We recently spoke with Hollywood film and television composer, Jacob Yoffee. He has worked on trailer campaigns for big budget films like; Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Disney’s The Jungle Book, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and The Chronicles of Riddick. Yoffee has also done television work including Netflix’s Chef’s Table and the new Disney Channel series Andi Mack. Sound is one of the most important aspects of filmmaking because it can tell a story without dialog. Music is so integral to some shows and films that you can even tell what’s going on in the scene without actually looking at the screen. Teams who work with these big budget ad campaigns, often edit/direct while the film is in early production in order create something that is representative of the film while getting people interested enough to come see it.
Jacob went to the Peabody Conservatory of Music with the intent of studying orchestral composition and getting into the film industry. He ended up graduating with dual degrees in jazz performance and composition. He then immediately transitioned into being a touring musician even. His journey would eventually take him to NY when a friend a convinced him to apply to NYU where he would end up in the film scoring department.
Jason Payne: I notice you have a lot of trailer credits under your belt. Did you end up working in the orchestra for those films as well?
Jacob Yoffee: A few of those trailers they did get re-recorded with a live orchestra; and I’ve done some trailer recording with a live orchestra. But even when you’re just working on a trailer, you’re still orchestrating and it has to sound like the finished product. There’s a lot of programming involved to make the computer sing and sound realistic. Luckily the technology today has gotten good at making realistic mockups or tracks. It just takes more time and elbow grease to get the sound. But they have to all be orchestral from the get go. In the trailer world, these marketing campaigns are separate from the people making the film when you’re dealing with a studio project. It’s created alongside the editing and post production of the film. So a lot of times, trailer editors are getting dailies; which are just clips of the footage shot that day. It’s just raw footage; it hasn’t been color corrected, the sound hasn’t been mixed, and they’re taking that to try and create some advertising. They’re basically 90 second to 3 minute long films. These editors and producers above them are directors trying to create small films. They’ll get visual effects done, they’ll get ADR done by the actors, they work with composers like myself to build a customized soundtrack.
That’s definitely something people don’t know. I know Andi Mack is not your first foray into television. You’ve also done some work on Netflix’s Chef’s Table. What’s it like transitioning between documentaries and sitcoms?
Personally I think documentaries are more difficult in a way because they’re not traditional narrative. When you watch scripted content, the scenes follow very familiar energy arcs. And you kind of feel the hills and valleys naturally. But a documentary is working with the footage that they got and they’re sort of building abstract narrative arcs. So you normally don’t have a lot of music that’s related to itself, you’ve got to be able to do lots of things. Because when they’re editing an episode or documentary feature; they’re just bringing in a lot of tracks to keep it going. That’s why when you’re watching a reality tv show, there’s like 100 different pieces of music because every 17 seconds there’s switching gears. In order to keep the energy going, you have to shift. So when you’re working on a documentary you have to write so much music, and it switches gears so often. It’s a little bit exhausting but it is a lot of un.
When it comes to Andi Mack, what things are you putting into it to help guide the story?
From the get go on Andi Mack there was a pretty intense audition process. I had to compete with several other composers. We not only submitted folders of music, we were also given scenes from the pilot episode to score. Based on what we sent, they gave us feedback and wanted to see how we responded. So through that process, you got an idea of what the powers at be wanted and how they saw their own show. I also learned what world I could live in musically. What I do is watch an episode and then talk with the producers and director about this is where we want music; this is what it needs to accomplish. With a show like Andi Mack, its very high energy. You have the lead actress Peyton, who plays Andi Mack; she’s bubbly, extremely animated, and very high energy. Musically, you have to keep pace with that. You have to keep it peppy because there’s jokes but also more poignant scenes. You have to be able to switch. I’ve cultivated a soundboard so you can deliver certain things quickly which allows me to turn it around overnight if need be. And that can blind with orchestral underscoring if necessary, it also needs to be malleable.
Jacob is also working on several other projects that include the second season of Andi Mack. Disney seems to like him quite a bit so maybe we’ll see his name on a Star Wars film in the future.
Check out more interviews from FanBros.com contributor Jason Payne right here on the site!