Tim Williams is no stranger to superheroes or horror films. When you think of superhero films, the Titans of the genre come to mind: Avengers, Batman, Superman, etc. Those films remind us that good, for the most part, prevails and the villains are eventually, in one way or another, eradicated. In the end, everything is wrapped up in a nice, neat bow, and we cheer for the heroes and shame the villains. However, what would happen if one of those Titans chose evil over good? That’s the premise of the new film BRIGHTBURN, from director David Yarovesky.
For the release of this horror superhero film, we had the chance to speak with composer Tim Williams. Having made a name for himself in the film music world with his contributions to GET OUT, IT and DEADPOOL 2, he’s back again with an eerie score for BRIGHTBURN. During our talk, we discussed everything from how he got his start composing to finding the inspiration for the music in BRIGHTBURN.
Hi Tim, thanks so much for speaking with me today. To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work as a composer?
Tim Williams: Music has always been an important part of my family. My grandmother and great grandfather both taught at the Royal Academy of Music in England and I was studying to become a concert pianist, but along the way become more interested in composition rather than performance. At sixteen, the director Paul Almond shot Ups and Downs at our school, and invited me to write some of the music and I knew I wanted to go into film composing after that. I was also writing a musical with one of my classmates and after mounting Napoleon in Toronto’s Elgin Theater, then London’s West End at the Shaftsbury Theatre, I moved to Los Angeles in 2001 to start working in film. I was really lucky to have moved next door to Tyler Bates who I began orchestrating for and have worked with ever since, doing both orchestrations as well as additional music. We used to pass hard drives to each other over the fence. He’s been a great mentor and friend as I’ve begun to take on my own projects.
I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am for BRIGHTBURN, and having been familiar with your work on GET OUT, I’m intrigued to see what you will bring to the table in regards to BRIGHTBURN. With that said, how did you get involved with this film?
Tim Williams: Thank you so much. They’ve both been great projects to have worked on. I got BRIGHTBURN through my connection with Tyler. I wrote additional music for and orchestrated the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies for Tyler which were directed by James Gunn. I worked for Tyler on James Gunn’s earlier films SLITHER and SUPER as well. James has a strong sense of family on his projects, so as the producer of BRIGHTBURN, there are a lot of close “family connections” in the movie. James has worked with the director of BRIGHTBURN, David Yarovesky for several years and Elizabeth Banks was in one of James’ first films, SLITHER. When Tyler put me forward for BRIGHTBURN, I was welcomed like family.
What has the process been like composing music for BRIGHTBURN? Where have you pulled inspiration from and were you able to work closely with the director?
Tim Williams: I was fortunate to have had such a collaborative director to work with because it was important for the music to match the emotional arcs of the film. We were constantly in conversation about how to merge two genres – horror and superhero – to create something new. David knew he wanted to have a superhero theme that could sound hopeful and full of the promise of good but which would then get twisted and mutated as Brandon’s destiny takes a turn and he descends into evil. I began with the three-note theme on the piano and by the end of the movie, the theme is carried by low brass which bends and distorts the theme.
Early in the process, I realized the film’s score needed more weight that could only be given by a large orchestra. I had started with an electronic score, but in one of the early screenings I thought “this should be bigger” and the notes from the producers were also “bigger”. So I called Abbey Road to book in some sessions to add some low brass and strings. The orchestra comes in when Brandon starts growing in power. And to add even more layers, I added the mutating synth sounds from the ROLI as well as processed percussion to pump up the tension.
What were some of the challenges you faced when composing music for BRIGHTBURN?
Tim Williams: Finding the right musical language to tell the story was a challenge because it was more than just balancing horror and superhero. There are some hard emotional hits you don’t usually see in horror or superhero films, and it is the music’s job to play the emotion. For example, the music helps show the mother’s unconditional love of her son who is spiraling out of control. This is where having a good collaborative relationship with the director was really useful because I could touch base with him about whether it was more important to play the tension, the horror, or the emotion of a scene.
You’ve composed multiple scores for films throughout varying genres. What is it about the horror genre, and the superhero genre, that keeps bringing you back?
Tim Williams: Horror and superhero genres offer me the opportunity to write for an emotional range that other films don’t offer. It is thrilling to write for the places that horror and superhero films allow you to go. I get to play to the emotions but always have a sense of fun. I get to have a smile behind my music which I don’t get to do in a lot of other genres.
Lastly, are there any additional projects, whether in the horror or superhero genre, that you are working on that we should be keeping our eyes out for in the future?
Tim Williams: I just signed on to score WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS which is a really fun slasher film set in the 80s. It stars Alexandra Daddario, Logan Miller and Johnnie Knoxville. I’m really excited to work with the phenomenal director Marc Meyers. You will love it. I’m also working on an animated holiday film PINEY starring Simon Pegg, a musical dramatic comedy THE SWEARING JAR starring Alison Pill and Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones), an Irish teen drama THERE YOU’LL FIND ME starring Vanessa Redgrave, and a comedy pilot for FOX.
Make sure to check out BRIGHTBURN when it hits theaters May 24 in the US and check out our review of the film HERE.
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