to work with a director for the first time, as you know very little about their artistic tastes. Music is an abstract art by definition and we can’t explain it with words, so we really had to get acquainted musically, little by little, in an almost empiric way. Benoit is very thorough in his work; he leaves nothing to chance. He had an opinion on every sound and every note I composed, so ultimately the music for “A Juicy Turkey” is the outcome of a true collaboration.


How would you define “A Juicy Turkey”?

It’s not only a dark comedy, it’s also a parable about a person who takes refuge in a virtual world – in this case, television. The director even plays with mixing reality and fiction, since the action of the film and the action of the TV series follow parallel evolutions.

Where does your desire of doing this profession come from?  

Since I was a child, the passion for both music and movies has coexisted inside me. I had a sound musical education, but I have also been actively involved in the movie and TV world. Film music seemed to be the logical continuation of my career.

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