Caught between her protective father and the outside world she's forbidden to explore, seven-year-old Chloe is stuck in her own eerie fairy tale in Freaks, the new sci-fi film from Adam Stein and Zach Lipovsky. With Freaks now in theaters from Well Go USA, and its score now available digitally, we caught up with composer Tim Wynn to discuss creating the unique theme for Chloe, collaborating with Stein and Lipovsky (after their previous work on the Disney XD series Mech-4X), and the instruments he used to create the music of Freaks.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, and congratulations on your score for Freaks! How did you get involved as the composer for this film?
Tim Wynn: Thanks, I really appreciate it. I am very excited about Freaks being released in theatres. I met Zach and Adam, the writer-director team behind Freaks, while working on Disney’s Mech-X4. Over the two-plus years and 40 episodes, we formed a strong bond. At the wrap party for the first season, we started to talk about our future plans. They mentioned this great script they were working on and started to tell me about Freaks. The next day, I asked them to send me the script and after reading it, I knew that I had to be involved. I shared this with them and after some creative discussions, they asked me to join the team.
Did previously working with writers/directors Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein on the Disney XD series Mech-4X make approaching this project a little more easy or efficient from a creative standpoint?
Tim Wynn: Absolutely. One of the trickiest parts of the composer/director relationship happens in the first few weeks working together. What sort of sounds do they respond to? What sort of pacing do they like? Most of that was covered while working on Mech-X4 together, so when it came time to start Freaks, we were able to hit the ground running. Creatively the projects didn’t relate to each other much. The music is nothing alike, but the trust was there. And in many ways, that’s the most important part of the relationship.
Lipovsky and Stein have really surprised viewers with the twists and turns in Freaks. What was your reaction the first time you watched the movie or read the screenplay?
Tim Wynn: I thought it was excellent. Some movies of late have become so formulaic, so to me, Freaks was a breath of fresh air. It really has a unique voice and that made writing the music all the more rewarding.
When you set out to compose the music for Freaks, were there any pre-existing guidelines to follow, or did you have total creative freedom?
Tim Wynn: Zach and Adam are very sensitive to how music is used and how important it is, but they were completely open to any ideas I had. They told me to make a scary, sweet fairy tale. I actually wrote a few of the themes before they shot the film and they played the music on the set to get the actors in the right frame of mind. That was a nice touch.
A lot of the movie centers on seven-year-old Chloe (Lexy Kolker) and her escape from the sheltered world that her father (Emile Hirsch) has kept her in. How important was it for you to come up with a distinct musical theme for her character that reflects her unique view of the world?
Tim Wynn: Freaks is shot from Chloe’s perspective, so getting her theme just right was of paramount importance. The theme needed to be played in a number of different settings and convey multiple emotions. Sometimes it’s quiet and played on the piano and other times it’s thunderous and played by the orchestra. Her theme is kind of a musical Swiss Army knife.
What types of instruments did you use to create the score for Freaks?
Tim Wynn: I mostly used an upright felt piano for the early themes. As Chloe's world expands, I started to add solo cello, solo violin, and then string quartet. When you discover that she isn’t quite what you thought she was, I add a full orchestra and use that to underscore her power and strength for the remainder of the film.
Were you influenced by any other movie or TV scores while creating the music for Freaks?
Tim Wynn: I think it’s impossible not to be. I have always loved James Newton Howard’s scores throughout the years and I sometimes hear his influence on my cues. I like how he blends major and minor chords in his themes and how he uses the orchestra. I wrote the “Freaks” theme early in the process, but it didn’t quite work as intended in its “full” form. It was too long, so you only heard fragments of it until the end credits. The music has to serve the film first and not the other way around.
In addition to Freaks, you’ve also worked on the music for many video games, including multiple Command and Conquer games and Red Faction Guerrilla (one of my personal favorites). Do you approach the music for video games differently than you do for movies and TV series?
Tim Wynn: Thank you. I loved how Red Faction Guerrilla turned out and was one of my favorite scores I have worked on. I think movies and video games can share many of the same qualities. Traditionally, they usually have bigger stories to tell and have a similar story arc. You also have more time to play around and experiment with themes and sounds. With a TV series, the timescale is compressed. You have to be able to get your ideas across effectively and fast. That has been getting better with all of the amazing TV shows we have currently... which is nice to see change.
When did you initially become interested in music and what did you listen to in your formative years?
Tim Wynn: I have always been interested in music. To me, it was my version of the smartphone before there was one. Writing music kept my mind occupied and happy. Some people doodled, I wrote songs. I listened to everything, really. I love all styles of music. I have never been a huge top 40 guy and tried to find music around the edges of popularity. Generally, I was interested in British bands or bands that had that vibe. In my teen years, I would listen to Crowded House, The Beatles (top 40, but not in the ’80s), Tom Petty, and the Yellow Jackets. After I discovered Debussy, he became my new favorite composer and I started to get into classical music.
Growing up, did you enjoy watching horror and sci-fi movies? Were there any horror or sci-fi soundtracks that have stuck with you and inspired you over the years?
Tim Wynn: The first sci-fi film I remember watching was Godzilla. It scared the life out of me. I loved the multi-octave monster themes Ifukube composed. As I got older, I enjoyed The Omen and loved the score that Goldsmith created for it. My other favorite scores he wrote are Planet of the Apes, Chinatown, Star Trek, and First Blood. Goldsmith was a genius.
With your score for Freaks recently released digitally on September 13th (the same day the movie was unleashed in theaters), what other projects do you have on deck that you’re excited about?
Tim Wynn: I have an indie movie called The Experience coming up soon and the 15th and final season of Supernatural to finish. I also have a comedy titled Later Days that’s currently being shot in Chicago on deck.