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Danny and the Wild Bunch

This score was written for a composing competition I entered into called Film Fest Gent. The major lessons learned here were how to write for an animated film, and also how to pack thematic recurring material into a relatively short score. I also got to see what a score of mine would sound like in conjunction with a short boasting much higher production values than anything I had scored to this point.

The story of Danny and the Wild Bunch is a rather bizarre one. We begin with a children’s book writer, down on her luck and waiting for the phone to ring to try and get one of her books picked up. The only phone ringing at the beginning of the story is that of her mother consoling her with the common “better luck next time” talk. The woman then starts a conversation with one of her animated characters, Danny, and insists that she needs to write him and his cohorts (the Wild Bunch) “darker.” Danny insists that this is just not what he and the wild bunch are. They are not dark. She insists that maybe they “need to be.” Later that evening, in the bathtub, the woman is inspired to make some choice changes to her Danny and the Wild Bunch story that achieve a darker and more nightmarish tone with the characters. She hears a bump in the night and proceeds to investigate. In the living room she finds Danny sitting menacingly on the window sill and smoking a cigarette. He tells her that there are going to be some “changes” around here and that you “reap what you sow.” The wild bunch, a host of monsters, start to close in on the woman and proceed to grab her and drop a book on her head. She awakens in a daze to find herself tied to a chair with her fingers attached to strings being controlled by Danny, much like a marionette puppet. Danny then ends this creepy plot twist with the line “you write the words. . . we’ll be the pictures,” a callback to what the woman had said to him earlier but now with a new horrifying reality: the pictures are in control of the story!

This was such a wild short film to work on. I was able to write in the style of a western shootout for a moment, a space adventure for the next moment and then a nightmare sequence for the next moment. It was a tour de force of composing styles and it was all ratcheted up to 11 because, with animation, the scale and scope of the music must match the visuals.

I also had a chance to work within certain orchestration parameters on this project and, much like the From the Ashes project, I think the music benefited from such boundaries. This project further cemented my style as a composer as one that uses leitmotif and a character driven approach to scoring to picture. I realized through this project that if you have a strong theme it is easy to morph and manipulate it to your will and it will serve the story appropriately throughout. The main theme of the wild bunch had to function early as a quirky almost playful melody and then move into something far darker only moments later. Choosing the right angles, movement and rhythmic flexibility for this theme was key to affording it the emotional range that the film called for.
Ultimately, Danny and the Wild Bunch was a piece I loved writing because it showcased my talents and particular voice as a composer. I sincerely hope that my career affords me more opportunities to score films as clever and engaging as this one.

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