The Brag Media
Features November 13, 2018

A peak behind the curtain with Australia’s award-nominated screen composing pairs

A peak behind the curtain with Australia’s award-nominated screen composing pairs
Clockwise: Matteo Zingales and Antony Partos, Emily Wurramara, Cezary and Jan Skubiszewski & Amanda Brown

On Monday, November 19, Australia’s screen and music community will come together to celebrate the work done by the country’s often-unsung composers.

What makes 2018’s group of nominees unique from other years is that it contains an inordinate amount of writing pairs – which bucks the impression that writing music for films is a strictly solitary activity.

“The best collaborations are when you produce something that surpasses what you initially imagined – in the most unexpected ways,” says Amanda Brown.

Brown, an accomplished screen composer in her own right, teamed up this year with musician Emily Wurramara to created music for Grace Beside Me, a 13-part children’s series adapted from the award-winning novel by Sue McPherson that centres on a young Indigenous girl and her spiritual life.

The duo have been nominated for Best Original Song for their composition.

“For me, working with Emily was definitely like that. I started with the music and structure and she bought the lyrics and a vocal melody that was very different (and much better!) than what I would have come up with on my own. Plus, she has an absolutely gorgeous voice.”

Originally from the Groote Eylandt region in the Northern Territory, Wurramara was excited to lend her musical talent to the screen for the first time.

“[I] couldn’t have asked for a better collab. Being a young indigenous woman myself- I find Grace Beside Me so spiritual and alluring. It reflects a part of my life that I hold close to my heart. I remember watching the little videos that were sent to me and reading the summary and thinking this is something that I could totally do!” Wurramara tells TMN.

“There’s no rule book to how you write and work. It’s whatever you feel comfortable with and writing with Amanda made me feel like I was at home.”

To be made to feel at home with a composition companion is one experience but to come from the same home, like father and son writing duo Cezary and Jan Skubiszewski, it’s an entirely different world.

“My Dad will always be my Dad first and a collaborator second. Sessions can go between being focused on music to the challenges any family members face,” says Jan.

“In all, I think it’s a remarkable gift to be able to communicate and produce work together as father and son.”

The pair are being celebrated by the awards for their work on the much-anticipated television reboot of Picnic At Hanging Rock, which held Game Of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer and Aussie Orange Is The New Black star Yael Stone among its cast.

“When we work together, the composing process is quicker because we bounce the ideas of each other. There is a different type of creative energy than when working alone,” Cezary tells TMN.

“The negative might be that sometimes one of us has to compromise. Interestingly, the music we come up with together is different to Jan’s or mine if we created it individually.”

Picnic… isn’t the only work with international attention that is being recognised by the awards. Matteo Zingales and Antony Partos are both renowned composers with many titles under their belt, but last year they came together to write the music for HBO’s dystopian drama film Fahrenheit 451. The score of which nabbed them both nominations for Soundtrack of the Year.

“Composing with Matteo is very inspiring, as he seems to have a never-ending torrent of ideas to explore. Once we have worked out a direction, we often go to our own rooms to work on cues and then collaborate by fleshing out ideas together,” Partos tells TMN.

“The only negative to a collaboration is when one has to come to terms with the fact that your collaborator may often have a far better idea than yours, and you really wish that you had thought of it first!”

Zingales and Partos are individually important parts of the Australian screen composing community, both with AACTA awards under their belts, and as Zingales asserts, the scene is facing the same problems as mainstream music.

“The Australian music industry supports song composers and film composers alike, but not to the extent the US and Europe,” says Zingales.

“I do believe we should lift our game in terms of setting industry standards and protections and now with streaming arriving, the music industry and film industry for that matter need to be more proactive in foreseeing the dangers of having no benefits with live streaming compared with television and film.”

On the flip side, Brown points out the resources currently in place to support the industry like APRA, AGSC and Support Act. Says Brown, “As freelancers with no job security, our careers can be precarious and it’s good that the wider industry recognises this. Because without composers and songwriters there would be no music industry.”

The Screen Music Awards will take place on Monday, 19 November in Sydney; for more information and to see the full list of nominees head to the official website.


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