Prolific composer duo Meiro Stamm and Antonio Naranjo most recently worked on the score for Lifetime’s film “A Christmas Dance Reunion”, which reunites “High School Musical” stars Corbin Bleu and Monique Coleman. ProductionHUB recently spoke with them about their work.
PH: Which scene was your favorite to work on in A Christmas Dance Reunion?
Antonio: It definitely has to be the first kiss scene. While the film is building to a reunion between Barrett and Lucy as dance partners, this is the moment in which their partnership transcends the dancefloor.
Meiro: Yeah, this scene is really like the centerpiece of the movie in a way. It’s not the climax but as far as the romantic part of the story goes it’s definitely where the movie builds to.
PH: Describe this scene and the significance it has to the rest of the film.
Antonio: This scene is all about nostalgia–a yearning for home, family and a love for the things, and people that matter most in life. Barrett and Lucy are rekindling the connection they once had and are finally expressing what’s gone unexpressed for so long. This scene has so much significance for the film, as it really is the nucleus of the story. The story is about the Winterleigh hotel, but more so it is about Barrett and Lucy. Love can conquer all and so when composing this scene, we decided to weave almost every theme into the cue as we wanted it to feel like every thematic element in the film revolves around this moment between Barrett and Lucy. And of course, from an audience perspective everyone is waiting for this moment of reconciliation. Art imitating life in a way.
PH: What tools, plugins, or instruments did you use in your production of this scene?
Meiro: It’s a traditional orchestral score for the whole film however we weren’t able to record with a real orchestra. We were able to create a really lush and sweeping sound with the great orchestral sample libraries made by Orchestral Tools and Spitfire Audio. They’re very different in their sound and the type of writing they’re geared toward but can actually blend really well if mixed strategically. Mainly UAD plugins were used for processing and then all the stems were summed in analogue through a SSL Sigma. The end result is a really rich sound.
Antonio: We try to use a similar library of instruments when working on our films together, it helps to keep everything sounding cohesive, so I used Orchestral Tools and Spitfire Audio predominantly, with a sprinkling of some solo CineSamples Woodwinds and Brass.
PH: What technical challenges did you encounter while working on this scene?
Antonio: As is common when working on a film or TV series, the picture edit you’re scoring to isn’t always the finished product. In this scene, Barrett and Lucy embrace for their big kiss as they stare out at the morning sunrise, however the VFX hadn’t been added in yet, so we were scoring to a green screen background. It’s a fun challenge to try and impart as much music magic as possible before all the other elements have been laid in. If you can make actors in front of a green screen feel magical, then you know it’s only going to feel that much more so once everything else is there. Watching the finished scene, I think we managed it successfully.
Meiro: The scene is around seven minutes long which makes for having to write a pretty hefty chunk of continuous music. There are several mini arcs within the overall dramatic arc – Barrett talks about his life, then Lucy, then they see the deer, the sun rises, and then finally they kiss. Obviously the scene and the cue had to build toward the kiss but all the smaller moments along the way had to be highlighted as well. The key was to have the music continuously build but do it in stages so that it didn’t get ridiculously big by the end. It was a lot of work but the end result worked really well and Brian Herzlinger, the director, loved it.
PH: What was the dialogue like between you and the series’ director regarding this scene?
Antonio: Brian did a great job of walking us through the scene and explaining the significance of each beat. As Meiro said, there are so many mini arcs within the scene’s larger dramatic arc so it was very helpful for Brian talk us through each moment’s significance. It was what led to our decision to weave many of the musical themes throughout the scene. Barrett and Lucy are the epicenter of the story, around which everything else orbits.
Meiro: Luckily we’d already done another film with Brian so we had some common vocabulary which made it much easier to have a conversation about such a complex scene. Plus Brian loves themes and strong melodies so our idea to bring in multiple musical themes was definitely a good one.