ESTEEMED FILM COMPOSER DAVID HEYMANN ON SCORING HORROR MUSIC FOR “GHOSTED”

Composer David Heymann
Film Composer David Heymann

Having started with playing the piano as his main instrument at the age of 10, David Heymann gradually got more interested in creating than performing, which eventually led him to compose and orchestrate music for films and other media. Ever since David has been involved in such productions as the video game hit “Elder Scrolls Online” as the lead orchestrator and the third installment of Sony’s “Smurfs” as part of the music department. As a composer, he has worked on countless trailers and films as the main orchestrator on a number of award-winning projects that have screened at diverse film festivals around the world. Last year David was recognized for his powerful music track “The Last Day of Hope,” for which he earned two Bronze Medal Awards from the Global Music Awards for Best Composition and Best Original Score.

His latest project was the horror-comedy film “Ghosted” by director Sevgi Cacina. “Ghosted” tells the story of an attractive woman who is being followed by a person only she can see and hear and tries to get help from a psychiatrist. Little does the psychiatrist know that he’s only being a puppet in a deadly game of lies and seductions. “Ghosted” strikes the perfect balance of jaw-dropping twists and hilariously funny moments that entertain viewers throughout the film. The film premiered at the Shriekfest Horror Film Festival in 2017, a popular festival that was founded in 2001 and is the oldest continually running genre festival in Hollywood. It’s one of the biggest and most important festivals for horror films in the world.

“It was an absolute joy to work on this movie! When I received and watched the picture-locked version for the first time, I already noticed that this wasn’t just an ordinary film. Sevgi, who wrote and directed it, has an incredible talent for telling stories. She makes everyone around her better,” David said.

“Writing music that needs to be absolutely synced to the happenings in the picture when it comes to building tension is something I love about horror films. In almost no other genre music plays such a significant part in helping to convey the feelings the director wants the viewer to go through. This not only applies when the music is supposed to enhance the picture but even more important when it’s contradicting the picture, an effect that directors sometimes are aiming for to mislead the viewer.”

Film poster for "Ghosted"

For a film like “Ghosted,” music plays an essential role, especially when it’s supposed to tell things that the viewer does not see in the picture.

“At the beginning of the movie we see the psychiatrist sitting in his office and looking something up on his computer. There’s actually nothing odd to see here, nothing that makes you feel scary or uncomfortable. But while you watch this scene the music is telling you a different story. Low cello and bass strings accompanied by a rising high strings cluster sound convey the message that something horrible, something very dark is connected to this character or is about to happen. These are things you cannot capture with the camera. That’s the composer’s task,” explained David.

Through the music he created for the movie David effectively heightened the intensity of some the film’s most thrilling scenes with his use of tension build-ups and “uncomfortable sounding” electronic synths.

“There was a lot of room for build-ups to create tension. In one scene the phone is ringing and the tension in the music keeps building until the character picks up the phone. Then the music is holding a note during the phone call and slowly builds again. Having the music buildup during the ringing of the phone and almost completely taking it out when the phone is picked up we get the viewer to pay closer attention to the content of the call,” explained David.

“As a composer, you also always try to keep the music light in terms of complexity and volume during a dialog so it doesn’t get in the way of it. Dialog is king in a movie. So having the high violins at that scene holding a note before the orchestration slowly starts growing again we’re able to get out of the way of the dialog without losing any of the subtle tension created by the high violins we’re aiming for during the call.”

The movie also provides a wonderful scene where the background sound is completely muted and the music takes over, demonstrating the power it creates in conjunction with the picture.

“Scenes like the seduction scene in ‘Ghosted,’ where there’s basically no dialog or any other sounds and your music gets prioritized to be a musical layer on top of the picture, is the kind of scene every composer loves the most in a movie because that’s where you can shine with your music and there’s no other sound that will distract from it. This scene had the ‘Basic Instinct’ theme as a temp track which worked incredibly well with the picture, so I wanted to create something similar to convey that kind of erotic but dangerous feeling that Jerry Goldsmith created in his track for ‘Basic Instinct,’” explained David.

The ending scene is an outstanding example of how David implemented synth sounds seamlessly into the overall orchestral, strings-heavy soundtrack. An electronic pad sound is mixed together with strings playing con sordino. The music is very static there with no sign of movement or any tension. This is intentionally done so the viewer doesn’t expect any sudden change. Only at the very last moment the music builds up for about one second and unveils the shocking twist moment of the film.

“Ghosted” director Sevgi Cacina said, “It was so pleasant to work with David. Even before I wrote the script I already knew I’d approach him for the scoring. It’s so important to team up with someone who understands you and your story, why and how you want to tell it and enhances it at times. David is so talented, and smart and yet so humble. He worked hard and delivered a great film score very fast. ‘Ghosted’ has so many twists in the story and I would ask the craziest things but also knew he could still find a creative way to make it happen. It was very exciting to sit down and listen to his creations whenever I received a new musical cue from him.”

 

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