Marco Beltrami talks scoring A Quiet Place

Marco Beltrami. Photo by Dawn Jones.

Film composer Marco Beltrami took some time yesterday evening to talk to Solzy at the Movies about his shortlisted score for A Quiet Place.  Oscar nomination voting comes to an end on January 14, 2019.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce Oscar nominations on January 22, 2019.

Congrats on A Quiet Place making it into the Oscar shortlist for Best Original Score.

Marco Beltrami:  Oh, thank you.  Thank you so much. We’ll see what happens here.

You’re best known for your work in scoring horror films.  What’s the one thing about the genre that keeps you coming back for more?

Marco Beltrami:  They keep asking me.  There’s a certain amount of freedom with horror scores.  You can you can afford to work with instrument tambours and extended techniques and things that are a lot of fun to do with the orchestra that I enjoy doing—playing around with the sounds.  Finding that middle ground between what is sound and what is music.  There always seems to be room for exploration.

Left to right: Noah Jupe plays Marcus Abbott, John Krasinski plays Lee Abbott, Emily Blunt plays Evelyn Abbott and Millicent Simmonds plays Regan Abbott in A QUIET PLACE.
Left to right: Noah Jupe plays Marcus Abbott, John Krasinski plays Lee Abbott, Emily Blunt plays Evelyn Abbott and Millicent Simmonds plays Regan Abbott in A QUIET PLACE, from Paramount Pictures.

Horror aside, what was it about A Quiet Place that attracted you to the project?

Marco Beltrami:  The thing that attracted me—it struck my curiosity at first. When I read the script, I realized there was only like two lines of dialogue in the whole movie so I thought, How are they doing this?  It’s almost like an experiment. When I went to the set, they were shooting and I met with John.  I saw some of the amazing footage that they were getting and I realized what this is is that it’s a really amazing family picture first and foremost.  In order to feel scared for the family, you have to feel for the family so finding that emotional underpinning for them was the first order of business for me and sort of what drew me to the project. It wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill horror movie.

When it came to scoring the film, as there anything that John Krasinski wanted in particular?

Marco Beltrami:  No. We talked conceptually about when he was writing the script and what he was working on that there were pieces that were inspiring to him that he mentioned to me.  I started to use that as inspiration.  The main one being a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” song.  I think it was really an open canvas and that was one of the exciting things about the movie.  There wasn’t much depth that they were using.  It was really sort of an open palette.

Was there anything about the way you approached A Quiet Place that differed from Logan or Soul Surfer?

Marco Beltrami:  Oh, yeah.  These are completely stylistically different movies.  The main thing that was hyper-aware of in this that there is no dialogue.  There are even places in the movie where it is completely silent. No hum at all.  Nothing.  It’s almost like it’s the deaf girl’s perspective and all sound is taken out completely.  So in contrast to that—whenever there is any music, it calls attention to itself immediately so I’m really pernicious in how I use the music is very important. The first and foremost thing was that I didn’t want to take people out of the picture.  I wanted to get emotional experience but I certainly didn’t want to intrude on this amazingly well-acted, put together film.  I think I was much more conscious of that than I would be in a movie like Soul Surfer or Logan.

You previously trained under Jerry Goldsmith.  What was the most important lesson that you learned from him?

Marco Beltrami:  To be economical in my writing. When I first started studying with Jerry, I was I came from a classical background and sort of immersed myself in complexity and sort of an academic setting.  And Jerry—I learned that you want to make things as simple as possible both for their playability because you’re working with musicians and they’re often looking at the music the first time but also in terms of ideas and concepts so that you can boil down the essence of the movie to as simple a concept as possible almost like an acorn breaking from a tree and grow and blossom and all the branches become a different fuse but you narrow it all back down to something very simple. Jerry was the master of that.

How exciting is it to have two films (Velvet Buzzsaw and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile) playing at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival?

Marco Beltrami:  They’re both really good.  I’m excited for both of them.  I really enjoyed working on both movies.  It’s not always that I can say because sometimes, there’s pictures that you’re not as proud of or whatever but these are really good good material and I’m very excited.

Thank you again for your time and best of luck.

Marco Beltrami:  Thank you so much.

Marco Beltrami’s score for A Quiet Place is currently available on CD and MP3.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.