March 11, 2011

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross Get “Social”

Oscar winning composers visit SCA

The musical score for The Social Network won both the Oscar and the Golden Globe for best musical score this year but according to composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, it almost didn’t happen. When the two Oscar winners visited Jason Squire’s class on March 8th to speak to students about their process and the importance of music in film, Reznor revealed that when he was first approached with the project, he passed.

“A couple of months later, February, and it’s nagging me that I let down a peer I respect,” said Reznor. “I got back in touch and told David, ‘ I reiterate it’s not the material, it’s not you, please keep me in mind for future pictures.’ David said, ‘I’m still waiting for you to say yes.’”

Atticus Ross, Professor Jason E. Squire, and Trent

Reznor eventually said ‘”yes,” and asked his frequent collaborator Ross, who had solo film composition experience to join him: “We went to David’s office and watched a very rough edit of the film with music that was very casual, like college kids. When the title comes up, we get out of the breakup scene, the opening credits are going on; when we saw it, there was this Elvis Costello song temped in. It felt familiar, John Hughes-esque at that point. Now we don’t know what David wanted at this point. We watched the rest of this edited film, this forty minutes.”

“At that first meeting, David told us, ‘I don’t want to use an orchestra, I’d like it to feel iconic, as unique as the music in Blade Runner feels. Don’t make it sound like that, but make it sound as unique now as that film sounded unique then.’ It’s not literally what David wants you to do. It’s all around it, and then you fill it in. And that was it.”

“We went home…slightly panicked,” continued Reznor. “There was an awkward conversation. ‘Elvis Costello?!’ We got back to my studio and started thinking about things. We thought, ‘What’s in our asset column?’ ‘What can we bring to the table and do well?’ What we can do well is make music and compose music fairly quickly, generate things from an impressionistic depth place without being too precious about it.”

The end result was an Oscar winning film score.

Professor Jason Squire’s class Art and Industry of Theatrical Film teaches students the practical and business implications of all aspects of feature filmmaking. The class featured The Social Network director David Fincher the week before.

Ross emphasized the need to focus on individual voice. He told the class,” When you encourage someone to be an artist, to be who they are, I think it will end up great.”

The Social Network is Reznor’s first feature film score. He spent the last three decades as the front man of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. Ross’ credits include The Book of Eli, Touching Evil and a segment from New York, I Love You. Ross and Reznor are currently collaborating on the score for the American version of the Swedish film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.