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"Alien: Ore" (2019) Q & A, Leonty Music, part one

As part of my ongoing Q & A series on "Alien: Ore" (2019), here is part one of my three-part interview with the film's composers, Rose Hastreiter and Gerry Plant of Leonty Music

"Alien: Ore" Interview, Leonty Music

Nick: Hello, everyone! My name is Nicholas van der Waard. I have my MA in English Studies: the Gothic, and run a movie blog centered on Gothic horror, Nick's Movie Insights. Joining me for this interview are Rose Hastreiter and Gerry Plant, the composers for "Alien: Ore." Leonty is the artist, and LMG (Leonty Music Group) is the company that produces and composes music for the screen. 

About the Composers: Rose

Rose (stage name: Leonty) was born and raised in Vancouver, BC, and met Gerry (also born and bred there) in Vancouver due to her singer/songwriter career as Rose Reiter—Rose's first indie album project.

Rose Hastreiter. Photo by Jonathan Grills' Twelve Pence Photography. Hair and makeup by Emma Plant Makeup.

For most of her life, Rose wanted to pursue her intrinsic need to compose for film—but couldn't, due to life circumstances.  After a dramatic and life-changing period from 2012 to 2016, Rose decided it was time to come back into music, and created "Leonty" as her artist name that she began to develop; in 2015, she founded a production company that focuses on writing, producing music for screen projects: Leonty Music Group (LMG). This brand would allow her the most freedom as composer, artist and songwriter/vocalist for multiple genres. 

Rose, herself, is the granddaughter of a composer and conductor, as well as the daughter of a classical pianist. Having always been criticized of writing too "visually" and cross-genre, she realized this was actually a strength for screen projects. So, she created LMG to achieve more artistic freedom when composing for visuals—something Rose always naturally did. Through synesthesia—or the physical condition of combined senses—Rose literally hears what she sees and vice versa. Synesthesia allows her to connect to music on a very visual level. 

About the Composers: Gerry

Like Rose, Gerry was born and raised in Victoria, BC. The two of them met in 1999, Rose explains: "Gerry was known as a 'go-to' professional bass player in the local Vancouver scene, having played for many local acts and on several albums, and had an incredible reputation as a talented and pro musician. I was in a pinch and needed a bass player for the debut of my first album—and that's when we met at the Rockspace and started working together."

Gerry Plant, channeling John Cage (courtesy of Rose).

Gerry has an extensive background as a multi-instrumentalist; having studied at Vancouver Island University's jazz program, he's played on well over a dozen albums to date, and began composing for film in the early 2000s. His focus has been primarily on producing indie singer and songwriter projects. He is known for his abilities to play bass, compose, arrange. With his background as a producer for rock and indie projects, he brings an extensive talent and depth of abilities that allows LMG to take on more projects. Involved with LMG as a full-time producer, composer and tech lead, Gerry is also Rose's key business partner and the company's co-founder. 

Like Rose, Gerry has spent most of his life in studios. Outside of them, he has many influences in music (and yes, Robert Plant is a distant relation—he and Rose get that question often). Gerry started writing and playing music as a child, and was a notable keyboardist before becoming a bassist. 

About LMG

Rose created LMG because she was also very tired of spending years of hiding in the background as a "quiet composer." So she decided enough was enough and finally gave in to her undeniable need to professionally compose for film: "As a woman," she explains, "my experience was often that I'd walk into a pro-studio, and assumptions were made: 'Oh, here's the singer who knows nothing about production!'  Well, I also grew up [around,] and was mentored by, producers and sound engineers!

"I'm proud to see that women are finally holding their ground as producers, audio engineers, composers [as] technically-proficient as their male counterparts. Thankfully [the old bias] is changing—albeit slowly—and I believe merit and voice should come first when choosing a composition team for a screen project. I also believe today's composer needs to support creative collaborations with fellow composers and creative teams."

Rose adds, "My primary vision is that one day, we won't even have to have the conversation on gender, background or isolation—that our industry will allow everyone equal opportunity to professionally express [ourselves together]." According to her, storytelling is "one of the most powerful tools we have [to] support, share and build our humanity.” 

Rose belongs to The Alliance for Women Film Composers, and continually advocates for professional female composers. Her vision, with LMG, is to gain enough business to hire more diverse composition teams. For more insight on the conversation on female composers, consider this short BBC interview

Introduction

Nick (to Leonty): Did you found LMG, together?

Leonty: We decided to purchase an East Coast studio property in 2009 and built out our first "beta" studio with two production suites. We are [currently] looking at options to open up a second studio out west, again—Van Island, most likely—with Gerry leading that studio while Rose maintains and manages our East coast studio.

Gerry is our tech lead; Rose is our business lead. However, in 2015, Rose invited Gerry into a remote, collaborative role—initially as an adviser—for "The Mary Alice Brandon File" (2015), and they continued to build his contributions into LMG projects.

Rose and Kailey have worked with Kailey and Sam Spear before—on "The Mary Alice Brandon File," but also "CC" (2018) and now "Alien: Ore" (2019).

Nick: Can you tell me about some of your past work?

Rose: [My] first more public indie short film was "The Mary Alice Brandon File." But [I've] been doing small projects [my] whole life—mainly focusing on writing songs for film and TV. 

Gerry: [I'm] also focused primarily on production for songs. So, this was a natural next step for us both.


Nick: How do you decide who leads a particular project?

Rose: [We're] at the stage that whenever we receive a screen project request, we start with a meeting as to "Who's gonna lead this one?" From there, we base our work management, roles and responsibilities down to a rather granular level—as well as the stories that inspire each of us the most!

