ASCAP Workshop, Day 12

Director Tom Shadyac on the composer's role: 'soul-catchers'

While the ASCAP workshop has touched on all components of a successful film composer’s career, Tuesday’s session was their first to meet a director. Tom Shadyac may not be god, but he’s created successful movie versions with “Bruce Almighty” and “Evan Almighty.”

Utilizing a European accent, Shadyac created the character of the “genius” composer who dictates to the filmmaker. Then he said, soberly, “My threshold for asshole-ish-ness is very low right now. I want to work with people who are kind to others, good-spirited collaborators.”

It was clear that “Bruce/Evan Almighty” composer John Debney and Shaydac embodied this concept for each other, complimenting each other to the point that Shaydac said, “This is going to be a butt-kiss festival.”

“Yeah, a monkey-butt kiss,” Debney said, referencing the “Bruce Almighty” scene in which Jim Carrey makes a monkey appear from the ass of a thug.

Three workshop composers scored that scene; the group now screened it with the actual director and composer. Music editor Jeff Carson said the scene almost didn’t make the final cut, but was restored after screening it with a temp score. Said Shadyac, “Music sets the soul and these guys are like soul catchers.”

While the scene is broadly comedic, Debney felt it was important that the music make “Jim seem more sophisticated” and balanced the funny with tension and operatic themes.

“Music has to help even things out,” Shadyac said. “It can’t get too cartoony.”

Shaydac wanted to know which workshop composers had done this scene. When London’s Luke Richards confessed, “It was a tough cue,” Shaydac said, “You’ve got the accent!”

Director Richard Bellis told Shadyac that the composers had free reign on their pieces, chiding him: “They were working without a director – how perfect.”

Shaydac conceded, “I don’t know a lot about music, but I do know there’s rules – we’ll break those rules.” He also saluted the composers for their hard work, noting that once Debney “let me conduct – that’s a sweaty-ass job.”

The director sent the 12 off with the hopeful, “Maybe someday we’ll work together.”

“When I retire,” Debney shot back.

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