Who Is Adrian Ellis?
I’m a storyteller whose medium is music. I love to bring my creativity, passion, and expertise to the table in collaboration with others, to help them realize their artistic visions, whether it’s a series, a film, a video game or an album. I’m a problem solver, and a cheerleader.
How did you get involved with music composing? Was working with musicians always part of the plan, or did it come later?
I was surrounded by music growing up, my father being a professional orchestral musician (French horn – Sympony Orchester Wuppertal). I started playing guitar and piano in my early teens, but more than anything I loved to draw and paint. I ended up pursuing that, intending to become an illustrator, but always kept coming back to music. I began recording compositions using two tape decks (going back and forth, playing along with one to create overdubs on the other), and then moved on to a four track, and finally digital audio workstations in the early 2000’s. In 2004, I made the move to start pursuing screen composing seriously. In a way, doing music for the screen/storytelling engages my love of analysis, visual art, and music.
While I do have a solid production background and love to do it all myself, I endeavor to involve musicians wherever possible within the limits of budget. In any case, I perform on each of my productions, but other skilled musicians always bring an extra level of magic to a production. Within a few seconds, I can write a melody on manuscript with a few “black dots”, dynamic markings, and an expression indication. A good musician will make it sing with emotion, nuance, and that human feeling which makes it come to life. This would take me hours to program in the computer, and it would still not come close to replicating that beauty. Films have human actors for a reason – music needs the equivalent!
How did you get involved with webseries/tv? Are there any you’re currently working on? Any favorites?
Web series are a natural extension of the low budget/indie filmmaking world. As I was starting out, the filmmakers I was connecting with naturally became nterested in telling their stories online in an ongoing format, where they could reach a large audience, as opposed to showing their short a few times for limited audiences at a festival, only to have it disappear forever.
My long-time friend Jason Leaver created Out With Dad in 2009, and it is not only one of my favorite series, but one of my favorite projects of all time. I tell Jason it’s the bucket list item I didn’t even know I had. Reading the comments from fans around the world, some of whom tell us stories of how the show helped them come out, or even prevented them from committing suicide – it just feels so amazing to contribute to something that has made that much of a difference and something I’d never have dreamed I’d be doing. Plus the cast and crew have grown to be a wonderful family and it’s such a blast to work with them.
How did the idea for your music blog come about? What do you hope to achieve?
Writing is another extension of my creativity that I enjoy, and I like to share my excitement about discoveries I make, and things I’m learning along the way. I also saw an opportunity to create something that would engage filmmakers, and would begin a dialogue about the sometimes mysterious world of screen music. My hope is that it creates a sense of excitement about screen music, demystifies the process, and helps filmmakers and composers understand one another and communicate better.
Any tips or advice for students/beginners looking to get into composing/sound engineering?
That’s a huge topic! I have a ten point ‘creative manifesto’ on my blog where I tried to distill my thoughts on this subject, as I get asked this question a lot. (http://adrianelliscomposer.com/AdriansBlog/2012/01/09/adrians-10-point-mini-manifesto-for-creatives/) I think some key things are to be a student of human interaction and psychology and learn how to understand and serve the needs of your clients on every level; to be true to your artistic ‘voice’, but also have breadth in your skill set: the more you can offer the better positioned you are; and finally, it’s a business! Be a student of the game, and learn how to negotiate, market yourself, know your value, and of course have a handle on the complexities of music publishing, rights, and contracts.
Any upcoming projects you’re working on/would like to share?
I’m working on an awesome feature film with my friend (writer/director) Gavin Michael Booth called The Scarehouse (D Films/NBC Universal). It’s a revenge thriller, and I spent some time on the set recording location sounds like an old clawfoot bathtub and junk metal, which I’m using to create the score. That film should be in theaters in early 2014. I am in the midst of scoring Out With Dad Season 3, which has some amazing surprises, and the drama this season is just incredible. Later in December I’m starting on a new IPF funded web series called Asset, which will be a lot of fun. The best part of all these is that they are amazing projects, incredibly fulfilling to work on, and I get to collaborate with my good friends. How could you ask for more?
If you could scream 1 thing to the masses, what would it be?
This probably sounds incredibly pretentious, but I guess it would be “WAKE UP!” Not in the usual “Matrix” sense (though that does apply), but just generally in terms of how truly consciously we live our lives. People are so disengaged, and distracted by the many entertainments of modern existence. I don’t exclude myself in this – I have to course correct all the time. In a lot of ways, I don’t think we are truly “living” most of the time; we’re more like passive bystanders to our own lives. I think the world would see dramatic shifts for the better if everyone was a bit more conscious about the decisions they made, if they took responsibility for those decisions, and started to participate more. Imagine if we saw our lives the way an artist see’s their work – a project we want to turn out a certain way. So, we look for the signs and the opportunities… we’re not asleep in the wheel house thinking someone else will take the boat into harbour!