INTERLUDE intro: “getting from there to here” – MUSIC!

Quick update: after four weeks, the INTERLUDE GoFundMe campaign is just a few hundred dollars short of the HALFWAY point! Please donate anything you can spare…

https://www.gofundme.com/interlude


Two weeks ago, I showed you how I worked with CGI artist LEWIS ANDERSON on the VFX for the opening 20-second sequence for Interlude. Then last week, you got to watch my sound-mixer, MARK EDWARD LEWIS, add some awesome sound effects to the sequence.

Now it’s time to shine the spotlight on KEVIN CROXTON, my music composer. In 2018, Kevin wrote, directed, and produced the award-winning musical Star Trek fan film THE BUNNY INCIDENT with his fourth and fifth grade students. Oh, and did I mention (about 47 times!) that Kevin has won an Emmy?

Kevin was eager to get to work composing music for Interlude. He adores Star Trek and LOVES Axanar. The idea of writing music that would evoke both Prelude and classic/movie Trek intrigued him (and me!). But he had one request. Before composing music for the Interlude “commercial” and also for the longer “ask” video, he wanted Mark to add in the sound effects for the VFX sequence. That way, Kevin could compose around the louder and quieter beats.

For anyone who didn’t watch all the way to the end of the video in last week’s blog, here’s where things were left with my minute long “commercial” after Mark was finished adding the sound FX…

Note that the last scene from Prelude to Axanar was taken directly from the final fan film…complete with voice-over, sound FX, and music. This would later become problematic because I had no way to separate the three elements. But Mark added really amazing sound effects under the new VFX footage, along with quiet swishing noises when each of the intro titles zoomed in.

Now it was time to see what Kevin could do…!

I went into this next process not knowing to expect or even how to work with a composer. While I can play guitar and read music a little, I’m no musician and certainly not a music theorist. Sure, I know what I like and what I don’t like, but I have no idea WHY I like it or how to explain it!

I dreaded doing to Kevin what has been done so often to me professionally by my own graphic design clients: not being able to explain what they want but instead saying, “I’ll know it when I see it.” Those are the worst kind of clients because you just end up wasting time until you happen to luck upon something the client likes. I didn’t want to be that client!

Fortunately for me, Kevin (like Lewis) is VERY patient and truly committed to making something the client is happy with. Not knowing where to start, though, I let Kevin lead the way. The first thing he was thinking was doing a similar riff to the four notes that open the TOS credits…only with three notes to hit my first three zooming titles. Shortly thereafter, I had my first taste of what working with my composer was going to be like…

Oh, I was going to like this!!!

It wasn’t just that Kevin had played three notes…although that sounded awesome! Did you notice that had also continued the final note and added other instruments to connect the intro titles with the clip from Prelude? By leaving those notes to linger under the existing music from the clip, Kevin was able to subtly change the ultra-ominous original horn into something a little less harsh but still suspenseful. I almost didn’t notice the change until Kevin pointed it out and I listened to both versions. Now the two are like night and day to me. Go listen to Prelude segment the first video again and compare it to the second…you’ll see.

So now it was time to move forward to the next three titles, and Kevin figured that if a little is good, then more would be better. So he added another three slow notes under the next three zooming titles…

This is when I learned that Kevin sneaks things in (in a good way) when he adds new stuff, and it’s kinda fun trying to figure out what. Obviously, he added those three new notes, but did you notice anything else? Watch the last two videos again and see if you notice another change.

Coming out of the first three titles, Kevin introduces a war drum beat which continues under the sequence from Prelude. It gives it a whole new dramatic dimension and suspense that wasn’t there even in the original clip. I loved it!

Unfortunately, the Prelude segment now built up SO much suspense and ominous anticipation that the next three musical notes didn’t work for me. They sounded too bright and cheery…like space about to be explored, strange new worlds about to be discovered. But that wasn’t what would be coming. We needed to feel even more dread as those next three titles rolled, leading into the opening VFX shot of the Klingons approaching.

