Andrew Markus has created music for hundreds of projects ranging from feature films, television series, documentaries, and short films. He is a diverse composer, incorporating styles from classical, electronic, jazz, and other musical genres to create his own iconic style.
Beyond composing, Markus also launched his Film Music Mentor vlog on YouTube and the Equity in Film Program, which is dedicated to helping assist diverse voices in creating their best work, by offering grants for scoring and audio post services.
Your Money Geek chatted with Andrew Markus via email to discuss his career and dive into the ins-and-outs of his upcoming projects.
Maggie Lovitt (ML): When did you first know that you wanted to become a composer?
Andrew Markus (AM): First I’d like to thank you, Maggie, for taking the time to interview me. It’s always a special treat when a fellow artisan takes the time to learn about other artists. To answer your question it was when I was a little kid I always wanted to be a musician.
At first, I wanted to be a rockstar like Billy Joel. By high school, I was getting into more adventurous music like progressive rock, Jazz a little classical but by my freshman year of college, I completely fell in love with classical music. I found instrumental music had such power in it. I also delved into musical theater where I really became well-rounded as a storyteller and craftsman. I loved movies and theater so it became a natural fit to compose for films.
ML: How did you break into the film industry?
AM: Very slowly. I tried everything from meeting student filmmakers, doing industrial films, cold calling production companies, going to events, and what became the most successful were referrals from clients who became friends to their friends and other collaborators. I spent many, many years waiting tables and being a teaching artist while building up a body of work and creating a lot of music part-time eventually becoming a full-time composer and audio post mixer. It was a tough road but I was always in it for the long haul. It took a lot of patience and perseverance.
ML: Are there any composers or musicians who have influenced your style?
AM: My influences are pretty varied from rock artists like Billy Joel and Journey to more progressive pop/rock groups like Genesis and Yes, then there are funkier acts like Chicago and Earth, Wind and Fire. Jazz greats like Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk.
By college, I got influenced by film composers like John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and Bernard Hermann and classical compositions of Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Copland, and many others. I love fusing different genres. It’s combining classical training with other styles that make film music so fascinating for me.
You take a genre that works for the film and then you bring that genre into your own composing style with all of your tricks, tools, and techniques.
ML: You have worked on a wide variety of projects over the course of your career. Is there a big difference between how you approach scoring a series like Amish Mafia or a film like Chronicle of A Serial Killer?
AM: Amish Mafia was unusual in that they wanted very aggressive and often dissonant music. I was one of many people contributing music for that series. I wrote music based on the suggestions from the producers and they would select tracks from what I had given them and pieces I had previously written from my catalog.
Much of the music I wrote for that series appeared in the series and others as well. As for a movie like Chronicle of A Serial Killer, there was the process of coming up with a sound for the film, which I felt should resemble, slightly, the Bernard Hermann score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Then I came up with two themes and two other musical motifs that permeate a lot of the music and composing to screen to achieve all of the action, suspense, and drama.
Another challenge was to make a serial killer likable and relatable during a key moment in the film. There’s an interesting video on the process of scoring this film using themes and motifs on my YouTube channel Film Music Mentor the trailer to this film, which is now on all digital distribution platforms, can be seen here as well.
ML: Are you someone who works all day or are you a night owl?
AM: Most of the time I work normal hours from 8 or 9 to 6. Unfortunately, I am someone that works well really early in the morning and all hours of the night. It’s hard to do both one after the other. I find I am a little less productive between 1 and 5 PM but when there’s a tight deadline I buckle down and get the job done, whatever time it is. I have a windowless studio so I guess when I’m there it doesn’t matter too much.
My preferred method is to completely immerse myself in a project where I can work all day and solutions come to me in the middle of the night while I sleep. Often I am juggling several projects at once, but I believe the unconscious mind helps the creative process. It’s always a combination of technique, skill, experience, and inspiration.
ML: Is there one piece of music that you have composed that you are the proudest of?
AM: I created a collection of music in anticipation of the birth of my twins called “Lullabye.” The music was not written for a film. It was created for my children to have music that was sweet, melodic with repetition but also variation to soothe the babies but not drive adults crazy as many lullabies do. It’s one of 11 albums of music that I’ve created and published as digital soundtrack albums.
The other 10 are music from films and shows. One more is coming soon. I put them on a YouTube channel called Andrew Markus Composer and they’re all available on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify. “Lullabye” stands out as one of my personal favorites. Especially the two pieces “Lullabye” for Josie and Max’s Theme which are my all-time favorites. You might’ve guessed Josie and Max are my twins?
ML: I’m a big believer in “manifesting your dreams.” Is there a type of project or maybe a franchise that you would love to compose for?
AM: I’m with you on the manifesting of dreams. A dream of mine is to work on a superhero franchise either on TV or films. Those films and shows have high volumes of exciting music that is fun to write and they are widely enjoyed. It’s also a plus that I could watch the episodes with my son who is almost 10. Maybe if it’s a female superhero his twin sister would join us too?
The other big dream is to write a piece of music that gets into the public conscious like “Axel F” from Beverly Hills Cop or “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky or the theme from Game of Thrones.
ML: How did the Equity in Film Program begin?
AM: In 2018 and 2019 I was doing a huge amount of projects that were led by either women, minorities, or both. The result was being part of so many amazing and unique projects. A few of these projects got into major festivals like Cannes, Hollyshorts, and SeriesFest.
I kept making financial concessions for projects that were either crowdfunded or self-funded and I decided to create a business model that would help filmmakers whose stories might be underrepresented and at the same time not go in the red on these films. We do go into the red a little, still. The EFP is designed to service these filmmakers at cost and with a streamlined process to minimize the overhead and overall cost of music and audio post-production.
ML: How do you choose which projects to work with?
AM: There is a form to fill out on the website. If the preliminary criteria is met then we move on to a review of the film, not a critique but an analysis of what sound issues are present, what we can reasonably fix, and how long the process will take. Then we have a very transparent discussion and determine if everyone is on the same page and if it’s likely to have a successful collaboration.
We offer a grant of roughly 20-30% of the project’s audio post and music cost. Of course, it needs to be a project we find contributes in some way artistically or socially. It could simply be to assist in the vision of a talented new voice in filmmaking.
ML: Does the program help matchmake other creators with projects?
AM: Not yet but that’s a great idea for the future!
ML: What are the long-term plans for the program?
AM: I will eventually build out a team and have more people to help review the material and perform the audio and music work as well as the non-creative processes involved with film collaborations. It will be nice to accommodate more and more projects.
ML: What inspired you to start the Film Music Mentor?
AM: My friend convinced me that I had a unique knowledge base and it would be a good source of information for filmmakers and a way to promote 4 Score And 7 Music. I discuss topics that are unusual about the collaborative process. It’s not a tutorial in writing film music but an ongoing discussion about the collaborating process. It’s designed for all filmmakers and aspiring composers alike. It’s not particularly easy for me to film myself but I think it’s a good contribution to the film community and if I can help educate filmmakers hopefully there will be better film music, better films, and more joy and expression in the world.
ML: Looking towards 2021, what’s next for you?
AM: I have three or four projects set up and I’m contributing music to a Discovery series for which I don’t know the name but it does have Snoop Dogg. And like you said earlier the manifestation of many dreams, some I’ve mentioned and some not.