Even though I'm not one to say that people always do their best work under pressure, there's definitely something to be said for those situations when a project needs to be done in a seemingly impossible timeframe. When there's no margin for error, no time to backtrack or rethink an idea let alone scrap an entire direction and start over... a certain alchemy can kick in which somehow makes things just work.
Some time early in 2010, Shannon Wilson, a dear friend and producer with whom I've worked on many commercial projects over the years contacted me with exactly this kind of situation on her hands. She was producing a short film in preparation for a festival, the submission cutoff deadline was just around the corner and the composer they'd been working with was unfortunately unable to finish the project.
After telling me about the story and showing me the cut, I saw what a beautiful little film it was, and thought it would be a terrible shame if it were to end up unfinished for no good reason. The festival in question is called TROPFEST, one of the largest (if not the largest) short film festivals in the world, and it has a particularity to its rules of entry that makes it unique among festivals of its kind. Each year, there is a specific signature item which must be obligatorily included in some way in each film entry. This could be a pair of chopsticks, or a typewriter. Anything really. The idea is to encourage that films be made specifically for this festival, as a point of difference from the usual model employed by festivals of curating films already produced by their own means. It's an interesting concept - it encourages people to get together and make movies, and the challenge of finding innovative ways to include the signature item adds an interesting twist to the process.
All this to say that if for whatever reason, FISH LIPS could not be completed in time, it wouldn't be eligible for the following year because the obligatory signature item would inevitably change.
So the challenge for me was to compose, record, produce and deliver an entirely new score from A to Z, in time for the entry deadline. Which was in 48 hours.
Challenge accepted, I resigned myself to a double all-nighter and just got down to work. The concept of the film helped out a lot because it was essentially a fairytale story in the style of a mini-musical with a narrator. No need to waste time spotting scenes for music because it was going to be wall to wall, with character themes and leitmotifs strung along the entire narrative like beads on a thread. The editing and pacing of the film was also very well constructed, so it lent itself easily to a natural flow when it came to the music.
It's a charming, sweet and funny little story and the film did well at the festival, winning both the people's choice award and the award for best editing. I'd never worked for director Duane Fogwell before, but it was a great pleasure to be able to come to the rescue and get his gorgeous film across the finishing line just in the nick of time.
Watch FISH LIPS
Listen to music from FISH LIPS