On the Beach

Seven Weekly Interviews with CG by Karen Cambrell
February – March 2000

WEEK ONE. Friday 18th February 2000
Getting Set Up.

KC: How did you get to score he film?

CG: I sent in CDs of a couple of previous projects I'd done - Moby Dick and Sydney A Story of a City. One day I got a phone call saying the director wanted to meet me. So I went in and met Russell Mulcahy and the Line Producer, Carol Hughes and we just chatted generally about it and it seemed that they wanted me.

KC: And so how long was it between when you sent your CD in and when you got the call?

CG: Oh, that was months. But once I got the call it all happened quite quickly, you know, within a couple of weeks or so. And then it was basically time to start seeing the pictures. They sent me a copy of the film as it was at that point. They were still in editing.

That was a couple of weeks ago and that was a rough cut and it looked absolutely terrific. It was really exciting, I just couldn't wait to get onto it. And with that I started, I spent a number of days going through the film and working out where I thought there should be music and what the music should say and so on. One thing I found was that the film really worked without music. It was so well scripted and made that - of course there were places where you would put music - but I didn't feel it was crying out for music to help drive the story along.

KC: Does that make your job easier or harder?

CG: It probably makes it easier in that you're not trying to fix up problems with the film. But the other thing is that I felt that it didn't need a lot of music and I came out with about 84-85 minutes of music when I went through it. When we spotted the film together, we agreed on 95, so it was a bit more than I wanted. There are some places where Russell felt that music should carry through. [The film length is 195 minutes.]

Generally when they're editing films they lay in music to help them get a sense of pacing and so on, which is called a temp track, as in temporary track. And Russell was very keen that I view the film with the temp track so that I knew where he was coming from and I was quite happy to do that. But I asked that I not hear that temp track for a while so that I get a chance to analyse the film myself and get my own reactions to the film because you can only get first impressions once. You can't get them the second time round. And the most important thing for a composer is those intuitive feelings because they become the basis on which you work for the rest of the project. So, with On The Beach, I asked not to hear the temp track when I first saw it and I had it for a few days and got to know the film quite well. Then I saw it with the temp track.

A couple of days ago the three of us got together for a spotting session - Russell Mulcahy, the director, Mark Perry, the editor, and myself. A spotting session is where you decide where the music is going to go in the film…where it starts, where it stops and what it's going to say. So we went through the entire picture. It took us the day. We watched it without the temp track, just dry and talked about it. I discovered a whole lot of things about the film that hadn't hit me and perhaps those are actually important things that I'm going to have to bring out now, or at least they weren't quite obvious to me. Heightening some of the more positive aspects of the film, in particular.

KC: By positive, do you mean as in happy, or as in strengths?

CG: Happy. Because a lot of the film is very sad Russell was hoping that I would bring out some of those happier aspects, you know, family events and positive aspects of the relationships and so on.

We found that we agreed mostly on where music should be, which is good. Basically we were all in the same ballpark. I guess if a film is well made, it's because the people making it know what they're doing and then, if hopefully I know what I'm doing, it's all reasonably obvious.

Getting Set Up.

Preparation and Themes.

Waiting for the Pictures and More Themes

Composing Begins.

Yachts and Choirs.

Nearing the End and Orchestration.

The End and Preparing for the Sessions.

POSTSCRIPT. August 2008