Filmmaker Feature by Chris Olson
At UK Film Review, I have been lucky enough to interview some of the most exciting filmmakers in the industry right now. Another member of that club is composer Ros Gilman, a true artist and genuinely lovely man. I caught up with him to discuss his process, his most recent project Johanne, and what he would say if he were a dolphin...
Watch Ros Gilman in action, conducting an orchestral recording session.
Ros, earlier this year you finished work on the, now award-winning, animated short film Johanne, by director Anna-Ester Volozh. For those who haven't seen it yet, could you briefly sum up what the film is about?
Sure! The film tells the story of Johanne, a heroine inspired by Joan of Arc.
Johanne is the protector of an impeccably charming, small seaside town. The film follows a day in her life and – in the remarkably short span of only four minutes – takes us from village idyll to an enchanted sky battle.
As a film composer, what did you enjoy most about this project?
Quite a few things actually.
Primarily, I just love animation. When Anna first showed me the film, I immediately fell in love with the beautiful animations, as well as the magical story. I knew, there and then, that I wanted to score it.
Secondly, working with Anna was a great pleasure. She has a deep knowledge and understanding of music. She knew exactly what she wanted. We were in touch, almost on a daily basis, discussing various aspects of the score, as I was writing it.
Finally, I feel rather fortunate to have been able to work with the outstanding musicians of FAME’S Macedonian Symphonic Orchestra [whose credits include major TV series’ such as The Affair, and Hannibal].
I flew out to Skopje to conduct the recording and supervise the mixing session. Once back in London, we added the final touches to the soundtrack. Parliamentary Jazz Award’s 2016 ‘Vocalist of the Year’, Emilia Martensson, provided the wonderful vocals, bringing everything together, quite perfectly. I'd like to use this opportunity to thank Anna, simply for making all this possible.
What would you say was the toughest part of writing the music for Johanne?
Hmmm…that would probably be the project’s short turnaround.
We wanted to meet a crucial deadline. Between composing, orchestrating, programming the demo, preparing the parts, practising the conductor’s score, organising musicians, reaching out to recording venues, and sorting out contracts, well, shall we just say the nights were pretty short!
But, then again, when isn’t this the case in the film industry!
True…Would you mind telling us a little bit about how you actually got into music?
Yes, of course. My parents are both professional musicians; my mum is a violinist, and my dad taught music theory at a university in Moscow. You could say that my relationship with music was born in the cradle.
I started playing piano and violin at age three. By the time I had hit my early twenties, I was lucky enough to have performed across three continents, making multiple appearances on national TV and radio, eventually becoming the second leader of the European Philharmonic Orchestra.
Sadly, a sudden hand-injury forced me to give up my violin career. No longer being able to perform, I was faced with the choice of either leaving music behind or somehow finding a way to continue with my passion.
Ultimately, I fought my way back into music – reinventing myself as a composer, conductor and music producer.
Phenomenal! What projects are you working on next?
I am currently composing the score for a prime-time feature documentary for French Public Television channel, France 5. It is an exciting but rather dark film about the fate of young children, who are returning to Europe from a war-torn Syria and Iraq.
Beyond that, I am also working on the release of my debut EP, Fantasies. The song sits within an exciting new crossover genre, which I have dubbed ‘Cinematic Pop’ – a blend of big screen drama with a catchy chart feel.
If all goes as planned, the release will be in late 2017, so do stay tuned!
Sounds exciting. Any advice for those who are just getting started with composing music for films?
I suppose everyone's journey is different. Try not to compare yourself to others, who might already be further down their career path. Rather focus on yourself, see where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Work to advance your artistry.
That may involve learning something new, perhaps shadowing someone a little more experienced, even exploring other avenues to find a solution. Perfecting our art is one of the great aspects of our journeys as creatives.
What would you say if you were a dolphin?
Ha! A dolphin... tricky question!
I have read somewhere that dolphins supposedly sing to their calves. So I guess, on that basis, being a musician and composer, I would probably sing rather than speak. As a dolphin, this would be a great way to express myself!
Watch Ros Gilman in action below with a special video on mixing an orchestral soundtrack...