Tracksounds was able to
catch up, via cell phone, with composer Christopher Lennertz as
he spent a few days vacation on the East Coast. Christopher
Lennertz shares about how the early portion of his budding film music
career is going, the pluses and minuses of being a part of a composing
team, and his passion for conducting.
donít think youíd find anyone who is very successful in this
business who you couldnít sit down to dinner with and later see what
it is about them, outside of their music, that makes them bond with
a director. It is that ďbondĒ that keeps directors coming back to
them to do more and more scores."
CC: What has your experience, as what
some might call an ďup and comingĒ
composer, been like?
Well, I just turned thirty, so Iím
in a situation where Iím just
thankful that I have opportunity to
write movie scores for a living. Iím
not working under the same sort of
budgets, like a James Horner is, so
that puts me in a challenging
position of having to do a score
with thirteen people as opposed to
one hundred. At the same time, it
allows me to do cool things like
writing an entire score for a string
quartet and guitar.
CC: You definitely have to be more
resourceful and creative in that
Absolutely! I think Iíll be better
prepared when I finally get the big
CC: Do you aggressively pursue the ďBig One?Ē
My main goal is to do features (feature films), but, you know, that
has more to do with developing relationships with film-makers. I think
coming out to Southern California and going to USC, Iíve met a lot of
film-makers who are also ďon their way upĒ right now. I think all I
really need is one of those independent films that end up being very
good at a Sundance or other film festival and then gets a theatrical
release. Thatís what happened with John Ottman with THE USUAL
SUSPECTS. Actually, there are a couple things on the horizon for
me, but, of course, I canít talk about them yet!
CC: Video game scores are becoming increasingly popular. Have you
considered that avenue?
I have, as a matter of fact. I just donít really know anyone in that
CC: Do you think your style of composing lends itself to the
I think my proficiency is in epic, thematic music, not the
minimalistic, wallpaper sort of music, which some directors love and
want. I worked with Basil Poledouris for about two years and to me
that is what is all aboutÖthat sort of CONAN THE BARBARIAN, big, huge
orchestra thing. You just canít forget that score!
Elmer Bernstein, another teacher of mine at film school said to me,
that if you canít whistle it on your way out of the theater, then you
havenít done a good job. To me thatís what I love about film scoring
and if that style is incorporated into a video game, then I think I'd
CC: It seems that there is room for big,
orchestral scores in the video game business. Michael Giacchino seemed
to have taken game-music to another level with his work for the MEDAL
OF HONOR series.
Yes, he has done some great work! I was in Seattle doing the score for
BEER MONEY, which was actually the day after he (Giacchino) left. He
had just done MEDAL OF HONOR: UNDERGROUND and the musicians were still
playing some of the music that he had written as we set up. It just
struck me as really big, wonderful, movie music. I would love the
opportunity to do something like thatÖif there are any video game
people out there (reading) this! (laughs)
Would you say
that it is true with the film-music world, that its not what you know
but who you know?
CL: Well, there arenít a whole bunch of people out there doing
this (film music) who arenít good. If there are, say, 4,000 people out
there who are good, then out of that 4,000, there are probably 400 who
have the social and self-promotional skills to actually get work. Now,
out of those 400, there are probably 40 to 80 or who ďreallyĒ well
connectedÖor potentially, even lucky.
If you look at any successful composer
in this business you will see that they each have their own sort of
charm. Hans Zimmer has a very different, European charm while Basil
Poledouris has this your-friend-from-next-door sort of charm and then
Danny Elfman has this creative-rock-star-charm. I donít think youíd
find anyone who is very successful in this business who you couldnít
sit down to dinner with and later see what it is about them, outside
of their music, that makes them bond with a director. It is that
ďbondĒ that keeps directors coming back to them to do more and more
Do you think
being a part of a Media Ventures or Asche & Spencer sort of
composer-group has any advantages?
CL: There is definitely an advantage, especially regarding Media
Ventures, for those composers coming from Europe who donít really know
anyone in the US. For them, if they connect with Hans Zimmer, who is
pretty generous about giving credit to these composers, and then
recommends them for films he personally canít do, it is a big
advantage. Iíve worked with Mark Mancina a lot, and Hans Zimmer really
made his career. So I think there is an advantage to that, if that is
where you start.
Personally, since I have already
been on my own and have a good agent, I couldnít see myself jumping
into something like that. Still, I donít think itís a bad thing at
Well, what if two
or three of your close composing-buddies decided form a similar group?
Would that be more appealing?
