“It’s always been my dream to work on a Sci-fi movie”
-Hi Mr. Ekstrand, how are you?
All’s great, thank you!, how are you?
Firstly, thank you so much for the opportunity of this interview about your score for the film Life and your collaboration with the director, Daniel Espinosa.
My pleasure, happy to talk with you about the film.
-Terrific. What can you tell to our readers about Jon Ekstrand and your career until this point since your early beginnings?, in order for them to know you as composer, sound designer and above all things artist.
I come from a electronic music background and I have always been a film nerd so after going to film school and worked as a sound designer I kind of slipped into scoring movies,and after I scored the movie Snabba Cash/Easy Money I made the decision to do this full -time and I haven’t looked back since.
-You have collaborated with the swedish director Daniel Espinosa in six films already, how do you define your work process and feed back creating the scores and giving the musical soul to these stories?
Yes, Life is the Sixth film Daniel and I work together on. Daniel always invites me in early in the process…, usually he send me the script and wants to hear my thoughts regarding the story and if I have any first musical ideas…
Then the process begins…, we usually talk about other films and music references and what ”character”/ place the music shall take in the movie and then we start talking about what instrumentation we feel that could fit the movie the best.
Daniel is always a really good input regarding instrumentation…, he usually says something like ”I can hear choirs in this score or I can definitely not hear any electronic elements in this…”. And I find that extremely useful to depart as an starting point…
Daniel is very easy to work with, he is very direct about what he wants … If he likes it he likes it , if he doesn’t like something then he doesn’t…, it is a very straightforward communication. So you always get a direct answer when you play something for him and he has a really good musical ear…
-For Life, the way the film was shoot gave you the way to score the scenes, with its long sequences without cuts, and the particular narrative in crescendo of the threat, how did you discuss the approach initially to express with the music, all the feelings, sense of wonder and sense of threat you needed to provide?
We kind of knew from the beginning that we wanted music to give a sense of wonder for the first part of the movie before Calvin turns evil and then as Calvin evolves into the not so friendly entity it finally becomes, the music changes with him and turns into something much more darker and ominous, threatening the crew and the audience with the help of, of course, the music.
-I must say, my favorite cues are “Welcome to the ISS”, “Sprinklers” and “Godspeed, Doctor”, passing from the beauty of the musical definition of an space mission, to the unbearable tension of an incoming death in space, to the final emotion of trying to be a hero and save mankind. By the way, I love the unearthly chorus at the end of “Godspeed, Doctor”.
Thanks a lot, so glad it worked for you.
With “Welcome to the ISS” I wanted to give the feeling of adventure and weightlessness, with a touch of sense of awe, rising tension to the end when they receive the pilgrim from Mars.
With “Sprinklers” I wanted the music to work as a alarm/clock pushing the urgency when Calvin tries toe cape the quarantine. I played around with the Bass Bartok Piz to imitate the sound of the closing sprinkler locks which was really funny to do.
On “Godspeed Doctor” Daniel told me that he wanted this heroic waltz and the feeling of an opera in space with the music really up front. I came up with the idea that ended up in the movie quite early in the process and Daniel was super happy with it from the start and so was I. It was one of the cues that we recorded “tutti” during the orchestra recordings.
-Was it hard to compose for the sequences with loud sound effects and explosions and get later the perfect balance in the mix with your music? How did you remember your collaboration with the sound department getting these scenes right perfectly?
As I come from a Sound designer background I always had a big understanding for the sound fx and when they are important and Daniel as a director has a big understanding for sound and music and this was our second time working together with sound designer Per Hallberg (third time for Daniel) who is also Swedish . So the communication was great from the get go. And Daniel had a really strong opinion on were the music should be upfront and were the sound should. And during the pre and final dubs, my musical editor and score mixer and me had a close dialog with the mixers about how to treat different cues in the mix to the sound fx.
-After having finished Life, what can you tell us in retrospective about the composition and creation of this particular score?
Because of the extremely short post production period for a movie like this I moved my studio to London where they edited the film, so I could be closer to Daniel and the editors and Vfx, and I could get all the changes directly being able to have a close and fast process with the editors, vfx and of course Daniel in a constant team effort. That was also a really nice experience. To live in London for a couple of months, which is a city that I really like and find very inspirational, was a real blast.
-Any particular comment you would love to share with us about you work composing the score for Life?
This was a really fun movie to work in and it’s always been my dream to work on a Sci-fi movie so to be given the trust to do a film like this was a mind blowing experience for me. And also to record a 100 pieces orchestral score at Air studios in London with a fantastic music team was wonderful.
-Could you share with us if possible your current or upcoming projects for the near future?
Yeah, of course. Right now I’m working on a Swedish TV series called Alex and I have a couple of upcoming American projects but they are a bit early in the process to talk about.
-Thanks so much, Jon, it has been a pleasure.
Fantastic. Thank You!
All the very best, Jon. We keep in touch.
Jon Petter Ekstrand (born December 14, 1976) is a Swedish composer and film sound designer. As a composer, he has collaborated with film director Daniel Espinosa on several occasions, including Easy Money (2010) and Child 44 (2015). Since 1999, he has worked and contributed as a composer or a sound designer on several films, television movies, TV series and short films, including music for 4 episodes of the renowned Swedish TV series Sebastian Bergman.
While studying at the Stockholm Film School, Ekstrand he created his first work as a composer, the Danish short film The Fighter (2003) directed by Daniel Espinosa. Since then they have collaborated on several films, including Babylon Disease (2004) or Outside Love (2007), until 2017 when their respective careers have arrived to the turning point of creating the cinematic and musical world of Life.