This was actually my first time giving Kevin critical feedback. And having been a creative director for 12 years, I always try to be extra tuned into to these important moments. Creative people behave in a variety of different ways when you react negatively to their work. Some handle it well and professionally, while others can take it very personally or resent the fact that someone without their skills and training is telling them what to do.

Fortunately for me, Kevin proved himself to be keenly able to accept and process critical feedback and, not only that, but to run with it! What happened next was an energetic discussion with Kevin suggesting a number of different approaches. The one we both gravitated toward was bringing in a musical intro that would play into to the first shot in the VFX sequence where the D7’s are coming forward. Then that shot itself would feature a variation of the Klingon music from the beginning of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

I left that short conversation totally stoked to hear what would come next. Turns out I only needed to wait a few short hours for this…

Holy F-ing S! (Excuse my language, but that was pretty much what I said.) That was AMAZING! It totally sounded Kingony (Klingonish? Klingonific?) but also completely original. I loved it!!! So naturally, my next conversation with Kevin contained no critical anything and was essentially, “More! More! Do more!”

Actually, that’s not entirely true. I did say that I’d like for the Klingonesque (there’s the word!) music to continue under shot two of the sequence, building to shot three where it would end with a suspenseful crescendo like we heard at the end of TNG‘s “Best of Both Worlds, Part 1.”

Apparently, my wish was Kevin’s command, as the following was uploaded for me the next afternoon…

Now THAT’S what I’m talkin’ ’bout! This was beyond awesome, and exactly what I was hoping for. People who can compose and create music like this—and in less than a day(!!!)—truly astound me.

By the way, did you notice what Kevin added this time (in addition to the extra 12 seconds of music)? There were now live French horns!!! No, these weren’t generated digitally. Kevin actually played notes on his French horn and layered those under the rest of the music. Crank up the volume, and you can feel them energizing and empowering the score. This was incredible!

There was just one more part of the “commercial” to score, and that was the final 20 seconds where I present the title of the film, the writer and directors, the filming locations, and the fact we’re crowd-funding. I wanted the music to change to something less dramatic but still impactful. I wanted the emotion to subtly shift from ominous to hopeful…but not too hopeful. You know what I mean?

Kevin knew exactly what I meant (he’s a sorcerer, that one!), and delivered the perfect ending…

So now it was time to deliver the music files back to Mark Edward Lewis for sound-mixing. (Don’t worry, I won’t make you sit through another two-hour audio tutorial video!) Actually, before I did so, I had to remove the image of Neutral Zone Studios, as I had just found out I wouldn’t be allowed to film there after all. I also changed “CROWD-FUNDING IN JUNE!” to “CROWD-FUNDING NOW!” since it was now June and this “commercial” would no longer be coming out a month before the GoFundMe launch.

If you’re curious to see how everything came out after Mark did the sound-mixing, here’s the final version of the Interlude “commercial”…

Now, if a 1,400-word blog is enough for you, feel free to stop reading now. But Kevin and I weren’t finished yet!

Although we’d handed off the first minute of the video to Mark (the YouTube “commercial”) it would also be the first minute of a longer 13-minute “ask” video featuring me interviewing myself. Here’s what how that video ultimately turned out with music added…

But before there was music added, the parts with Jonathan and Jonathan—plus guest appearances by ALEC PETERS, JOSHUA IRWIN, and VICTORIA FOX—sounded a little monotonous. We knew we needed background music. Kevin decided to tackle scoring this part by focusing on the whimsical, humorous side of my “interview” (the fact that I was playing “straight man” to my other comedic persona). What came out first was this…

Although we’d been on a roll of my loving pretty much everything Kevin gave me, this time I wasn’t thrilled by what I heard. I liked the initial comedy flourish, but I felt things stayed too light and whimsical, and this was actually the time where I wanted to get more serious. I wanted to convey that I’d assembled a team of very skilled and dedicated Star Trek fans, and that the money donated would go toward the creation of a really cutting-edge fan film.

