×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘The Hate U Give’ Score Sets Mood in World of Racial Violence

It’s a June morning at 20th Century Fox, and the scenes flashing on the big screen in the Newman Scoring Stage are disturbing: White police officers are hurling tear gas into a crowd of mostly black protesters. Forty musicians supply the mood — at first unsettling, then intense, finally melancholy.

Composer Dustin O’Halloran, at a mixing board behind the glass, tells his string players via intercom that “the build is really important in this whole section, but those first four bars should start out kind of fragile.” Conductor Nicholas Jacobson-Larson leads the musicians through another take of cue 6M5. Piano and synthesizers, already recorded, add drama.

The film is Fox’s “The Hate U Give,” out Oct. 5 and likely to be among the most talked-about films of the year — and an Oscar contender. Music, says director George Tillman Jr., was critical. “We’re doing a movie about police brutality and about identity,” he notes. The film revolves around the reaction of a teen to the death of her best friend, shot by a police officer during a traffic stop. It’s the incident that triggers the protest. “Our performances were honest and authentic,” adds the director, “so I needed the score to feel natural and realistic, not too Hollywood.”

He recruited O’Halloran based on his Oscar-nominated score for 2016’s “Lion.” Speaking with Variety a few weeks later from Berlin (where he is working on his next film, “The Art of Racing in the Rain”), the composer explains that Tillman’s film tackles complicated themes. “It’s a delicate score,” he says. “It had to breathe life into the characters and the bigger picture of the subject in a way that was honest and graceful, yet not feel manipulative in any way.”

O’Halloran, an accomplished pianist, played all the keyboard parts himself. “It’s a singular story from the perspective of Starr [played by Amandla Stenberg],” he says. “And I always find piano, such an expressive instrument, does a great job of telling the story from one person’s perspective.”

Modular analog synths made the story “feel very contemporary,” O’Halloran adds, as well as helping it blend with the hip-hop tracks that dot the soundtrack throughout.

Those tracks include two by Tupac Shakur, whose famous tattoo “Thug Life” gave author Angie Thomas her title for the novel (“The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone”) on which the film is based. “They set the vibe of the character,” says music supervisor Season Kent.

Composer Dustin O’Halloran is flanked in studio by additional music composer Francesco Le Metre and conductor Nicholas Jacob-Larson.

Representatives of Shakur’s estate attended a screening. “They were really excited, definitely on board,” Kent says. Other artists on the soundtrack, which Def Jam is releasing on Oct. 12, include Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T and Travis Scott. Original songs come courtesy of London-raised German-American singer Arlissa, whose “We Won’t Move,” produced by L.A.-based duo Rice N’ Peas (expect it to be submitted for Oscar consideration), is sung under the finale of the film. Bobby Sessions contributes the title track.

How to musically treat Starr’s two worlds — the mostly white school she attends and the black neighborhood she calls home — was another challenge. But, as Kent points out, “everyone listens to hip-hop. It’s all really one [culture], which is the beautiful thing about music.”

More Artisans

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

  • ILM John Kroll Star Wars VFX

    Sci-Tech Awards Honored After Effects, Photoshop Developers' Major Impact on VFX

    On Feb. 9, two weeks and a day before the Oscars, the Motion Picture Academy held its annual Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards — sometimes referred to as the nerd Academy Awards — honoring achievements in motion picture technology.  The ceremony included no surprise winners — Sci-Tech kudos are announced in advance, and the achievements [...]

  • Steven Spielberg Lee Orloff Mary Jo

    Cinema Audio Society Honors Steven Spielberg, Lee Orloff and Mary Jo Lang

    At the Cinema Audio Society Awards on Feb. 16, CAS is honoring a trio of artists. The event take place at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown hotel.   Steven Spielberg, Filmmaker Award It’s hard to overestimate the influence of the three-time Oscar winner, a towering figure in Hollywood for decades. A prolific director-producer-screenwriter, who also co-founded [...]

  • Alex Honnold being interviewed in El

    Cinema Audio Society Nominees Added Audio Realism to Film Action

    As the Cinema Audio Society heads toward the 55th CAS Awards, its nominees, who have created immersive and intoxicating work, agree that sound is becoming the new frontier in storytelling. “Today’s directors understand the importance of sound from the start,” says Doc Kane, nominated for “Black Panther,” “Incredibles 2” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” “Looping [...]

  • American Society of Cinematographers

    Cinematographers Blast Academy Response on Oscar Telecast Exclusions

    Cinematographers opposing the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations on the telecast have blasted the Academy’s latest attempt to assuage concerns about the move. The group responded Thursday to officers of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors, sending a letter Wednesday night to its membership, asserting that no award category [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content