ScoreNotes:
When did you first meet director David Twohy and what were some of the steps that led you to the scoring assignment for, A Perfect Getaway?

Boris Elkis: Graeme Revell introduced me to David. He scored the last three David Twohy pictures and originally was approached by David as a composer for A Perfect Getaway, but could not do it due to scheduling conflicts, so he passed the torch to me. Graeme arranged a meeting between the three of us and worked as a music producer on the film.
ScoreNotes: Please tell us about the type of emotions your score conveys for A Perfect Getaway.  I found that the contrast between the warm tones of the early tracks and the suspense of the darker cues made for an engaging listen.

Boris Elkis: I was fortunate to be able to write a score that transforms and takes an emotional journey. With a film score being a by-product of the story, a composer is not always afforded the opportunity to cover a lot of musical ground. From a dramatic perspective, it is always good to be able to start and finish at the extreme opposites. The film starts out on a positive note, then things progressively turn for the worse and the music reflects that transition as it goes from happy to menacing to terrifying.  At its core, the film is a romantic thriller as it centers around the main couple (Steve Zahn & Milla Jovovich), who are on their honeymoon, so there is a strong romantic element to the score. The romantic chemistry of the main characters and the breathing-taking beauty of the Napali coast inspired the music and gave it the warmth and the scale.
ScoreNotes:  How important was it to engage the audience with themes that were bold and subtle?

Boris Elkis: The film plays upon the genre expectations of the audience. The film is cleverly written and follows its own internal rhythm, as it takes turns when the audience least expects it. This is not a typical formulaic thriller, as there is quite a bit of character development. The film's tension comes from subtle things, like double entendres between the main couples. The task and the challenge were to guide the audience without giving too much away. I concentrated on three main themes, so the score is basically based on them.  There is a romantic theme, killers theme, and the island -- which later in the film becomes a battle ground for survival -- has it's own lietmotif. I'm a strong believer in the use of melodies in film scores, and I think of this as the best all around tool in a composer's toolbox.

ScoreNotes: I honestly felt that you brought forward an original and fresh take on the horror/suspense genre.  Given that Hollywood productions often guide their scores toward that of temp music, how important is it for you to maintain a personal signature on the music you write?

Boris Elkis: With film scoring being a collaborative process, a lot of factors come into play that determine a score's final outcome. I was lucky to work with David Twohy, he is a truly creative individual who instinctively knows how to value and nourish creativity in others. David allowed me be creative and he was incredibly supportive of me throughout the process. And that is not always the case, as at times a composer ends up having to please several people involved and the results often end up being different from the composer's original creative vision. 

As for the temp track, the use of temp music is not going to go away. I think it is a valuable tool as it provides insights into the director's dramatic intentions.  Part of a composer's skill is to be able to interpret the temp at the dramatic level, without copying it musically.  It is a cerebral process, and it requires analytical skills and acute dramatic sense.

As far as the personal signature is concerned, that is for the listeners to say. I honestly do not know where the creative process comes from. The process is subliminal, it's intuitive and it is divine. Some composers seem to have that unique quality more prevalent in their works. I don't think they know how to write any other way.

ScoreNotes: As one of your first major solo scores, did you find anything about your work on the production side of A Perfect Getaway to be particularly challenging or surprising?

Boris Elkis: I've been a big fan of David Twohy. Arrival and Pitch Black are some of my favorite movies, so at first it was a little intimidating to be in his company. I was pleasantly surprised by the creative leeway David afforded to me. Also, Graeme Revell, whom I consider a close personal friend, vouched for me. That upped the stakes for me emotionally. I did not want to let him down.

ScoreNotes: : Can you tell us how productive it was to work with Graeme Revell and how it was that he first noticed you?

Boris Elkis: Graeme was a featured speaker at a Film Music Network event. After the event, a long line of aspiring composers had formed (myself included), with everyone trying to pass their demos CDs on to Graeme.

A couple of years later I got a call from Graeme, saying he liked my demo and needed some help and eventually it led to bigger things. Working with Graeme has been a wonderful experience, as he's been a great mentor and a big influence on me. Having scored almost a hundred films, Graeme has developed very keen dramatic sensibilities. His creative and intellectual capacity never cease to amaze me.

ScoreNotes: : Preceding even that, can you tell us what it was like to grow up in Moscow while having aspirations of being a film composer?

Boris Elkis: Growing up, I was one of those painfully shy kids. Going to the movies was a form of escape for me. Back then in Russia we did not have the latest movies playing in theaters, so I remember watching Some Like it Hot --  I must have seen that movie a dozen times. Every time I watched it I was overcome by a feeling of joy. As I got older, I remember going to see political thrillers like Three Days of the Condor.  Watching them made me question the political system we had in Russia at the time. I think films have an incredible power. One good film can alter society's consciousness.  Russian government knew that, that's why they had an iron grip censorship on films from the West.  I always thought, what a privilege it would be to be involved in a medium that has the power to change lives.

ScoreNotes: What composers, be it classical or in the arena of film music, have inspired you the most?

Boris Elkis: Russia is a country rich in culture and musical history, with many great composers. My favorites were Igor Stravinsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergey Prokofiev, and above all, Alfred Schnittke. If you are not familiar with Alfred Schnittke, I recommend that you give him a listen.  He was particularly influential on me because he mixed styles from different time periods, which is essentially what film music has evolved to. From the concert music arena, Arvo Part, Michael Nyman, George Crumb, and Steve Reich have also been influential on me. Growing up, I quite enjoyed the progressive rock movement and I was an avid King Crimson fan. In film music, Bernard Hermann takes the crown for me. He was actually an influence on me for this score. There are a lot of talented composers working today. In all fairness to the film composers that are still living, this subject merits a separate discussion.

ScoreNotes: : Please tell us about the soundtrack release for A Perfect Getaway and what listeners can expect from the album presentation.

Boris Elkis: I would say to expect the unexpected. This score is a mixture of different styles, as I wanted to keep the music evolving to make things less predictable. Main themes are the backbone of the score, so they keep it cohesive. The orchestra is used as another color in a rich palette of sounds, so sometimes it disappears and other elements take over. There is a strong island element to the score, so I used native flutes and percussion. Basically, it is a modern score with a strong melodic underpinning.

ScoreNotes: : As we look ahead to the rest of the year and beyond, what are some future opportunities you plan on exploring?

Boris Elkis: With A Perfect Getaway being my first major score, my future opportunities are somewhat contingent upon the reception of the film and the score. As of now I'm up for a several projects, but nothing has been penned down as of yet. Ask me again in a few months.

 
 
>>Back to Interviews