• Bernard A. Kyer

Prime Survival Pt VI - The Finished Score...

Updated: May 23, 2020

Scoring 'Prime Survival' was a very free and creative process. Jack and I had spoken pretty early on about some ideas for the score but as the film developed, many of those early ideas also had to develop. As I mentioned in another post, I had done some preliminary scoring of the finale with the 'Jurassic Park' theme but as the final structure of the film began to show itself, I could sense that there was truly no heroic ending. The voice over by Elliot speaks to the idea that the boys survived, yes, but that there is always a price to survival and a part of them died on that island. This darker idea would not have, in my opinion, fit well against the quiet majesty of the 'Theme to Jurassic Park.' Further, discussions about using pre-existing themes had lead to the thought that we should avoid anything that could ultimately get us in trouble or flag the video on youtube and so no overt statements of any preexisting themes or original recordings would be included in the final score. I then began by setting up a sort of temp edit of the complete film and decided to try something to see how it would work. As the film played, I recorded myself on keyboard playing music along with it. This sort of 'free association' with the film, almost akin to old silent film performances, was the first beginnings of where the score would go, when it would need music, what it should sound like, and the starting point for a lot of ideas.


At this point in production, a lot of time had been spent getting the scenes with the boys BEFORE they travel to the island down. We did not yet have the scripted introduction to the film of the island, but we did have the digital shots of the red smoke and the 'Prime Survival' logo. In discussing the logo, It felt best not to score it, instead using a low synth rumble as words faded in and out. In my developing the sound of the film, the Piano came to represent civilization. From the "Opening" being a predominately piano piece (with a little Beatles 'Penny Lane' reference if you pay attention) continuing on with "Simple Plans" which introduces the next voice, a Shakuhachi (like the one heard in Jurassic Park). "Beginning Flight" has lofty, swirling winds with the piano underpinning as we have not yet transitioned out of civilization. In "Travel Music," the piano plays a role but begins to be replaced by winds who themselves give way to the ethnic winds like the Shakuhachi again at the reference to the islands. The Prime Survival theme ominously plays in low choir, winds, and the next new instrument: the Gamelan. The gamelan consists of many groupings of instruments but the main focus in this are tuned gongs.

If you're wondering where you might have heard the instrument before, 'Jurassic World' uses it to represent the Indominus Rex. I used it 5 years earlier... but that's a conversation for another time.

The Island

The island is a death trap. Dinosaurs run rampant and free, killing each other and fighting for survival. As such, the music, once we get on the island, takes on a very different approach and is more atonal with greater emphasis on intensity and terror. "The Empty Beach" bridges the gap between civilized sound into the island. We hear the wandering of the characters and the sorrow in their search. The gamelan begins to take the place of the piano, echoing the 'Island Theme,' a slight variation or development of the main 'Prime Survival Theme.'

Our cast is chased off the beach and into the forest ("Don't Be Food") and is split up. Elliot falls down a hill and has to find his own hiding place as the other boys climb a tree to escape raptors. Things aren't looking good for them until the Rex appears and scares the raptors off with the beginnings of the 'Prime Survival' melody during the triumphant roar. Loneliness

As mentioned earlier, one of the musical themes (story themes) was the idea of loneliness and separation. The theme first written for a later scene ('If He can') is introduced here in "The Dilo Dance" on Gamelan. I chose this instrument for the ability to play a melody, the ringing of it sounding old and ancient. The Shakuhachi intones over it as the melody brings us closer to the Dilophosaurus. We get a sense of tense wonder at these creatures as they perform a beautiful ('but deadly') mating ritual. Once the Dilophosaurus notice Elliot he begins to try to leave, aided by an arriving raptor. "Into the Trees" (the title a nod to a track from The Lost World video game) has Elliot trying to escape the Dilophosaurus only to find more Dilo's fighting against their sworn enemies, the Velociraptors (itself a nod to them being rivals in the old JP video games). Elliot finally runs through a glade of trees with raptor snarls and hoots from all around in a chaotic, frantic search for cover. As this bookends the initial action starting at the beach, "Don't be Food" is referenced again.

Creatures of the Night

The great shots showing the transition into evening were some of my more favourite shots from the film! We see the Brachiosaurus walking along (in a still of a location in Hawaii) and then the sunset over the trees. Beautiful work! In the darkness, Elliot stumbles around and begins to hear unknown noises. "That's no Raptor" is the only indication of what it might be. A brief effects shot shows something scaley but transparent moving through the forest just before its footstep alerts Elliot to its proximity: we are being hunted. In "Dreams of Sunset and Fog" we have the Gamelan and the Shakuhachi intoning ominously as we wander with strings ebbing and flowing. Once alerted to the animals presence, the strings kick in with a repeated, dire ostinato as Elliot runs! Eventually the high strings and Gamelan climb chromatically and crescendo into a final moment of terror as... Elliot wakes up.

Discussed in some detail was the loss of the Camo Carnotaurus concept and that change in the overall story arc affected how this scene played out. Composing for this scene, I knew what the intention HAD been. It was a reality and one that Elliot had only barely escaped from. But without the payoff of knowing what this animal was, the final film version danced a line, in my opinion, on how to interpret this sequence. We never introduced the idea again or openly said what was going on. Viewed as an outside observers, the scene almost played like a dream haunting Elliot, ending with him being awakened from one nightmare into another. It was for this reason, I scored it with the climax as Elliot wakes. This gave the scene some connection and allowed for this tense moment to be up to interpretation of the audience.

The Compy and The Map

One of the more fun changes that happened in post was the development of this little guy, the compy. He seems to pop up all over the film like a companion or indication of the stories progression. From being the first animal the boys encounter after they arrive, being there when Elliot wakes up and finds the Map, and again later as the boy enter into a field filled with dinosaurs, the compy seemed to start to represent a guiding force in the film which was, interestingly enough, not the intention! In "Finding the Map," I get to accent his little scurry away (the only time I seemed to score any music for him) with some fun chaotic pizzicato. Elliot finds the map and some understanding of where they are and what is going on. The Gamelan enters again playing the 'Prime Survival' theme, much more developed than has been heard yet. Tense strings and harps under pin this with an echoey Piano (is it telling us something?) until we build into a reveal of the island through a different lens: a dream long since deferred. Elliot eventually finds an abandoned vehicle which still works--which seems totally normal now in these movies--and begins to travel looking for his friends. Hearing the motorcycle, they follow the sound until the three are reunited.

continued on Pt VII...

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