A young professional wakes up hanging upside-down in a warehouse with no recollection of how he got there. As he tries to escape, survive and piece together what happened, he begins to uncover a nightmarish plot involving him and his loved ones.
How did you get involved in the project?
Charlie [Bray] approached me and asked if I would be interested in scoring for his recent project. He had seen my work on Little Secrets, Big Lies, 2015 (a submission into the London 48 hour film festival with James Cookson), we discussed the atmospheric quality to that score although he wanted to push me to being a little more bombastic with the work in Shift.
What made you decide to work on this project?
Shift is a Sci-Fi short with interesting psychological elements, high quality special FX, and an epic twist at the end. When I watched the locked picture, the quality looked great and it was simply a mouth-watering project. I was in.
What were your inspirations in the score?
Charlie and I both loved the work Jon Hopkins did in his score for Monsters. He is so good at that ambient sound that just keeps building, bit by bit. I like how he balances an intimacy with an edgy rawness as an idea grows in his cues. The other places we took reference from included Johann Johansson’s score for Sicario, with its bleak, raw power and minimal approach and David Julyan’s work in the Prestige, the final few cues of that are so well crafted with the picture.
Did you use any interesting methods in the scoring process?
There is very little dialogue in this film so the music has to carry it from one place to the next. This means for the most part, this film is one continuous music cue. The danger with that is the score can either become too intrusive or ineffective. We had to think very carefully as to how and when to bring the music to the foreground or let it sit as underscore. In terms of the instruments used, based on the music we chose as an influence, it had to be mainly a synthetic score packed with growling drones, pulsing bass lines that grow and fade and some solo synth lines. Orchestral elements were there but placed very much in the background of the audio. Nothing that would stand out too much as being melodic in the first instance.
So how did you make that gradual change from an ominous underscore setting to that full thematic ending?
It was a gradual process. As the narrative evolved with the main character becoming more assertive, I allowed the orchestral and rhythmical elements to come to the foreground. For instance, the percussive elements grew throughout the film, starting with hollow metallic sounds in the warehouse, to large taikko ensemble during the driving scenes, which changes into various rhythmical pulses in the final section. Finally during the credits I go all out using a fully processed trap-drum kit, something I hadn’t used before, but I had great fun designing it.
Are there any other elements you are pleased with in this score?
I enjoyed developing various synthetic sounds to emulate the ‘glitching’ you see on screen into the score. Yes there were SFX in there as well, but it brought the music closer to the other sound elements.
During the final reveal, I used a distorted piano to carry the melody. The piano was slightly de-tuned and carried an angular line creating an unnerving atmosphere. We thought it was particularly effective as the piano hadn’t been used to this point. It had a fragile and alien nature to it. This was the only melodic part of the score. As we approached the climax at the end, strings and further distortion took the melody. The lower brass were doing their thing, growling and snarling along in great big swells. Almost like a big bad dog.