BWW Interview: WAZ-JACKSON Talks Composing for TV and Film
Dynamic husband and wife duo, Waz & Jamie Jackson, make up the composing team WAZ-JACKSON. They first got their start at composing when SCRUBS creator Bill Lawrence placed one of Waz's songs on the hit medical comedy-drama series. He then asked them to pitch for an upcoming Courtney Cox sitcom, COUGAR TOWN, he was also creating. After demoing against many other composers, they got the job and the show ran for a successful six seasons. Together they have scored series such as RUSH HOUR, UNDATEABLE, and SURVIVING JACK.
Currently, they are working on CW's LIFE SENTENCE starring Lucy Hale and Youtube Red's teen dramedy YOUTH & CONSEQUENCES, which both premiered in March. They also have two documentary films in post-production, CANCER REBELLION produced by Roger Daltrey of The Who and ACCIDENTAL CLIMBER directed by Steve Oritt, as well as a scripted feature starring Alysia Reiner and Christina Hendricks titled EGG, which is going to be premiering at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. They reside in Los Angeles and are parents to a lovely gal named Ruby Lou.
How did you guys decide that you wanted to be composers? Was there a certain moment in your life that you can pinpoint that helped you make the decision?
Waz: When I was 10 years I told my worried Mom that I was convinced I'd written the perfect hook for a Budweiser commercial. I guess, from a very young age I appreciated the special relationship between picture and music.
What is the process of composing for television like? Does it differ from film?
Jamie: The turnaround is very different. We usually get 6-7 days to finish a one-hour episode of Life Sentence, which can average 25-30 cues per episode. We've gotten several months to score the films we've worked on.
Who are you most in contact with/gives you approval for what you create for TV/film (producers, director, writers, etc.)?
Waz: On a day-to-day basis, we are in close contact with our postproduction supervisor who keeps us posted on the process of each episode. We have spotting sessions where we go through the episode with the producers, showrunners, and sometimes writers and decide what the show needs score-wise.
How much creative freedom do you guys get with your pieces? Are you given a general idea of what they're going for? Or does it depend project to project?
Waz: It really depends on the project. We usually establish the sound of the show while working on the pilot. Sometimes there may be special requests that fall outside of the musical palette we've created for special scenes but most of the time we create a pretty consistent sound. We do have a lot of creative freedom within the sound we've established.
When composing, do you guys have one process that you stick with, or does it change project to project?
When we land projects, it's important for us to decide who the leader is. Because there are two of us and we are so different (we disagree often) someone needs 51% of the vote to break the tie.
Is there something you like about composing for film more than television, or vise versa? Or a certain genre you like composing for best?
Jamie: There are things we love about both. TV is like driving a race car. Fast and furious. You create music and it can sometimes air a week later. As crazy as the turn arounds can be, it's exhilarating. With film, we love marinating in ideas and really scoring an entire story from start to finish. Dramatic scenes are our favorite scenes to score.
Is there a favorite piece you've done?
Jamie: I just finished scoring a film called EGG that will be premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival this April. I had a singer I adore named Jamie Drake do some vocalizing on a few pieces. The details in her voice bring so much emotion and life to the scenes.
Waz: For me, the theme songs stick in my head as favorites. It always feels like the hardest aspect of a show to truly nail, and it's pretty magical when they work!
Waz, what was it like playing with Pete Yorn and how were you inspired to start working with film?
Pete is an amazing songwriter and performer.....and most importantly, such a sweet guy. Pete's first album (Music for The Morning After) gave us an amazing platform to tour like crazy....and we did! It's an experience I'll always cherish and remember.
After 9/11 I started a thinking I might want to regroup and start writing my own music to see where it would take me. I started with my own band (although I never felt very comfortable as a front man), and landed a handful of TV and film placements. That eventually led to scoring TV and film full-time.
Jamie, what is it like being one of a few female composers in the industry today? Do you have any words of wisdom for young women trying to break into the industry?
I am very lucky to have worked with some amazing men that have supported me 1000 percent. After many years of being the only woman in the studio, I got used to it. I believe there are so many talented female composers out there that need to be heard and that the tide is turning. I have no doubt that in 10-15 years when my daughter, Ruby, starts her career (whatever that may be) things will be very different. There will be many more women working in this field.
Regarding advice for female composers, I'd love to see more established female composers become mentors to the young female composers. Reach out and get those mentorships going. There is so much momentum. Women in the industry really want to fix this problem and together we will!
Do you guys have any advice for aspiring composers?
Jamie: Learn how to do it all. Record, produce, mix, and don't give up. You will hear "no" more than yes. Don't shut down. Let the "no's" invigorate you. Learn from the "no's" and keep beating down doors relentlessly.
Do you have any upcoming projects you could tell us about?
Waz: We are scoring a one hour pilot for Warner Bros/CW called DEAD INSIDE.
We also have two documentaries that will be coming out in the near future.....a film about the oldest American to attempt climbing Mount Everest - ACCIDENTAL CLIMBER, and a teenage cancer documentary produced by Roger Daltrey titled CANCER REBELLION.
WAZ-JACKSON's website: https://www.waz-jackson.com
Tracks from LIFE SENTENCE:
IMAGE courtesy of WAZ-JACKSON