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How ‘Finding You’ Composers Crafted an Irish Musical Landscape

Finding You
Anthony Courtney/Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

With the script for Brian Baugh’s “Finding You” (in theaters May 14) centering around violinist Finley (Rose Reid) traveling to the Irish coast for a semester, composer Kieran Kiely couldn’t help but say yes to the opportunity since music was part of the storyline.

In this coming-of-age story, Finley searches for herself, discovers her passion for music and finds unexpected romance with Jedidiah Goodacre’s Beckett Rush.

Kiely collaborated with fellow composer Timothy Williams and together they navigated their way across continents to build the film’s source music and score amid a pandemic.

How did you divide the music work on the film?

Kieran Kiely: We had to do a lot of work in advance of the filming because the whole film is all about music; she’s a fiddler, there’s the music we hear in the pub, the music Seamus (Patrick Bergin) teaches her, and there’s the score.

I took the lead initially and did the pre-production and Irish music that you see more onscreen, and the elements of score that have Irish flavor to it. Tim took all the scenes that were the movie within the movie.

Timothy Williams: We began with the main theme for her because she writes a song on the fiddle so we had to sort of tackle it. Kieran came back and said, ‘Well, that’s not really Irish,’ so he adapted it and made it feel more natural and more Irish.

There was a lot of back and forth on Google docs because we were working remotely and were rarely in the same city.

Kieran wrote some beautiful themes that we developed throughout and because of his amazing background in Celtic music, he was able to bring in some incredible musicians. Zoe Conway plays the fiddle for all the moments Finley plays. She also plays for Seamus, and she does this whole journey of Finley’s character as her skills improve.

What notes did Brian give you about the score?

Kieran: Tim had a relationship with Brian and it was important this be for a young audience and he wanted it to feel modern.

How did you distinguish the score from the source music in the movie?

Kieran: That was a little bit tricky because it’s almost as if there were two different themes. The music in the film is different from the score.

For the music you hear on screen, we did radio play to figure out how to long each cue would be and presented that to Brian because it helped him envision the music scenes and where they would begin and end.

Tim came up with the melody for her as he said. With the score, I wrote those cues where she’s getting off the plane and looking around Ireland. I used atmospheric sounds and contemporary sounds with pianos and strings and pulses.

Most of the music I wrote is based on Irish dances. We have jigs, hornpipes, slides and slip jigs. There was a three-pulse and you hear the 1-2-3, 1-2-3, that bounce, especially when she goes on the place. There’s also a tin whistle and that’s one of the first instruments I learned how to play.

What about Vanessa Redgrave’s cues and what you used there for that emotion?

Williams: We had a couple of wonderful emotional cues because Vanessa plays this elderly woman who’s dying and she’s very grumpy. Her story is a subplot, and Finley is trying to reconnect with her.

For that, we had a wonderful Celtic harpist, guitars playing and Irish kazoo keys. We had strings too, and that we recorded in Budapest, Ireland and L.A.

How did the pandemic impact the recording of the score?

Williams: The film had finished and we were going into the scoring part when COVID hit, and it was quite a challenge for us and it was learning very quickly how to work remotely with Kieran, the musicians in Ireland, the orchestra in Budapest and some musicians in L.A.

I was able to do some recording in L.A. with this harpist and guitar player, and we were separated by glass and people were still putting in these amazing performances albeit remotely and everyone became their own sound engineer.

What about the music within “Dawn of the Dragons” which is the music within the film that Beckett is starring in?

Williams: Part of the fun was to create this very and over-the-top world of music. I wanted it to feel epic which is what you’d expect to hear on a massive film about dragons. The goal was to create a unique language and build a sense of comedy within the film. It’s big and cheesy.

Some pulses and pads and synths were laid through the whole film. In the end, we play this montage and it breaks into the theme she’s composed, but we were able to integrate the Irish elements with the modern kick drum and claps that helped give the film a nice finish.