Film / Music / Sundance
"I try not to languish over a composition. I try to let each composition be a reaction to something."
Ryan Rumery is a composer for film, television, and podcasts. His latest film project Food and Country, premiering at Sundance 2023.
Hi Ryan, thank you for talking with The New Current, how have you been keeping?
I’m good thanks!
Congratulations on having Food and Country premiere at Sundance 2023, do you ever get nervous ahead of a new film being screened?
Absolutely! You work on something for so long and that culminates into watching it on the screen and you always hope you love it as much as you loved it in the final mix.
What is that feeling like being able to be in a cinema with an audience and seeing them react to your music?
There’s nothing better than sitting amongst others hearing them react, especially since we’ve spent so much time recently watching content at home. To feel and see how other people react to a scene is just a priceless feeling.
What was it about this film that connected with you and inspired you to create the score?
I grew up working on a farm, so I understood the vantage point of a lot of farmers and the hard work it takes to maintain a farm, as well as the financial strain that a bad season or crop can put on a family.
When do you normally come onboard a project like Food and Country?
I think I work in an atypical way, where I like to be on board as soon as the editor starts assembling scenes. I like to start with cues from my library as temp music. I also like writing small chunks to picture so I can be a part of the process and evolution of the film. It allows me to be reactive and also collaborative.
How important is the creative collaborative relationship between a composer and your director?
I think that relationship is probably the most important, making sure you’re on the same page as the director. You want to be sure you are understanding what they’re hearing, and you want to be able to write what they’re hearing in their head and building that on the screen.
If you could describe your score for Food and Country in three words what would they be?
Landscape, space, and time.
Have you always had a passion for composing?
As an Obie award-winning composer with over 250 theatre productions to your credit, where did your passion for theatre come from?
I think my passion for theatre has always been being a part of a team that is sharing a story. The pandemic has had me pivot (in a good way!) toward writing for docs. I bring all that theatre experience to the table when I score films.
How different is your approach to how you compose theatre compared to film?
In theater I think the composition, especially with underscoring, needs to be really simple so it doesn’t get in the way of the story (especially if the actors aren’t mic’d). In film we have so much more control in the mix, and also aren’t at the mercy of pace that changes performance to performance.
Growing up what was the first instrument you fell in love with?
Who where your biggest musical influences are?
Miles Davis, Beethoven, Johann Johansson, Sigur Ros, Olafur Arnaulds, Nils Frahm
Is it helpful to be flexible with your creative approach when you are composing and do you have any rituals that you stick to that help guide your creative process?
I think one of the rituals I hold to from project to project is – I try not to languish over a composition. I try to let each composition be a reaction to something. If I am taking a long time to figure out how to react, then it’s usually not the right compositional idea.
I also print mixes and load them up to a Dropbox folder synced to my phone. I listen to cues and ideas outside the studio, on walks or while commuting.
What does you music say about you?
I feel like my music isn’t neat and tidy. There are a lot of imperfections in how I record something, which i think is reflective of me as a person. My music isn’t pristine. My sound is indie, I’m capturing an idea, and you’re hearing clicks and clacks in the piano, or recording drums outside a recording studio for instance.
Of all he projects you have composed do you have one that you are really connected to?
This project for sure – I’ve spent two years on it, learned so much about all the people in it, and it really taps into my midwest roots, working on a farm. But also, I’m intensely connected to what I’m working on while I’m working on it, and then I’m onto the next thing and connected to that.
Do you have any advice or tips you would offer someone wanting to get into composing?
Be in it for the long game. Be patient.
Finally, what would you like audiences to take away from your music?
It’s emotive, connecting you from moment to moment, and that you can experience that journey through the film.