*instructions not included
In 2015 I began work on my first project since 'PRIME SURVIVAL.' This short film, written and directed by a friend of mine Alex Evans, took place in a sci-fi inspired future where the main character is living out his daily routine aboard a space station after an accident, counting down the days till he is able to go home. Unlike 'PRIME SURVIVAL,' this short was pretty minimalist. We see one character--Ford--for most of the run time--the other character 'Wilde' is a voice over the headset--with the story taking place in a single set. While minimal, the story hits on some pretty deep and compelling ideas. The first of which is that there are no 'instructions' included in life and that we're all just making it up as we go along. Secondly, it deals with the idea of following orders, rebellion, choice (and the perception of it), and kindness in actions through these lenses.
After seeing the early cut, I had some strong ideas on the sounds for the score.
- Firstly, we see immediately from the viewport showing a nebula and stars that we are in space. This lent itself to some of the colours/tones for the instruments informing the choice of a cold, antiseptic, sterile weightlessness to it.
- Next, there needed to a sense of isolation and solitude. We have seen from the view port he is looking out into space but the main character--Ford--is currently alone on this station. In spite of this solitude, he is generally content about the situation so the music could reflect a sort of contemplative solitude.
- Lastly we has the idea of compassion. Through the course of the short, it is revealed all is not what we are led to believe and there is a level of sadness but also compassion to the situation.
'Intro Station' begins the score with upper strings playing sustained harmonics with a clean synth tone introducing the main melodic idea quietly. This piece had two versions written with the second version adding sustained low strings with cellos climbing slowly. This second version became the end of the film, closing it out cyclically.
'Tuesday in Passing' was meant to cover a montage of seeing all the activities Ford does during his tuesday. I scored this scene as a montage not realizing it was meant to a be score with the Source Music to a sort of 1950's 'Do Right' Corporate Training Video/Cartoon (based on the queue video to the 'Men In Black' ride) so this music is not used in the final film.
Ford Reads 'JURASSIC PARK' during the montage.
'Wilde Stories' was a beautiful scene of Ford speaking to the second character, a sort of Mission Control role named Wilde. She tells him stories through the headset of her childhood and her brother as the two get to know each-other. The final scene was cut down from the initial version. This original cue is sustained strings under a wandering piano playing the 'compassion' melodic idea. It feels a little lonely but tender and would have ended at the fade out. Due to the change in the editing and tone of the scene, the revised version now covers this and part of the next scene. It opens with the clean synth tone giving way to sustained strings and harp. The end of the cue now covers the cut into the next scene where we get the first glimpse that things are not what they seem and ends with low ominous strings for the line "It always seems to be Tuesday."
'Deja Vu' would have picked up after the fade out and picks up on the next day after the conversation between Ford and Wild. This cue opens with strings and the clean synth tone, scoring the same moment the end of 'Wilde Stories' now covers. Due to changes in editing the first half of this cue is now not used in lue of 'Wilde Stories.' In the final cut, we pick up after the ominous line. The cue transitions into atonal synth sounds that build in intensity. Sustained and Tremolo strings come in and highlight the intensity until the pay off of a box falling onto Ford's injured leg. 'Healed' picks up immediately after and covers the moment as Ford removes the brace from his leg and realizes his leg. Strings layer over each-other slowly more and more and support the clean synth tone as we now know Ford's leg is not broken.
'I'm Afraid I Can't Do That, Wilde' shows Ford taking his ultimate act of rebellion against Wilde who warns him he will die if he doesn't listen. The cue opens with the 'Compassion' piano melodic idea followed by the clean synth tone dissonantly. The cue transitions into a perverse atonality. The piano repeats a tone as a countdown to the inevitable while the orchestra seemingly rebels into noise and builds into chaos! Once everything crescendos, the orchestra begins to slowly calm and fade as we see that nothing has happened. As by this point it was known that the 'Wilde Stories' scene had been cut down. This allowed for an edited tracked version of that cue to be used for the 'Company' scene. Sustained quiet strings support the piano as it wanders, like Wilde explaining the situation to Ford, and we begin to understand the compassion, the choices, and the inherent sadness in the situation.
'Stay or Go' is Ford's response to Wilde, being mostly the clean synth tone intoning as a response to the grounded Piano heard while Wilde explained the situation. The Piano comes back in with parallel movement as Ford and Wilde come together to a mutual understanding and decision to move forward. '*instructions not included' or 'Intro Station v2' rounds out the short. We're back, in some ways, where we started. But, unlike the opening, the addition of low strings adds to the idea that we are more grounded and with a greater sense of finality / balance.
*instructions not included is still one of my favourite projects I've worked on. The Music came together in about a day and a half (which was good because I hadn't realized the project was due very soon after!) and grew very organically. Although certain ideas changed (such as the intro and the credits) I always felt like the stories deeper tones shone through and my hope is that the score helped to bring those ideas to life. Perhaps one day we might revisit this idea? I think I'd like that...