Puerto Rican composer René G. Boscio, based in LA, made his second appearance at the Sundance Film Festival with the new thriller comedy Emergency, which is an expanded telling of the 2018 Sundance Special Jury Prize-winning short film by the same name. The project reunited Boscio with director Carey Williams, having previously collaborated on the drama
Emergency follows a group of Black and Latino college students who ready for a night of partying, as they weigh the pros and cons of calling the police when faced with an unusual emergency. Produced by Amazon Studios, the feature premiered opening night at Sundance 2022 in the US Dramatic Competition.
He recently shared with Post his experience working on the film.
René, how did you get involved with Emergency?
“I was brought on by our director, Carey Williams. We've known each other for about five years now, and have worked together on a few projects. Last year we premiered his first feature, R#J, at Sundance as well. We were regularly in touch after that, and a few months later we started talking about the possibility of having me do the score for Emergency.
“It was a bit of a different process than what we were used to, given it was an Amazon Studios film being produced by Temple Hill Entertainment. But after a few meetings with both the producers and the Amazon team, I was fortunate to be officially invited onboard.”
What were Emergency’s musical needs?
“Emergency walks a very fine line between comedy and thriller, so we had to be very careful in terms of how to navigate that with the score. From the beginning, we established that it would be used almost exclusively to support the tension and emotional moments of the film. That would allow the comedy to breathe through the performances and use of needle drops emphasizing the youthful collegiate energy and their friendship dynamics.
“We also approached the score in a subtle and nuanced way, especially during the first two acts of the film. Most of the time it's used very strategically to underline the tension of the obstacles our characters face in their journey. But in the third act, as things continue to escalate, the score becomes more prominent and expands, musically speaking.
“After a particular moment of high tension, the score transitions into a vocal hymn-like cue that really encapsulates the energy of the climax. From that point onward, we tapped into a different perspective, as one of our main characters goes through a life-changing situation. So the music becomes more emotionally ‘mature’ and ultimately portrays the strength and resilience of the story.”
Can you talk about collaborating with Carey Williams?
“It's such a joyful process getting to know your collaborators more with each project you work on together. I feel like this time around I had a better sense of his sensibilities in terms of music and scoring. Particularly, how he tends to take a fairly nuanced approach, where most of the time the audience isn't even supposed to feel like there's music in the background.
“Developing a relationship with filmmakers is like any other relationship in life. It takes time to get to know someone's likes and dislikes, their points of view, what speaks to them as artists, and how to best align and support their vision. So in that sense, it's always a privilege when you get to revisit creating art together with someone you've already been nourishing a relationship with for a few years.”
What are some of the tools you relied on to create the score?
“From our initial conversations, we made it a point to use the sonic world that was already part of the film as our main source of sounds for the score. Because of that, I manipulated things like radiator heaters and vaping sounds. But one of the main recurring elements we hear in the score is this sort of thump that we ended up calling the ‘tension theme.’ It was created using a strange custom-made instrument called the Sonic Tone Generator by Electro Lobotomy, which consists of five metal rods attached to a wooden box and a contact microphone on the inside.
“My process usually begins by spending a few days doing all sorts of experiments in my studio, and creating a custom toolbox of unique sounds for the film. I typically record into Logic Pro and use Native Instruments Kontakt and UVI Falcon 2 as samplers to play the custom samples I create. Then, during the process of scoring, I use all kinds of electronic equipment, from keyboard synthesizers, like the Sequential Pro 3, to drum machines, like Elektron's Analog Rytm MkII, and eurorack gear from manufacturers like Noise Engineering, among others.
“Lastly, towards the third act of the film, I used more traditional instruments, like piano, voice and strings. For that we were fortunate enough to record some fantastic players here in Los Angeles, along with a phenomenal vocalist, who all really brought the music to a new level.”