- Chris Muirhead
Kalla - The Score
I find film score and sound design to be one of the most enjoyable and satisfying aspects of filmmaking. I attest this to having worked with The Imperfect Orchestra all of these years, the process of being supplied screen footage (or concepts and themes and ideas and storyboards) that are silent and painting those images with sound is incredibly fun.
Merrivale being a Lockdown project meant I did all the music and foley and sound design myself, so it lacked that particular type of depth that comes from collaboration. I am very pleased with what I managed with Merrivale, but was very excited to get out the other end of lockdown and put together a plan to work with someone else on the next score.
As musical director of The Imperfect Orchestra, Tom Richardson has been a long-time collaborator - which was helpful when it transpired that there was going to be zero funding for the film I was planning. It meant we could have a frank conversation, and he made it clear that he was comfortable contributing his time for free.
I explained the idea at the heart of the film, the mantra I was repeatedly writing over everything, trying to imbue the film with its meaning: We Forgot We are Nature.
We talked about the characters, how they interact, the colours and tones I wanted to use, the locations we had been visiting around Dartmoor; and of course The Trees, how they communicate with the mycelial network, how they are the observer in the narrative.
Tom went away and came up with themes, sound artefacts, field recordings and melodies, which over the course of the shoot and post production he turned into most of the sound you hear in the film.
I asked him to give me an insight into his process below:
"At the heart of Kalla is a conversation, perhaps a tension, between woman and nature, and this was the first influence and the fundamental principle of my score and sound design; mycelial networks communicating, objects acting as ciphers. Much of the sound design is based around foreshadowing or borrowing from other scenes to create a blurring between them, but also to help glue the edit together. On reflection, I believe this helps to build to the film's climax as elements are heard, or felt, before being seen, and that this may permeate a feeling of direction, a subconscious forward momentum, up the hill to a higher plane."
During the pre-production I was listening to a lot of music, and an artist that was particularly helpful for the planning stages was Broker. I was listening to the tracks so regularly that they began to worm their way into my thinking about the themes of the film itself, and I approached the musician behind the project, an old friend, Tom Thrasher, and asked him about using the song in one of the scenes. I was very lucky that he was open to giving me permission for use of the song, again for no fee (not a scenario I am happy with, creative work should be remunerated - but sometimes it is either do nothing, or offer up our efforts for nothing...)
The scene I wanted to use the song for was somehow separate from the rest of the film, its a transitional scene and one where the anger Gwydion feels washes into helplessness, she walks from the rejection of her job towards the rejection of her familial home and is surrounded by the evidence of her peers talents, considered useless and without value by a society that rewards ruthlessness, meaningless profit and blank dead eyed smiles. Heavens Gunships perfectly communicated the sound of that, and added a sparkle to the scene that I was particularly pleased with during the edit.