One of the advantages of a co-production is the opportunity to work with different artists from different countries, where one would normally not have the chance to do so otherwise. The Drummer is co-produced with Taiwan’s Arc Light Films and Germany’s Twenty Twenty Vision and that was the primary reason for hiring a German composer to score the film. This arrangement worked out great for us because Germans are famous for their love and attention to music.
I flew to Berlin, where Twenty Twenty is based, to meet six German composers a couple of months before we started pre-production. Rosa, my producer, arranged the meetings for me several weeks prior and we were delighted that all of them were willing to travel from all over the country to Berlin for the meeting.
Berlin, Spring 2006
My ‘adventure’ began when I arrived in Berlin via Frankfurt, but my luggage was held up in Frankfurt. When I got to Berlin, it had started to snow and I had only the minimal of clothing as I’d come from San Francisco, California where we just attended the last film festival for Rice Rhapsody, and the weather in San Francisco was fabulously sunny.
San Francisco, CA, Spring 2006
So, with inadequate attire and no power adapter, i.e. no power supply, for my Mac (my carry-on backpack was full and heavy so I left the power adapter in the suitcase - I would never do that again), I met with the composers one by one. After showing them the video references I’d prepared, I had to shut off the computer immediately to conserve power.
I briefed them all on the story, the origins of it, my vision for the film and of what the music will do in the film. Afterwards we’d chat about our personal taste in music and see what we had in common. Since neither my producers nor I have worked with any of them previously, I asked them each to write some music which they think would complement the film. Of course, at that time all they had to go on was my description of the story, the themes behind the film, and the script itself. There was one additional requirement: I asked them to compose the theme with the cello in mind. Rosa suggested the use of the cello as a main feature of the music, which I thought was a great idea and would add to the evocation of the main character’s internal and emotional landscape.
While I went from café to café for the meetings, I kept waiting for a call from the airline saying my lost luggage would be delivered soon. Even though the call did come a couple of times, the luggage never showed up.
Twenty Twenty's office is on the left hand side of the picture. This is formerly part of East Berlin A few weeks later, I started to receive the various demo tracks from the composers via the Internet. Most of them sent four to five pieces of music. One composer sent only two tracks, one of which was a very abstract piece of music and the other, a very strong cello composition. As soon as I heard that cello piece by Andre Matthias I saw the film in my mind’s eye.
After consulting with the producers, we made the ultimate decision to hire Andre to score the film. Andre was ecstatic at the prospect of working with us, as The Drummer would be his first feature film. He had scored quite a few short films.
An interesting tidbit was that Andre, who’s an excellent communicator, emailed Rosa prior to our meeting and jokingly asked if he should bring anything else, e.g. cookies, to the meeting besides his demo reel. Rosa therefore told him about my misfortune with the airline and replied, equally in jest, that cookies would be a plus.
In case Andre is still wondering whether the cookies he brought did the trick… the answer is negative, it was all due to his incredible talent. But for future reference, we would never say ‘no’ to cookies and chocolates…
Du Tuu-Chih, left, Andre Matthias, center, and Kenneth Bi, right, at a mixing session
It was truly a blessing to find Andre, who nailed the music right from the beginning. As I edited the film in Hong Kong and Berlin, Andre worked in Hamburg. Every night, He would upload three to four tracks of music to our ftp and I’d place them into the edit. There were always pleasant surprises. We honed in on the final music week by week during the edit. Not only was Andre efficient and accurate, and easy to work with, his passion and dedication to the film matched those of my own. I never had to chase him for the music or changes, and once in a while I even had to play catch up with him!
As for my luggage, I was finally reunited with it at Frankfurt on my way back to Hong Kong.