Having scored several films in his career, Megatrax composer Chris Hajian, is no stranger to pairing his music with the big screen. This July, Hajian’s work will set the underlying tone for the much anticipated Bryan Cranston drama, The Infiltrator. We were able to steal a moment of Hajian’s time to get the inside scoop on his collaboration with the big film and what’s in store for him next.
Megatrax: Can you tell me how you got involved with this film?
Chris Hajian: I’ve known (The Infiltrator director) Brad Furman for over 20 years. I knew him when he graduated film school. I did a student film for him and I did his first feature ‘The Take’ starring John Leguizamo and Rosie Perez. I did all of his short films and his films in school. As his career grew, we started working on bigger films together so I’ve sort of been in his world creatively for over 20 years. This is sort of our second big feature together.
MX: What were your first thoughts/initial reaction when you saw the script or heard the concept for the movie?
CH: I knew it was based on a true story and Brad’s really good about bringing the emotion out of the characters, so at first I was really excited. It was fun to really dig in creatively, emotionally, but also really tap into the 80s and kind of put in my own version of that. I wanted to combine the 80s sounds with my own sense of ambient pictures and the big melodies that the string section provides. I looked at the film early and looked at the way it was shot and I wanted to take that combination and really make it my own sound.
MX: Take us through the process of scoring a big film – where do you start?
CH: Because I know Brad, we were working on ideas generally very early in the process. After I watched it, I got a feel for what the project would be like. A lot of the original ideas we worked on ended up having a lot of merit in the film score. It’s all about revisions. You start to get ideas and as you cut, develop, hone, and resubmit it. It’s a lot of that through the whole editorial process.
MX: How long did it take to complete the scoring for The Infiltrator?
CH: It took between 4 and 5 months because I came in early. That’s a very long post production time. There were a lot of different editors, varying demos, recording the live string section, and stemming. An average post production time is usually under two months, three at the most.
MX: When working on a film of this caliber, how much creative freedom do you have with the music? Are there other people involved?
CH: The majority of the feedback came directly from Brad Furman and myself. The studio has a good amount of input and it’s a very valid input, because they’re really living with the film. They’re living with the director so they really get a sense of knowing the DNA of the film. Occasionally the supervisor and producer may have a few comments, but for the most part it’s composer-director and that’s the way it should be.
MX: When the final product of your score is done and you have to play it for the powers that be, how do you feel?
CH: I’m really excited! At that point everyone has heard so many demos that I don’t think anything is really a surprise. What’s really apparent is when you hear the mix with the live plays, the emotion picks up on another level and people start hearing the live instruments with all the finishing touches. It just makes it cohesive and it’s really something how the score comes together.
MX: What are you currently working on?
CH: I’m currently scoring the television series ‘Start Up’ for Sony/Crackle. The series stars Martin Freeman and Adam Brody. It’s really interesting because I got put on this project by the director, Ben Ketai, because of some of my cues from the Infiltrator. He was very connected to that type of dramatic, intense, nuance sound that I created and he thought that it would work for his show. Since this show is set in current times, the music doesn’t have the same retro element, but there really are similarities in the tone. It’s very edgy, very ethereal, very prevalent in the drama so it’s been great. It’s 10 episodes that will launch in August 2016.
MX: You’re a busy man! Do you have any downtime?
CH: As a freelancer you can’t have any downtime. It’s a very hard industry, so you’re always on to the next film or project for people to be aware of your work ethic so it’s tough. The date for the Infiltrator release is July 13th so I’ll be busy promoting that. I’ll also be doing a documentary on the life of George Balanchine, famous choreographer and dancer (The Nutcracker), so I’m looking forward to starting that in a couple of months as well.