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Interview with Michael Suby

Versión en español

Michael SubyThe Butterfly Effect is a movie full of virtues, althoug above all them is the solid appreciation of Michael Suby's work. His score is lyric, suggestive and sometimes oppresive, perfectly adjusted to the images, and sets this young composer at the top of upcoming promises in movie music, even when he has been working as a professional for hardly a year (he made his debut in 2003 with The Real Cancun).
Nevertheless, and make no mistakes about it, the lack of experience does not mean lack of training. Suby is graduated at Berklee in musical composition, and works as creative director in the Californian sets "S3 Music + Sound".
In this interview, that he kindly granted to BSOSpirit, we talked about his score for The Butterfly Effect, his training, his influences, and, of course, his future...

BSOSpirit (BS): Before anything else, thank you for giving us the chance of interviewing you, it's an honour for us to talk with a composer of your talent. Before we begin, a typical question, how did you become interested on film music?
Michael Suby (MS): When I was 5 my parents bought me the soundtrack to Star Wars, which I had already seen 7 times in the theatre. It was an incredible thing to listen to the record and re-live my favorite parts of the film. It also enhanced the viewing experience the next time I went to see it. Since that time I think I've been hyper sensitive to music and film. Definitely in awe of how the combination of music and film can blend into a magical experience.
In 1997 a friend of mine asked me to write some music for an independent film he was shooting. At the time, I had never considered doing something like that. But when I got footage and began to write, It felt great. It was also challenging and very difficult at times. So the following year I went to Berklee in Boston Massachusetts to study film scoring.

BS: Which could be your biggest influences? And your favorite Works?
MS: A lot of John Williams' great scores from the 70's and 80's like the Star Wars trilogy, "Close Encounters" and "Jaws". Some of my most recent favorites include: "The Shawshank Redemption", "The Ice Storm" , "Cast Away" and "A Beautiful Mind".

BS: How do you think that your studies have helped you when it comes to film music composition?
MS: Berklee was instrumental in helping me understand current technology and thematic concepts for film writing. I thought that schooling would change the way I wrote and thought about music. In the end it helped me to understand and translate the music in my head. I am a very instinctual writer. I call it "all heart, no head". That is, I don't care if what I write is technically correct or impressvely dense. My primary concern is serving the drama on screen and expressing myself through that medium. I continue to learn and grow with each cue I tackle.

BS: Tell us about your three first works: The Duff Challenge, The Real Cancun and Quattro Noza.
MS: Actually, "The Butterfly Effect" was my first movie. "The Real Cancun" which followed was a very different kind of experience. It was the first (and last) reality movie. It was also the fastest movie ever made. For that film I did not write one note of music to picture. In fact, I saw nothing of the film until the premier. I wrote a library of music consisting of many styles for them to cut the film to. I wrote and produced just under 3 hours of music in 4 weeks. It was hectic! It was also a lot of fun.
The next project was "Abel Edwards", which I started the day I finished with Real Cancun. Abel Edwards is an independent sci-fi epic of sorts. The movie called for an orchestral score which, due to budgetary constraints, I did with mostly samples.

BS: The Butterfly EffectWe are going to focus on the film that is currently being a "sleeper" in Spain, and one of the public favourites, we're talking of course about "The Butterfly Effect". How did you get involved in such a big project?
MS: The directors J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress are good friends of mine. They basically told me that I could not score TBE because I had no experience and this was their first big movie. Most significantly, they thought I would never get past New Line cinema. I got the script anyway and began to score it. The first thing I wrote was the main title cue which is track 1 on the soundtrack. I recorded it with a 40 piece orchestra. Then, I went so far as to create a DVD with the opening credit sequence along with the main title track. I eventually got it into the hands of New Line Cinema execs and producers who ended up loving it. Then the studio called the directors on location and told them that should take a look at me. They were as shocked as I was! What a break!

