Of all the left-field composers out there — typically musicians who don’t follow the traditional rules of film composing — if Jon Brion isn’t at the very top, he’s very damn close. The musician, composer, producer (who has worked with folks like Fiona Apple, Kanye West, Of Montreal, Elliott Smith and more) has been tapped by filmmakers like Paul Thomas Anderson (“Magnolia,” “Punch Drunk Love”), Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”), David O. Russell (“I Heart Huckabees”), Charlie Kaufman (“Synechdoche, New York”), Miranda July (“The Future”) and more.
In recent years he’s been moving towards comedies, especially for the films of Adam McKay (“The Other Guys,” “Step Brothers”), Vince Vaughn (“The Break-Up,” “Delivery Man”) and Judd Apatow. Brion scored “Funny People,” “This Is 40,” and has also written the music for the upcoming “Trainwreck” film starring Amy Schumer.
The bête noir of all film composers is temp music — the music a filmmaker or editor will use as a temporary bed during the assembly and rough cuts. The problem with temp music is filmmakers and editors get used to it, even wed to it, often using pre-existing scores from recent movies. And often they become so accustomed to the temp music when they hire composers, they often want a not-so-subtle and filtered version of it. All composers hate it, but in a candid, one hour conversation with Sam Jones on the Off Camera podcast, Brion talks about the pervasive tyranny of temp music in Hollywood and how the demand to use it has actually brought him to tears.
It’s a fascinating conversation where Brion talks about starting up his Largo career, music producing, and working on film scores for people like David O. Russell (the ‘Huckabees’ coincidence story is worth the listen just on its own). Brion suggests sometimes film scores aren’t worth the headache when the filmmaker is too married to the temp music, so let’s hope we don’t eventually lose him to that process. Listen to the conversation below and watch some excerpt clips from the topic of temp scores, plus a bonus clip “music video” performance taken from the “I Heart Huckabees” soundtrack.