Currently, we're first "on list" for a couple of upcoming sci-fi projects. [Thankfully] when we read those scripts, Gerry liked [one] more than the other, and I liked the other story more. So we haven’t had to "fight it out" as to who leads which project... yet.


Nick: With any given project, how does LMG work with its clients?

Leonty: LMG [aims] to help boost and foster creative collaboration across creative teams. In the composition process, this means we work with the writers and directors early on in the process (rather than waiting until a final cut [arrives while] hiding in our studios). We believe in constructive collaboration as early [as] possible.

Our work with the Spear sisters is a prime example of this. They sent us the script, and we had our initial "spotting session" well before any of the visuals were filmed. Once that was completed, we created a log per scene, and had to divide sound design elements from scoring elements (with our hybrid approach, there [can] be overlap). We then moved into auditioning species of sounds, and again, meeting with the directors as we developed our vision for this script.


Nick: How do Rose and Gerry operate individually as part of the group?

Leonty: [Over the years] we've built a collaborative, compositional process [where] each person has their own voice and brings their strengths to a project. Rose has a passion for synthetic textures, and Gerry has a passion for orchestration. So, although we would have been able to individually score a short [movie like "Alien: Ore,"] we chose to divide the work into scenes. We began an iterative process of scene composition—meeting [with each other] frequently while listening, challenging and upgrading our work drafts; then meeting with the directors as we began to make progress.

Rose likes to treat her sounds like characters, in that she "auditions" a library of sounds, and begins to rank them. In her "design time," she [also] really enjoyed designing sounds in the different species groups (metals, airs, winds, rock) for "Ore." The feeling of underground, mining, darkness, and quality of air (as well as the emotional voices of the main characters) really influenced the "library" she could play with. For her, the sounds are "colors" [she can] paint with.

My Modern Met writes, "Many art historians believe that Vincent van Gogh had a form of synesthesia called chromesthesia—an experience of the senses where the person associates sounds with colors."

Nick: How did this affect your collaboration on "Alien: Ore"?

Rose: In the case of "Alien:Ore," we both loved the story that the Spears sent us. And with [its] vast history and public awareness, we knew the story would be best served by us collaborating on this one.

We both chose to equally share in the creative and production effort. This involved staying really open to the process of creation (and thankfully our twenty years of working together allows us an authenticity and respect for the process). Basically, we can challenge [each other's] work and not worry about hurting the other person’s feelings. This is a very important thing for us— remove our egos and listen for [an] emotional quotient; we consider [it] our responsibility as co-storytellers. 

Inspirations

Nick: In regards to your profession, can you cite any one person who inspired you to compose? 

Gerry: Ennio Morricone. [Also] Danny Elfman, because of the spread of what he can do... [editor's note: I think my favorite "Elfman moment" was his cameo as the devil, in The Forbidden Zone (1980).]

Rose: My grandfather, who was a conductor and composer—but I've never heard his work; [he's] more of a spiritual influence. Modern composers such as Anne Dudley, Thomas Newman, and Danny Elfman. Also Rachmaninoff, Debussy, various romantics (seriously too many to mention). I keep trying to learn, so every time I hear a new composer I haven't studied before, I'm like, "Oooo, this is my favorite!" But really—so many influences!

[I] especially have influences [with] modern producers: Bruce Fairburn, Drew Arnott, Paula Cole—super influential to me!


Elfman as Satan. Eat your heart out, Paganini. 

Nick: Do you have any favorite film composers/scores, i.e., John Williams's Star Wars (1977) or Basil Poledouris' Conan the Barbarian (1981)?

Gerry:  Cinema Paradiso (1988) by Ennio Morricone. All the greats. Danny Elfman's The Nightmare before Christmas (1993) is a particular fave. 

Rose: Ditto.

In terms of sci-fi, I was raised by my dad, who was a sci-fi fan; I wanted to watch everything he did. First movie I ever saw as a toddler was Star Wars (1977). I still remember being in awe of the movie and [its] music. I started composing at the age of three, and blame John Williams completely for my addiction (to sci-fi movie music composition). John: it's your fault.  


Nick: What was you first Alien experience? That is, when did you first see an Alien movie, and which one was it? 

Gerry: The original! Probably somewhere around the time it came out...

Rose:  The original, but not until I was old enough to watch it and not get scared. 


Nick: Do you have a favorite Alien movie as a "regular viewer"? If so, which one, and why do you like it apart from its use of music?

Leonty: No, but we are both avid fans of the sci-fi and fantasy genres.

Most of the music Jerry wrote for Alien never got used. A complete version of Jerry's work on the movie wasn't released until 2007. Goldsmith died in 2004.

Nick: Who is your favorite composer from the Alien franchise, and how do you feel about latter-day Alien scores, like Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017)?

Gerry: I'm gonna have to go with Goldsmith on this one. It’s not really fair to compare any of the later works to the original based on how groundbreaking Goldsmith’s score was.

Rose: Ditto. I feel the originality in voice and scoring sounds was best in the original. I particularly was inspired by [the] track "The Alien Planet," where he uses piano soundboard "hits" as a texture [alongside] the orchestral elements. 

***

This concludes part one of the interview. New articles every Friday at 2 p.m., EST!

If you liked this interview, check out all of my interviews on "Alien: Ore." For even more details on "Alien: Ore," watch my lengthy analysis

Many thanks to Fox for allowing these interviews; to the interview subjects; and to Kailey and Sam for being so friendly, enthusiastic and helpful

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