CL: Not necessarily. I did one project in a co-composing
scenario with a close friend of mine and I think, in the end it didnít
sound like either one of us. It didnít have an identity and was a bit
generic because we were both trying not to take over too much artistic
ownership. We had an extremely short time to do this and almost ended
up killing each other in the process. I value my friendships, so I
donít think it is worth putting them in jeopardy like that.
CC: Now youíve done a good deal of conducting as well.
I really love to role of conductor as well. I still conduct other
peopleís works. I have conducted quite a few things for Bryan Tyler. I
conducted one day for Michael Kamen for 101 DALMATIANS, when he
couldnít be there. I just love doing it, because I love the
CC: Now from perspective of a composer, how hard would it be for you
to allow someone else to conduct your music?
I would have a problem with it. I know what I want to hear. At the
same time, I completely understand why people donít conduct their own
scores. Some, like James Newton Howard, prefer to be in the booth so
that he can hear every little nuanceÖand when youíre conducting you
canít necessarily hear them. So I understand that, but for me, itís
more of a matter of fun and control. I love being that close to the
players. I like be able to look at the French Horn player before the
solo and give him a nod, just so he knows that it all rests with him
for the next eight bars. Thatís something that only I know, because I
CC: Now, what kind of look would you give him to communicates that?
A lot times what youíll do, if itís a big, sweeping thing, is widen
your stance, take your baton, and motion in a much more circular and
fluid manner. Even if you breathe in deeply and look at the musician
when you do it, they will breathe in deeply as well. The
musicians know that they are suppose to play out with more emotion and
power. Some of these musicians are just so good at picking those
subtleties up. Even if you open your eyes a little wider or give them
a little hint like that, they'll play with 20 or 30% more emotion,
just because youíve given them the opportunity to do so.
conductor influence your conducting style?
CL: My hero was Leonard Bernstein. I was watching conduct in New
York and it honestly looked like he was going to have a heart-attack
and pass out by the end of the concert! There was just all of this
emotion that poured from every move and the orchestra just followed
that. It was just amazing to me. It is such unique experience to be
that connected to people who are speaking with musical tones instead
of spoken language.
Iíve also seen Bruce Broughton and Basil
Poledouris at work, as well as Michael Kamen (whom Iíve orchestrated
for). I also studied conducting in a master class with Jerry Goldsmith
and I saw him actually conduct STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT. In that
master class, I got to conduct the end credits for that filmÖafter he
did, of course. It was interesting to compare and contrast the
differences between how I conducted it with how he did.
CC: Before we finish up here, talk a bit about some of your recent
I just finished another movie for VH-1, entitled WARNING:
PARENTAL ADVISORY, which is all about the 1980ís censorship hearings
regarding Frank Zappa and all of that. It was directed by the same man
who directed HOUSE OF YES, Mark Waters, which was a pretty cool indie
film. He was a great guy to work with and I think Iíll work with him
CC: Is it airing now?
It aired mostly in May (2002), but it will come to DVD and VHS soon.
CC: What is your approach for scoring this film?
Well itís interesting, because we took a sort of comedic approach to
the score, so, surprisingly it has a bit of an Elmer Bernstein edge!
CC: Really? As in the ďjazzyĒ Bernstein?
Yes. They actually temped it with GET SHORTY.
CC: Do you feel directed or limited by having to work from a ďtempĒ
It depends. Ideally, Iíd rather not work with a temp track. That said,
when there doesnít happen to be a lot of time, temps can be helpful.
In the case of WARNING: PARENTAL ADVISORY, we did the entire
score in fifteen days. So in that instance a bit of temp score helped
me follow what they were looking for - a comedic, jazzy score.
Now given enough time, Iíd prefer that they donít do a temp. What the
temp does accomplish is that it keeps me from having to do trial and
error. Iíd love to spend a week doing the ďtrial and errorĒ myself.
I'd do three or four different styles for the director to go over,
say, of the title sequence. The director could then say which
direction heíd like to go. Of course, then youíre going to get a more
interesting and more original score. This is why I like to work
with directors over and over, if I can, and get brought onto movies
early. Then, while they are still editing, I can jump in and do those
sorts of things.
CC: What else do you have coming up?
I worked with a director, John Butler, last year on a film entitled
BEER MONEY, which aired on USA networks. He is doing another movie for
the Sci-Fi Channel, SAINT/ SINNER, which is a Clive Barker production.
Itís a bit of a horror film, but it has time travel, demons, and
religious overtones. In this case, we have enough time, so here we can
come up with several ideas early on and donít have to rely on a temp
score. I'll be heading off to Budapest, Hungary to record the
score! I'm pretty excited about that!
CC: Well, thank you so much for you time and all the best to you in
CL: Thanks Chris and take care.