BWW Interview: Emmy Award Winning Composer Jim Dooley Talks A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS and His Experience as a Composer
Jim Dooley is an Emmy Award-winning composer and songwriter for film, television, and video games. He has collaborated with big names in the industry such as Hans Zimmer and Kristin Chenoweth. Dooley has worked on shows like ABC's PUSHING DAISES, FX's WILFRED, TNT's THE LAST SHIP, and Netflix's A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS. He took the time to speak with me about how he decided to become a composer and his process of creating music.
I'm assuming music was a big part of your life growing up for you to decide you wanted to be a composer. Do you remember a specific moment when you knew this is what you wanted to do?
Yes! I saw a short film in high school that featured a cue ball rolling around our corridors. The music to accompany this was Danny Elfman's Batman. The music made this the most interesting cue ball to watch I've ever seen. I knew then that I wanted to be a part of this world.
Do you have a favorite instrument?
I grew up as a guitar player. I don't play it much anymore but it's really where I learned my fundamentals of harmony. I have a 1979 Gibson EDS-1275 Double-neck that I adore. It's the same model that Jimmy Page would use for live shows. I had a picture of this guitar on my wall for years.
For each project, do you sit down with the director and decide on a general feel for the music? Is that what you did for Season 2 of A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS? How much creative freedom do you get?
In this case I was lucky enough to sit down with BARRY Sonnenfeld to discuss the direction for the music. The first step was to discuss what we liked from season 1 and what we could improve upon. I get a lot of creative freedom. When working on shows for children you can usually be more adventurous than you can for adults.
How do you approach the different mediums you compose for? Does your process change from film to TV to video games?
The beginning of the process for me is similar to a painter. What colors will I work with for this project? I like to create custom sounds for each show to give it a unique sound palette.
Who are some composers you looked up to when you were starting out, or who helped shape you into the composer you are today?
The most influential composer for me has been Hans Zimmer. I worked for him as an assistant during GLADIATOR, HANNIBAL, and many other movies. After that I wrote additional music for many years for movies such as THE DAVINCI CODE and MADAGASCAR. He really showed me what it takes. I don't think anyone else can rival his work ethic or drive.
Is there a certain genre you like composing for best?
I love working on projects for children. It allows a composer to stretch and write fantastical melodies and harmonies. It's terribly exciting and the possibilities are endless.
Is there a favorite piece you've done?
Just recently I was lucky enough to write a score for Travel Oregon. It was recorded with the Portland Symphony in March. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXRBLyQQ78A
What was it like to win an Emmy for ABC's PUSHING DAISIES?
Well, that was quite an interesting day for me, to say the least. Everyone on the show worked tirelessly to give it life. I was just fortunate to be recognized for it but it really was a group effort to make something that special.
I know you used children's instruments when composing for Netflix's A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS to create a more authentic sound, can you tell me a bit about that process? What made you decide to do that?
I spent a lot of time making and recording custom instruments for the show. The world of ASOUE is not ours so we don't have to be tied to the sound of our known world. The Baudelaires are in peril almost the entire time. All the melodic and harmonic information is designed to reinforce that odds are against them. All the sonic choices also have to reflect which book in the series that is being told. So when we got to the Carnivorous Carnival, this was a chance to bring in some unique circus-style sounds in which I used children's toys made into musical instruments.
How is the music for Season 2 of A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS going to be different from Season 1?
We visit new and unusual places this season in which things go very, very badly. We also have new villains to contend with and I've written new themes to go with them. I'M SORRY to be so cryptic but I don't want to spoil the show by telling you what is in store.
Do you have a dream project you'd like to compose for, or someone you'd love to collaborate with?
I would love to continue doing projects like ASOUE that are family friendly. Also, if ASOUE or Pushing Daisies get made into musicals, please sign me up first!
Do you have any upcoming projects you could tell us about?
I'm writing a musical called WITCH'S NIGHT OUT! with my partner Rye Mullis. We are planning to have its premiere this Halloween season! Stay tuned!
Jim Dooley's Website: http://jimdooley.com
IMAGE Courtesy of Jim Dooley