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Todd Haberman (composer)
Todd Haberman is a Santa Monica-based composer for film, television and videogames. Haberman is a versatile composer whose scores have been heard on all major and multiple cable networks, and in feature films including Pompeii, Transformers 3, Fast 5 and Hop. After graduating with a BA in composition from New York University and scoring the short that won Coca Cola's first ever Refreshing Filmmaker's Award, Todd relocated to the West Coast to work at Hans Zimmer's studio, Media Ventures. Darren Rea spoke with him as his score for Satanic was released...
Darren Rea: How did you get involved with Satanic?
Todd Haberman: Jim Dooley and I have known and worked with the executive producer on the project, Michael Moran, for years. Jim and I have always enjoyed working together and when Mike called and ask us to score this film we jumped at the chance.
With a score like this, a real trick is making the music both creepy and scary. Do you find it hard to convey those feelings through music when you've lived with the project so long?
The more time I have to score the project the better the score is going to be. I relish the opportunity to go over the music after I think I’m done with it and find new ways to make it creepier and scarier. Adjust a few small things that can have a big impact on the scene. Often times schedules are too compact, so I never complain about having enough time!
I've reviewed lots of horror scores, but I don't think I've heard one for some time that unsettled me like Satanic. It's incredibly chilling. How did you accomplish that?
First of all thank you! We ended up using very little orchestra in this score. And when we did use them it was for aleatoric gestures. The majority of the score was created with modern synth instruments. I tried to make the changes extreme. Follow a really high and frantic section with a low and still moment. I also love playing with virtual instruments and plugins to create something new. I enjoy taking traditional percussive elements and twisting them into something different entirely but keeping the impact of them. Anyway I could really, and I had lots of fun doing it.
Is there ever enough time and money to get each project just the way you want?
I’m sure there is but I haven’t worked on that job yet! Or maybe it’s just me but I can’t listen to anything I’ve done and not hear something I want to change in it. Whether it’s as simple as the balance of an instrument or as big as wanting to rewrite a section or wishing I had a real orchestra to record with, there’s always something.
Is there a style or genre you feel most at ease with? Are you more a fan of electronic scores or orchestral?
I am probably most at ease with a dark thriller. I enjoy doing just about anything though and that’s one of the biggest perks of this career for me. Constantly changing what I’m working on and changing my focus to a different type of music keeps me inspired.
Of the whole process of creating a score, which part do you gain the most pleasure from tackling?
I enjoy writing the score more than anything else. Sitting in the studio and making a scene come alive is a great feeling. There’s a scene in Satanic where Sarah Hyland is walking down a hallway and without music it’s a girl walking down a hallway. When I’m done with it she is a terrified girl walking down the hallway and you are thinking that something is going to jump out at you at any moment. I love that.
Do you remember the first piece of music in a movie that stood out for you?
I hadn’t paid much attention to film scores before college. Star Wars and all the great John Williams themes were the ones I knew by name but that was about it. I do remember being in the theater for Forrest Gump and the scene where Jenny comes back to Forrest on his lawn and the hi violin just hangs up there mid phrase waiting for Jenny to speak and resolving on the hug… that just killed me.
If a movie were to be made of your life, who would compose the score and why?
John Powell. Because everything he does is incredible. I even love his Instagram account. And when I first got to LA and was interning at Hans Zimmer’s studio John was a composer there and always the nicest person to be around.
From your career so far, if you could have just one piece of music you've composed sealed away and discovered by your great great grandchildren which piece would it be?
Oh wow good one. I’m not picking one sorry, but I did one beautifully romantic love scene for a cable mini series called Pillars of the Earth that was recorded with an orchestra. I just came out of me almost in real time and I don’t know I’d change a note in it today. Well maybe a couple… I just worked on a psychological thriller called The Deep End and there are cues in there I’m really proud of but one in particular when the main characters are realizing they are trapped that makes my hair stand up.
What are you currently working on?
As I just mentioned I just wrapped a film called The Deep End with a great director, Matt Eskandari and Executive Producer Hannah Pillemer. This is a great film and I am looking forward to everyone getting to see it. And I am immediately jumping into another film with directors Kenny Cage and Devon Downs, two guys I worked with a few months ago on Twisted Sisters, also Executive Produced by Michael Moran. It’s called Cynthia and it’s a horror/comedy. It’ll be my job mostly to scare and creep you out again though!