Film / Music / Sundance
"It was a tremendous honour to be asked to be part of that very special project and I really hope that I was able to do it justice."
Feb 21, 2023
London based Emmy Award nominee Patrick Jonsson scored Orlando von Einsiedel's ‘Evelyn’, which won the BIFA 2018 Best Documentary and saw Patrick’s score being singled out as one of ‘The Best Scores of 2018’ by Film School Rejects. In 2023 Patrick scored British filmmaker Charlotte Regan's Scrapper which premiered at Sundance.
Hi Patrick, thank you for talking with The New Current, how have you been keeping?
Thanks so much for having me and I'm great thanks. Been keeping busy on various projects, but also thankfully am coming down from a very work-filled end to last year, so has been really nice to have a bit more free time with the family.
You gained great acclaim for your debut album Suddenly We Looked Like Giants getting named one of the best albums of 2018, did you have any apprehensions about releasing this, and what did it mean to you to get such a great reaction to the album?
Yes, I definitely had some apprehension about whether I would be able to create anything I'm happy with away from picture. I’m so used to working with an existing story which comes from the filmmakers, so creating something completely from scratch was very different, but felt really special to do. And the fact that people responded so well to the album was really amazing.
After scoring a film like The White Helmets, that would go onto win an Academy Award, as well as scoring other award-winning films, how do you prepare for the huge spotlight that gets shone on you and your work?
In all honesty, if I was to think about that stuff too much I think it might paralyse me and I wouldn’t be able to write a note! I guess I usually just try to focus on trying to build a film and score that the director, producers, and myself feel tells the story in the best way. And the hope is that if we stay true to the language we create, the rules we set ourselves for each project, and always try to follow the integrity of the story and its characters, then hopefully the audience will also be on board. That way it becomes more about the story and less about everything else. I’m thrilled to be involved with projects that have been so well received, especially when they’re about such incredible real-life heroes. It’s super rewarding and gives so much energy to keep trying to do more good work.
Congratulations on having Scrapper premiere at Sundance 2023, do you ever get nervous ahead of a new film being screened?
Thanks so much! The fact that the film premiered at Sundance was already so special, but the fact that it then went on to win the Grand Jury Prize is even more incredible. Am very excited for the wider public to be able to see the film. And yes 100%, I get equally as excited and nervous whenever I first see a film I’ve worked on with an audience.
What is that feeling like being able to be in a cinema with an audience and watching them react to your music?
It’s my favourite part of the whole experience of scoring a film. Going to the cinema is like magic to me, so being a part of creating a special experience for others is really inspiring. I feel like I learn so much from those experiences too. When you watch a film and listen to your music with someone else, it’s like you see and hear it all properly for the first time. It’s a really interesting thing.
What was it about this Scrapper that connected with you and inspired you to create the score?
I’m really good friends with Charlotte Reagan the director and she’s such a fantastic storyteller and I feel like we have really similar tastes. So we obviously connect on that level, but also I think we both wanted to really challenge ourselves and to try and find a voice for the film which was unique to itself and its world. So my main goal was to try and tell everything from "Georgie" the main character’s perspective and to try and have the music live in her world.
When do you normally come onboard a film project?
It really depends a lot actually. The dream is always to come on board as soon as possible, from as early as script stage, but that’s not always realistic.
How important is the creative collaborative relationship between a composer and your director?
For me it’s the single most important thing. If you have a strong connection and are telling the same story together, then any deadlines/stresses/unforeseen circumstances are just part of the process. I think it’s really fundamental, at least to how I work. I’ve been very lucky. The filmmakers I’ve had the privilege of working with have been so generous, open-minded, and I always feel like I learn a lot from them.
If you could describe your score for Scrapper in three words what would they be?
Antidote For Grief.
Have you always had a passion for composing?
Not always, I don’t think I knew it really existed until I was about 13 probably. Since then I’ve just wanted to continue to learn and learn. I love the learning part and discovering how little I actually know.
How much has your approach to composing films changed since you started out?
It’s changed so much. I don’t want to dismiss how I did things early on though, because it was the only way I knew how at the time and I think it shaped who I am. But today I think I’m a bit better at thinking of the whole compared to just thinking about individual scenes and moments. Also my creative process used to be a lot more linear - I’d write, record, and then mix. Now it all sort of happens on top of each other and I record a lot as I go which is really helpful to the discovery process I find.
Is it helpful to be flexible when you are composing and do you have any rituals that you stick to that help guide your creative process?
Flexibility and adapting is really important I think, for sure. You always come across new puzzles to solve on every project and probably every piece of music to a greater or lesser degree. As for rituals, I do this thing where I pick a card from Brian Eno’s ‘Oblique Strategies’ every morning and I follow those rules for the day. It’s a deck of cards that has fairly vague but very inspiring bits of text which help activate your mind into thinking slightly differently about what’s in front of you.
Growing up what was the first instrument you fell in love with?
Guitar. I used to play six hours a day every day when I was a teenager.
Who where your biggest musical influences are?
Growing up it was a punk band called Millencolin, then I started listening to a lot of Flamenco, in particular Paco de Lucia who is one of my idols. Also Astor Piazolla was a huge inspiration to me. So many influences, it’s so difficult to say.
What does you music say about you?
I have no idea! Hopefully it resonates with people and acts a bit more as a mirror towards the listener, rather than being anything too much about me.
Of all he projects you have composed do you have one that you are really connected to?
I often work with director Orlando von Einsiedel and he asked me to work on a really personal film about his brother Evelyn which he directed. Evelyn took his own life some years ago and it’s a profound and really personal film. It was a tremendous honour to be asked to be part of that very special project and I really hope that I was able to do it justice. I’m very grateful to Orlando for entrusting me with something so personal.
Do you have any advice or tips you would offer someone wanting to get into composing?
I don’t feel too well placed to give advice because I’m very much figuring it all out myself. But if I had to say one thing it would probably be - enrich your life by having as many experiences as you can that make you feel happy / challenged / calm / nervous, and do it with people you love and care about. By building this bank of life experiences you have an endless amount of creativity to draw upon for your music. And write every day, even if it’s just whistling something or drumming an interesting rhythm on a table. It’s all practice.
Finally, what would you like audiences to take away from your music?
I remember when I was first starting out, I kept hearing people say that film scores were best when you didn’t notice them. I never agreed with that and always strive for my scores to have personality and presence. I personally feel that if my music feels inextricably linked with the film/story it accompanies, while still being a character in its own right, then I’m hopefully doing something right.