We had the opportunity to speak with award-winning composer, Billboard-charting music producer, and co-owner of Mirrortone Studios Roman Molino Dunn (a.k.a Electropoint). Known for producing and mixing his own scores, in addition to a composer, as a film music producer and recording engineer he has recently worked on The Card Counter (Schrader/Scorsese), and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix). His film and TV composing work includes Huracán (HBO Max), Ru Paul’s Drag Race All Stars (Paramount+), and the cult classic LGBTQIA feature film Bear City 3. Most recently, his work can be heard in Snakehead (Samuel Goldwyn Films), which was released on October 29, 2021 in theatres and on VOD. The crime drama also premiered at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.
We asked Roman how he got into music production and film compositon, what the process for creating the music for Snakehead was like, and some of his upcoming projects. Check it all out below!
Did you always know you wanted to pursue a career in music production and film composition?
RMD: Growing up, I always wanted to be a composer; it has been a lifelong dream of mine. However, I took a musically round-about way to get to film scoring. I studied a lot of instruments and music theory as a kid and then I went on to get degrees in music composition and music theory. But all through university I was making a living as a music transcriber (notating by ear for composers) and music software developer, working mostly in sheet music. The transcribing gradually turned into arranging, and that turned into producing, and eventually it made sense to open a recording studio with a partner. Once the recording studio was open, I found myself producing for pop artists, something I still do and utilize in my scores, but commercial agencies also came to the studio for voice-overs and soon enough I was writing music for their commercials. As commercial directors started leaving their ad agencies to make their own movies, I started getting calls from some of those directors, and now I spend almost all of my time scoring films and television, though I still do produce songs for some select celebrity clients (most frequently reality TV stars).
What was the process like for you when putting together the music for Snakehead?
RMD: Snakehead was an absolutely wonderful process, specifically from an artistic standpoint. The director, Evan Jackson Leong, treated me as one would treat an actor: he told me what emotion to convey rather than telling me how to deliver my lines. When I received the film, it had been in production for about a decade, so I was really one of the last people to come onto the film, and I was really able to vibe off of what all of the creatives before me had done to the film. The shots and editing let me know what the tonal color would be, and the pacing of the film really dictated the pace of the score. I did about the first 20 minutes of the film for Evan, and I was thrilled to hear that he loved what I did. From that point on we just went back and forth, with me handing him 20 minute sections of the film and then him giving me notes, until we landed on what is in the film now.
How would you describe the overall sound of the music you composed for Snakehead?
RMD: The overall sound is an orchestral-electronic hybrid. I used a lot of neo-romanticism (so large string arrangements with melancholy chords) and coupled that with dark and dirty analog and digital synthesizers. The film takes place in NYC’s Chinatown, and the theme for Chinatown is this grand Venetian waltz in a minor key which has subtle and gritty synthesizers underneath it. But other scenes in the film that deal with the more complex and heartfelt aspects of the human condition have expansive, soaring violin textures with gentle pulsing synthesizers. And still other scenes that are violent or suspenseful are action-packed synth drums with faster moving orchestral elements. I’m really happy with how the score turned out; since my job is to discover music that makes the director’s vision of the film come alive, it isn’t always completely aligned to my musical preferences, but when it is – such as the case with Snakehead – it is doubly satisfying.
You have created music for a wide range of films; how do you find musical creativity for each of them?
RMD: It is actually quite easy because it is a collaborative process. Either the director (or producer) has a very definite direction they want to go in or, even if they leave it up to you, their filmmaking informs you and pushes you in new creative directions. Essentially, I’m not here to just make art for myself, but I am composing the music that the directors or producers want, with parts of my musical voice woven in. And since they are also artists, they always have a unique perspective and life experience, and ingesting that into my compositional approach almost always produces something unlike anything I have done before. Even when it is the same director, but a new film, by sheer virtue of the narrative and aesthetic of the film being different, so too is my scoring process.
Are there any upcoming projects you have that you can share with us?
RMD: Sure, there are a couple coming out that I’m quite excited about. I wrote some music for Sean Baker’s Red Rocket (a24) which should be coming out soon. It isn’t a scored film, but I produced some Hip-Hop tracks for some of the scenes. And then a feature that I am just wrapping up scoring called AI Love You (Netflix) has me really excited as well. It is a sci-fi rom-com, so it is like nothing I have ever seen. It was previously called Laser Candy and stars two of Thailand’s biggest heartthrobs in their first on-screen reunion in 10 years.
To watch the trailer for Snakehead and find VOD information, click here
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