Snakehead is a crime drama from writer/director Evan Jackson Leong in which a Chinese immigrant gets caught up in a human smuggling ring while trying to make a better life for her family. Roman Molino Dunn created the film’s original music and recently details his involvement in the project.
How did you get involved in Snakehead?
“When the director, Evan, came to me, he had already been working on the film for close to a decade. His previous film, Linsanity, was a Sundance sweetheart and there had been a lot of anticipation leading up to the completion of Snakehead. So, it was a real honor to be asked to work on this film. When I saw it and realized how compelling of a narrative this film was, I understood what all of the excitement was about.”
What were the feature’s needs in terms of music?
“The feature needed a score that had two sides: one musical language for the darkness of the human trafficking and organized crime world, and another musical language for the emotional side of those that endure such circumstances in order to be reunited with loved ones. On top of that, we needed to come up with a sound that spoke to the romanticism of the gangster life in Chinatown, without being overly cliché. The music ended up being this hybrid of minor waltzes with gritty synth soundscapes for the sound of Chinatown and the underworld, and then for the humanity of the film - to represent those enduring hardship - the music is melancholy string ensembles, with solo strings poking through the texture to represent the beauty in the struggle.”
Can you talk about the gear you use?
“I’m probably best known for hybrid organic scores, so mixing orchestral arrangements with custom-coded virtual instruments and analog synths. I have a background in developing music software, yet my compositional training is classical, so I like to blend between those worlds. I find that most directors like to explore both sides and see what is working for the film.
“Often times, it is even more pragmatic than that, where I need to sample and create my own software instruments so that if the director has changes, I don't need to necessarily re-record the material, but instead, I can work in the computer after the initial recordings have been done.
“On this film, since we went with some gigantic orchestral sounds, yet the budget wasn't conducive to recording a huge, live orchestra, I made sure that I did a lot of the performing of the score on my own for the solo strings. My main instrument is piano, but it is amazing what you can do with a bow to add textures to your music, even if you aren't a true cellist. One of the benefits of owning a recording studio is the ability to experiment early on to find some live sounds that can be recorded and programmed into a virtual instrument. Alternatively, I find it really helpful to run a lot of the virtual instruments that composers/producers use these days for orchestras through some outboard equipment, my favorite being my 1970s Trident Series 65 console.”
Snakehead is set to have a theatrical and VOD release in the US on October 29th.