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Composer Dominic Lewis On His Organic Electronic Sounds In “Money Monster”

By: Marjorie Galas

For someone experiencing his first Cannes International Film Festival, Dominic Lewis looked perfectly at ease sitting in an outdoor patio in the International Pavilion.  He’d experienced his first viewing of “Money Monster” – his most recent scoring project – the night before, and was thrilled with the outcome.

“It was great to experience the reactions of the crowd to the film.  They gave it a standing ovation,” said Lewis.  “I was pleased with the way the score worked. To be here at this stage in my career, and to work on a film like this, is amazing to me.”

Lewis was brought onto “Money Monster” late in the game.  Recommended to director Jodie Foster by the film’s music producer Henry Jackman, Lewis accepted the challenge of completing the score in three and a half weeks.  He began by meeting with Foster and editor Matt Chesse to discuss the desired style.  Foster wanted to avoid any “big Hollywood” sounds, preferring something fresh and electronically fueled.  With notes in hand, Lewis spent a weekend experimenting with sounds and creating idea suites.   With a concept roughly mapped out, Lewis arranged a spotting session with Foster.  He not only gathered her notes and insight, he watched her reaction to the segments.  This allowed him to pull elements she responded to for use in different portions of the script.

A large component of the electronic score is devised from organic sounds, specifically those relating to money handling.  These include sounds heard on a gambling floor, such as poker chips, and the sounds of Wall Street, including the opening bells of the stock market.  Lewis then manipulated the sounds and through music software and saved the new creations in a library he could pull from.  Noting what Foster liked, Lewis could pull from the library and weave throughout different segments.  Working off her reactions, he could make easy modifications, shifting sounds and saving unused creations for later.

The score also incorporates more traditional orchestration to help the audience relate to key characters.  String sections align with Lee Gates (George Clooney), a charming and cordial man who has lost everything in his life.

“The strings capture the human quality of Lee and add to his believability; he is someone you really feel for,” said Lewis.  “But you can’t be cheesy, you have to find the balance with the electronic, cooler sounds.”

Lewis appreciated Foster’s specificity regarding the style of music she wanted for the film.  While she didn’t speak in musical terms, she did express the sounds she wanted to match with and elevate the story.  He recalled watching her take numerous notes throughout the playback process and was delighted when she shared aspects of the score she liked with him (not just those segments that needed adjustments.) While Lewis agrees creating a feature film score in less than a month’s time is not an easy task, he found the collaboration with the director in conjunction with his clarity of focus made the process an exciting and efficient one.

“No one is going to remember or care about the short time you have to do the work. I just wanted it to be the best it could be,” said Lewis.  “It was great to have that short deadline, it helped filter out all the ‘noise’ that can accumulate if you have too much time to work on a score.”

Currently, Lewis has two projects he is primarily focused on.  He’s returned for season two of “The Man in the High Castle.”  With the characters’ vastly changed from the first season, he is working out new themes to accompany their new journeys.  He’s also begun work on a comic feature called “Fist Fight” that allows him to infuse contemporary styles into the score.

“It’s a completely different sound for me, using music of today’s charts, including hip hop and rock,” said Lewis.