by Dov Kornits

Can you discuss your journey to becoming a screen composer? Is this something you always aimed to be, or did you have aspirations to be in a band/musician?

My house was always very musical. My mother is a big fan of music and would always play ‘80s hits, classical music, and ‘70s rock at home. My grandma loves old Israeli and Ladino songs and would sing every day with the radio on. I’m the first in the family to make music a profession, but the love for music was definitely something that was always around.

I grew up a single child in a single parent home, so I spent many hours alone. To pass the time, I’d read books and then invent melodies on the piano for the scenes I liked. At one point, I started asking my mother to guess what emotions my music was describing. She was the one to tell me that there’s an actual job called film composing, and since I was 14, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I went on to major in Jazz Guitar at a private high school for arts where they used arranging and harmony books from Berklee College of Music, so the path to go there afterwards seemed to be clear. When I studied Film Scoring at Berklee I met George S. Clinton (composer for Austin Powers and The Santa Claus movies) who was the chair of the major at the time. He left the department and moved back to LA around 2015 and after I graduated, he asked me to become his assistant. As his assistant, I got to work with him on the 2017 Disney Channel film ZOMBIES, and then I became his co-composer for the sequel. Working with George opened up many doors for me in the industry and I’m very grateful for him and everything he taught me. Most recently, we co-scored ZOMBIES 3 and it’s coming out on Disney+ on July 15th!

You have worked on two of Australian filmmaker Maya Newell’s projects. What is your working relationship like?

Maya Newell and I met at the Sundance Music and Sound Design Lab at Skywalker Ranch in 2018. We were paired at the workshop to work on her film In My Blood It Runs. We produced about 5 minutes of music, recorded it with an orchestra, and had the Lab mentors review it with us. After the workshop Maya finished the film with composer Benjamin Speed but also included the music we came up with together in the final version. It was a really great experience that formed a friendship and led her to ask me to compose the score for her most recent film The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone. Working with Maya is always a very collaborative process. She brings a lot of ideas to the table but leaves room for me to experiment and try new ideas as well.

Photo by Kelly Davidson

What information do you normally get before you start a project?

Before the beginning of a project, I always get a synopsis and the latest edit of the film. Usually that edit will also have temporary music to help indicate where the director wants the music to start and stop, and often what style they’re going for. After reviewing all of that, I’ll have a meeting with the director to talk about the musical approach, and then I start writing.

I usually start coming up with ideas after watching a rough cut of the film, but scoring to picture officially starts with an edit that is closer to being locked. There could be lots of big changes in the edits between the Rough Cut to the Locked Cut, so I like using the early edits as a brainstorming stage. For the film The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone, Maya did want some pre-written music cues to edit to, so I supplied her with multiple tracks inspired by themes and emotions she wanted to convey. Then once the edit was complete we customized those tracks to fit the final timings.

photo by Arianna Soto

What’s the difference between working as an Orchestrator and a Composer?

As the Composer, I come up with all the melodies and musical concepts. I would write on my computer with sample libraries, sometimes record live elements, and be in charge of making all the creative decisions. As the Orchestrator, I follow the composer’s lead and preferences, and interpret their musical intentions in a way that can be performed by the musicians.

Does working on a documentary differ to fiction?

Yes and no! The production process is similar in both. Artistically, in both genres the music is setting a tone and helps with understanding the story. But to me, the main difference between Documentary and Narrative scoring is the amount of emotional space left for the audience to infer. Fiction uses music as part of the narrative, as a way of manipulating a scene and telling a story from a certain point of view. In Documentaries, we don’t want to spoon-feed the audience or completely take a side. On the contrary, we want the audience to think and come to their own conclusions.

Who are some of your composer heroes?

I can’t answer this question without talking about George S. Clinton. He’s been such a great influence to me as a mentor but I also admire his music. I grew up watching the Austin Powers movies on repeat, so his music was playing at home very often. I’m a big fan of Danny Elfman’s music and all the work he’s done with Tim Burton, and similarly Joe Hisaishi and all his work with Hayao Miyazaki. My current influences are Hildur Guðnadóttir and her soundtrack to Chernobyl and Joker, and Adam Taylor who scored The Handmaid’s Tale.

Does living in today’s tech world help the career of a composer?

Tech is an integral part of contemporary film composition. Whether a score is written for a full orchestra or a string quartet, the composer always has to create “mockups” to present to the director. Technology has gotten so good that mockups sound better and better. That’s also helpful when facing a tight budget on a project and having to pick only a handful of instruments to record, if any. That’s especially true when starting out in the industry.

I imagine it’s still a relationship business, do you try to sit in the same room with the filmmakers you work with, or can you do everything virtually?

Personally, I prefer in-person meetings because I think it’s easier to get people more creatively excited about an idea when you can feel the energy in the room. Regardless of the pandemic, some of my projects this year were international collaborations so virtual communication was essential to the project. While we worked on The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone, Maya Newell was in Australia while I was in LA. Similarly with the ESPN show 37 Words, the production team was both in North Carolina and New York, while the music team was in LA. Either way, having good communication with the filmmakers is essential.

What’s coming up for you, and are there any filmmakers in particular you are very keen to work with?

I definitely hope to continue working with Maya Newell. I really love her artistry and sensibility for good stories, and I love writing music for her projects. I also hope to continue working with the people at Disney Channel like Steven Vincen and Paul Hoen. I really enjoyed my experience working with them. I hope to collaborate one day with Alma Har’el. I was really moved by her film Honey Boy and I think she’s a very unique filmmaker. I also hope to work one day with Ari Aster. I watched his film Hereditary four times in the theatre and thought it was incredible. I also really love his film Midsommar. The musical approach that he takes with his films is very interesting and inspiring.

Learn more about The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone release and impact campaign led by Georgie and her family at

The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone is screening at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival, and releasing worldwide on Netflix in September.

Main Photo by Nick Krassowski

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