As Eastern European studios clamor for more business, a less visible — and more harmonic — sector is ramping up its already well-established tradition. Small armies of classically trained musicians in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and, increasingly, Poland, are finding themselves booked for months in advance, creating the soundtracks of major international productions, whether they be for a lyrical love theme or the sonic backdrop of a skin-crawling alien-invasion thriller.
“I love working in Bulgaria,” says Maggie Rodford, music supervisor for “The King’s Speech” and “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”
The recording studios — mostly built during the Nazi occupation — may be something of an other-worldly adventure in themselves, she admits, but the musicians are world-class. And come at a non-union cost that fits the fantasy theme.
You’ve probably heard the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra without knowing it; its lush, mighty sound has added dimension to dozens of films since 1992, including David Fincher’s “The Fall” and vidgame “Transformers Origins.”
Prague orchestras, long a favorite of David Lynch, aren’t quite in the same bargain basement category any longer, but are still highly competitive — and just as good, says Rodford.
Nancy Knutsen, ASCAP senior VP and longtime assistant to grand maestro John Williams, sees more growth than ever in “non-American composers working on American films” despite the stiff competition from Hollywood’s native composers.
Oscar-winning composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek (“Finding Neverland”) may have lived in L.A. for 20 years, but the Polish native is actively nurturing his fellow countryfolk into the rhythm of Hollywood productions. His newly launched Transatlantyk fest in Poznan focuses on challenging local composers to produce fast, sometimes improvised scores for U.S. films and has already won attention for several bright prodigies.
Meanwhile, Krakow’s Film Music Fest, which Kaczmarek attended this year along with Rodford and Knutsen, also acts as an incubator for Eastern European musical talent, exposing them to practical insights from such veterans as “Titus” and “Public Enemies” composer Elliot Goldenthal.
Goldenthal, who won an Oscar for his “Frida” score, managed to fill a cavernous Krakow steel factory with 4,000 fans for his “Biomechanical Symphony,” based on themes from the “Alien” franchise. The unrestrained applause that kept interrupting its challenging music is some indication of the artistic sophistication of the small, historic city, which nevertheless features scores of ensembles and top-notch recording facilities.
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