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TIFF 2018: Interview With Life Itself Composer Federico Jusid

BROOKLYN NEUSTAETER
Life Itself

image credit: courtesy of tiff

Music is more than just sounds from instruments or catchy lyrics made for entertainment. Music is a feeling, a vessel for telling a story. Music alone can effect emotions and moods while also allowing people to connect with a shared message. Whether or not the message is told loud with a song’s bravado or if it’s hidden in the lyrics, music is a form of communication, especially when it comes to music in film.

“The music adds a certain intensity in the emotional world of the film’s characters. The score helps in building the film’s structure and create that connection between the script and the worded songs, making everything come together,” said musician and film composer Federico Jusid.

Originally from Argentina, Jusid is best known for scoring the Academy Award-winning film The Secret in Their Eyes, but the musical talent has a long list of movie and television credits under his belt. He scored the Spanish film Loving Pablo, starring Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, 2017’s Kidnap featuring Halle Barry, as well as additional music for Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings in 2014. In 2016, he was also recognized as Composer of the Year by the Spanish Music Critics Association.

His latest endeavour—writing the music for the upcoming drama Life Itself.

Directed by This Is Us and Crazy, Stupid, Love’s Dan Fogelman, Life Itself follows a young New York couple through their college romance to marriage and the birth of their first child as the unexpected twists of their journey create reverberations that echo over continents and lifetimes. The film is set to make its world premiere at TIFF 2018 before hitting theatres September 21.

 

“If you know Dan’s work, you get right away that he’s a magnificent architect in the way he structures and builds a film. His scripts are  complex and polyphonic, with different stories happening at the same time, plus other stories happening in a different time and place. Yet he’s able to keep people interested in all of these stories at the same time—like a Bach fugue,” said Jusid.

“If I had to pinpoint one element of the score that I think was special for this film it was precisely trying to follow this sophistication in the architecture of his script and trying to do that with the music.”

Jusid considers himself an “old-school” composer in how he approaches his craft, saying he loves to sit at the piano with pen and paper and go from there. Life Itself’s score is a hybrid of pop and rock music Jusid combined with sounds from Rhodes pianos, guitars and a string orchestra in an effort to mix all the genres together.

“You don’t know whether or not you’re listening to a classical orchestra or a band. That was my way to get a sound that could blend with the rest of the music in the film and not surprise [audiences] by having a classical orchestra jump into the middle of a Bob Dylan song,” said Jusid. “We had to have a sound work with the characters in present time and then travel back in time and use the same sound but rearranged in a different way that sounds new but connected.”

While filmmakers can be inspired from personal experiences and real-life moments, as a composer, Jusid takes his inspiration from the classics such as opera and theatre performances, which comes as no surprise considering the kind of music that played in his home growing up.

“I was born in a very musical house and music was on all the time. My dad would be playing Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto or Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet and my mom would play a lot of songwriters so music has always been connected to joy and pleasure for me.”

 

With growing up in a classical family, Jusid was passionate about music from an early age having started playing the piano around age four before studying it professionally at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. As a concert artist, Federico has toured around the world performing in some of the most prestigious halls, such as the Carnegie Weil, the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Chamber Hall, Teatro Colon, Eglise Saint-Séverin, the National Auditorium of Spain and more.

But while his family loved music, they were also movie people, so making that transition to writing scores came naturally to Jusid.

“My dad is a film director, my mom is an actress, my aunt and sister work in the art department, so the world of movies was right there for me. I was always waiting for my dad at the studio or waiting for my mom at theatre rehearsals so I was very connected to that language,” said Jusid. “Early on I started helping music composers so [working in film] was right there for the taking.”

Hear Federico Jusid’s score in Life Itself at the 43rd annual Toronto International Film Festival, kicking off September 6-16. For more details on the festival, go here.

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