<I>Rosaline</I>: Scoring this Romeo & Juliet-inspired rom-com
Issue: September/October 2022

Rosaline: Scoring this Romeo & Juliet-inspired rom-com

Rosaline is a new romantic comedy from 20th Century Fox. Now streaming on Hulu, the feature offers a fresh and comedic twist on Shakespeare’s classic love story “Romeo & Juliet,” told from the perspective of Juliet’s cousin Rosaline (Kaitlyn Dever), who also happens to be Romeo’s recent love interest.

Heartbroken that Romeo (Kyle Allen) meets and pursues Juliet (Isabela Merced), Rosaline schemes to foil the famous romance and win back her guy. The film was directed by Karen Maine and also stars Sean Teale, Minnie Driver and Bradley Whitford.

Italian composer Sofia degli Alessandri-Hultquist (known professionally as Drum & Lace), co-scored the project with Los Angeles-based composer Ian Hultquist, who also happens to be her husband. The pair recently shared their experience with Post.

How did you get involved working on Rosaline?

 “At the time the project was looking for a composer, Ian and I were contacted separately, funny enough, and both had lovely meetings with the folks at 20th Century to chat about what was to become Rosaline. On top of that, Ian had had the chance to work with (director) Karen Maine on her previous feature film Yes God, Yes, and was eager to work with her again. We were really happy when they offered us the film as a co-score, as we knew that our sound together would have worked really great for the film. We were both really drawn to the script, which was hilarious. The gorgeous visual aesthetic that Karen and team were able to create for this film was also a big draw, and we were so excited to get to score scenes with such gorgeous renaissance garb and beautiful Italian villas and landscapes.”

Photo: Sofia degli Alessandri-Hultquist; credit: Priscilla C. Scott

What sort of timeline were you working under? 

“We were fortunate to have a nice chunk of time to work on the film. Originally it was only going to be a month or so, but between the pandemic delays and dates shifting, we ended up having from about December to April, on and off. There are also some on-camera music moments for which we were brought on as they were filming, at the end of summer 2021, and got to work with Karen and (music supervisor) Maggie Phillips for a couple weeks. Having a chance to work on these scenes early on helped us have a sense of what we were going to do later, when we were fully scoring the movie.” 

What were the musical needs of the film? 

“From our very first conversations with Karen Maine, we all knew we wanted to try and embody some of the energy and vibe of those early 2000’s rom-coms we all love. Ie 10 Things I Hate About You, Can’t Hardly Wait, etc. There was something very bright and exciting about those films, and we wanted to try and apply that to our film. At the same time, we also wanted to find a balance between having the score feel contemporary and having some period-accurate instruments. What we ended up with can be described as a kind of renaissance pop score: synths and 808 drums, mixed with harpsichords & lutes.”

Photo: Ian Hultquist; credit: Ben Zales 

Can you describe your recording process and some of the gear you use?

“The recording sessions for this film were super fun for us! We got to spend three days in New York City at PowerStation, recording some amazing musicians. We had a 15-piece string ensemble, an amazing session with three woodwind players, half a day with a harpist, lutist, pianist and harpsichordist, and finally, a session with the great Hal Rosenfeld on drums & percussion. The woodwind players each brought a handful of incredible instruments, including wooden flutes to a pietzalt, that really helped to cement us in the time period while also remaining current because of what they were playing. 

“In the studio, we used a handful of synths, including a Juno 106 and Prophet 6, some drum machines and Sofia’s voice to create the foundation of the score.”

What was the directive when discussing the sound for this film with the director?

“On top of figuring out the sonic palette of our score, we also were tasked with creating renaissance-style arrangements of a few pop songs. Ie. ‘Dancing On My Own’ by Robyn, and ‘Escape’ by Enrique Iglesias. We actually worked on these before writing a note of score, as they needed these for filming and we came on board right towards the end of production. It was so fun to create these, especially when we got to record them live!”

How many cues and themes did you create, and what are their approximate lengths? 

“I’d say we ended up with about 40 minutes of music in the film, spread across 45 or so cues. Comedy films tend to have really short pieces of music in them, and this film was no exception. However, we still got to have a few nice score moments, where we really got to lean into what’s happening on-screen.” 

Do you have a favorite theme or cue from the score? 

“Not to name favorites, but we both really like what we came up with for Rosaline’s Theme as well as the whimsical theme for Juliet. The romantic theme in the movie also plays quite a bit, and will surely be a crowd favorite. Cue-wise, I’d say ‘Horse Escape,’ ‘Dario Leaves,’ ‘Mind the Fish’ and ‘Ros and Juliet Montage’ are our favorites.”

How did this project compare to your past work?

“This was really the first time where a big chunk of our entire score [were] re-recorded with live players. We always try to have some live element in anything we do, but it’s usually just as a sweetener or embellishment. This was a really exciting experience for us to have so many fantastic musicians bring the score to life. Fingers crossed we get to do more films like this in the future.”