Recently we got to speak with composer Volker Bertelmann. You most likely know his work from the critically acclaimed film, Lion, and his most recent project is the HBO miniseries, Gunpowder. The show stars Kit Harington who most of you know as Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. In Gunpowder, Harington portrays Robert Catesby, who was a key conspirator in the Gunpowder Plot which is tied to the more infamous; Guy Fawkes.
Bertlelmann shares how he crafts music to tell a story, how he manages his approaches for composing music for film vs TV, and his upcoming projects.
What do you feel is the biggest difference between doing your music versus composing for a film or television show?
Presenting your own music that you’re creating without any kind of regulation to an audience is a complete different game than being involved in a film as part of a team. That’s why I think it’s nice to have both; it’s nice to have recognition that’s purely you and for collaborative work that’s also challenging to stretch and not be the center of attention. In the team you are one little cog in the whole machine. I like both approaches.
How do you manage your time between recording and working on film projects? How does that affect the creative process?
I’m doing less this year. This job requires a lot of time management and balance. I found if I have too much going on at the same time along with traveling, makes things too complicated; it can complicate the writing process. It’s much harder to stay on top of things. So now I’ve decided to separate the time slots between concerts and studio work. But in the beginning you have no ability to do that because you don’t know if you’ll get a film. You know that you have concerts and that you’ll be living on the piece. I will say that the period where you’re not successful is the hardest.
What do you find different about working on a television show than a film?
They both have their story and own approach. It’s a lot harder to make something for a project that you’re not behind 100%. But if you like a project and that project happens to have a committed director like Lion and Gunpowder; it’s much easier to work with them. And when they have a clear vision about how to use music, you don’t have to fight so much against your own instinct. They have a clear idea and you want to help them fulfill that in a way without losing my own character and style.
Are there any themes or signature tracks you created for the characters?
There were definitely themes that were important for the director, but I think mood was more important which helps underline what’s going emotionally with everyone. There was definitely a theme for the character Catesby because he’s the main character even though the show is about Guy Fawkes. We tried to find some themes that would go along with the conflict, which is a very modern conflict. Terrorism connected with religious ambition; we have that everyday.
How do you use the music to tell a story?
I try to find focus points in the story that are connected because when I compare it with my life, there’s things situations where I can pick out where I behaved similar to the characters. Look for those easily identifiable behavior patterns in a film and trying to find situations to tell the story. And once you have that and the essence of the film, you can use the music to tell the overall simplified story. That includes the drama, the happy ending, the plot twist; all these situations can be connected and used to transition to other scenes.
Do you have any other upcoming projects that you would like to bring up?
The soundtrack for Gunpowder should be coming out soon for vinyl. And I’m working on two different films at the same time, and they will be released in Toronto first. I’m also doing the soundtrack for Patrick Melrose; a five episode series starring Benjamin Cumberbatch. And I’m working on this film called Adrift. I’m in the writing process for both and they need to be completed by March.
You can watch Gunpowder on HBO Go and purchase the soundtrack through various music retailers. Check out the Patrick Melrose trailer below; no date is set for it’s debut at this time. If you want more creator interviews, with composers, artists and more, check it all out right here on FanBros.com!