BS: What do you think of "The Butterfly Effect"'s screenplay?
MS: The script was amazing! It just blew me away. It inspired me enough to write most of the musical ideas before it was shot.

BS: Do you think that you can get, musically speaking, so much out of the story, despite of being so dark and psychological?
MS: I think there were great musical opportunities because it was dark and psychologically bent.

BS: The main theme is great. What was your idea in composing it?
MS: Thank you! I envisioned Evan as a lost soul roaming in a world that was not made for him. Something like a phantom. Throughout the entire score I felt and projected that this character was alone in his struggle, hence a solo voice was an ideal choice.

BS: The female vocals are determinant. Why did you decide to use it only in a few tracks?
MS: (Beware: SPOILER) The voice resurfaced in the penultimate cue because Evan made the ultimate sacrifice, (for both endings). He is giving up his true love so that she and others close to him can live. The human element is so powerful and it helps to give that cue a bittersweet, beautiful quality.

BS: In the score you use a very strange sound effect. In our review we have named it "Suby's butterfly effect". What is actually that effect? And please, don't tell me it's secret.
MS: That is a solo flute trill effect which has been digitally modified. I also came up with that sound pre-shooting. It seemed to me that we needed a totally unique identifier for when Evan crossed over. Something to tell the viewer that we were in a different place or time. It is The Butterfly Effect.

BS: A precious theme is the one for Kayleigh and how Evan see her. When a composer compose such a theme... what is he thinking about?
MS: That was an incredible experience. I watched the scene once and had some ideas. I put it on again and when I put my hands on the piano, the theme just came right out! Its hard to say what I was thinking. I wasn't thinking. I was feeling the emotions, really experiencing them. When I work on a film I try not to just think about it. I become part of it and it becomes part of me.

BS: Being a so dynamical movie, travelling between different times, and a few repeated ones, was it difficult to keep a cohesionated musical feeling in your whole work for the film?
MS: It was challenging to write thematic material that could work on many different levels. No matter where Evan ended up he was still himself, just in new surroundings or situations. By using simple themes in different contexts, I tried to ground the movie. Find its center. There were so many plot twists, flashbacks and time jumps that it needed to be rooted in something. The themes and rich orchestrations helped to accomplish that.

BS: (Question and answer with SPOILERS) "Everyone´s Fixed Memories" is a perfect ending to your great work for "The Butterfly Effect"... An ending that leave us with a nice feeling although is not a very good ending for Evan. Did you try to transmit that feeling in this theme?
MS: This was my favorite cue. I wanted people to realize that beyond all the on screen madness for both endings, that Evan was giving up everything, even his life, for his loved ones. The vocal cries for him as he loses the love of his life while the strings beneath it weave a new existence and beginning for everyone else. It's a beautiful gesture I felt deserved like minded music.

BS: What are you mostly proud about "The Butterfly Effect"?
MS: Completing it! I proud to be a contributing part a great team.

BS: Let's talk about the future. What are your future projects? Tell us about them.
MS: I have recently completed two films, "Quattro Noza" and "In Control of All Things". Two very different films. Quattro Noza (Lions Gate), is a modern day West Side Story set in Los Angeles. In Control of All Things is a thriller about the Zodiac serial killer who brutally stalked and killed young men and women in the late sixties and early seventies. Neither have been released yet. I look forward to collaborating with J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress again soon. They have a movie in development at New Line called "The Other Side of Simple" due in 2005.

BS: To end, what would you tell to the Spanish fans that have discovered you thanks to "The Butterfly Effect" and are wondering about your projection?
MS: I would like to thank them for their support for "The Butterfly Effect" and the score soundtrack. It is an honor and a privilege to write music for film and to speak about it in such a manner. I can say with fair certainty that "In Control of All Things" will be released as a soundtrack. I'll feel lucky if it is received as well.

BS: Thank you, Michael Suby.

Interview achieved for BSOSpirit
Questions by DDBSpawn.

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