So Kevin gave me “serious.” He created a music loop that I could play under the non-comedic parts of the interview and then switch back to the lighter bit anytime there was a gag. It sounded like this…

Just as “The Three Bears” had porridge that was too hot and then too cold, things still weren’t just right. The first version was too comedic, but now we were too serious. I wanted happy and hopeful, but not too playful. I wanted businesslike, but not in a stuffy way…more in a motivational , feel-good way where the corporation is laying out their plans with a positive look for the future. Know what I mean? No? Well, Kevin did.

Third time was the charm. The following took him only 90 minutes (!!!) to create and upload for me…

That was totally IT! Kevin extended the loop out to 3.3 minutes and even added some fun stuff in the second half. If you listen closely to the sound file below, you’ll hear background instrumentals doing snippets from both TOS and TNG‘s opening credit sequences. So my “generic” motivational music was now also noticeably Star Trek

That left one final snippet. Kevin felt that Alec’s “cameo” from the bridge of the USS Ares needed a different musical theme, so he wrote something more reminiscent of Prelude for it. And again, it was perfect—albeit a little loud…

But volume wasn’t an issue. Even though I don’t have a zillionith of the skill that Mark Edward Lewis has when it comes to sound-mixing, I’m not 100% clueless. I’d already asked Mark for the full extent of favors I was going to get until Interlude reaches post production, so I just did the sound-mixing myself. I faded up and down the volume of the music and the voices, switched between the various background scores (main loop, comedy flourish, Alec’s theme), spliced in the footage from the Avalon fan films along with the the clips of Victoria and Joshua. Basically, I did my own editing and sound-mixing on the remaining 12 minutes.

Sure, it wasn’t professional caliber. And when Interlude enters post-production at the end of this year, we’ll have Mark and Josh and Lewis and Kevin and a few others all combining their considerable talents to make it awesome while I sit back and stay out of the way. But right now, it’s my job to raise the money, and that means creating the best “ask” video I can manage. I completed it with a day to spare!

And just in case you forgot, here’s the link to donate…

https://www.gofundme.com/interlude

2 thoughts on “INTERLUDE intro: “getting from there to here” – MUSIC!”

  1. Enjoyed this greatly! Although not my career (Uni prof, Phys Chem), music has been a major part of my life since discovering classical music on the radio at age 4! Play piano, pipe organ and keyboards generally, and have done small-scale composing plus using computer DAW to create full orchestral backings for some of my playing. And have always loved and explored movie music.

    Said that just to explain where I’m coming from in really appreciating hearing how the music for your material evolved. I’m very glad you took the time to put all of this together ─ so happy you decided to include the second part of this post fully illustrating how the music developed. You are fortunate indeed to have such a highly-skilled composer for your production as well as the promotional material. By the way, you didn’t do too bad a job in mixing all by your little self (little? ─ well I think you’re fractionally slimmer than me!)

    You are to be congratulated in assembling such a fantastic (that word does get overused but it’s warranted here) team for your project which really should auger for success in reaching your funding goal. Can’t wait to see the final result, toward which end I’ve decided to add a little more to those funds.

    I’m not young, so people, please donate ─ I want too see it finished while I’m still around to do so! (unsolicited promo!) [Please forgive excessive use of exclamation marks!!]

    1. Every little bit helps, Bryan. So thanks again. And don’t worry, this fan film is gonna happen while you’re still around to see it! I’ve already begun asking my producer to look at where budgets can be sliced and diced so that, even if we don’t make it to our goal, we can still move forward with production. More on that in a few weeks.

      As for Kevin, I can’t say enough superlatives about him (with the emphasis on “super”!). He is so enthusiastic about this project, and he’s so amazingly talented. I’ve been truly blessed to have him agree to work on Interlude…along with everyone else involved.

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