Composing a score, and constructing the musical universe of a film, is a team effort if you ask composer Alan Lazar. His work for Netflix’s biographical feature “The Most Hated Woman In America” is a testament to that statement.
Composing a score can be a challenging process if you ask composers. Some find it difficult to work with directors while others work with less creative freedom than they’d prefer. In the case of “The Most Hated Woman In America”, working with both Netflix and the director was an easy task according to composer Alan Lazar.
“I have had a long working relationship with the director, Tommy O’Haver. Netflix essentially gave us complete freedom to do what we felt was best for the film creatively, and the choices overall reflect the collaboration between Tommy and me. Early on it became apparent an orchestral score was going to work best, and although it was a struggle budget-wise to make this happen, we did! I’m proud of the score and feel like it definitely represents me as a composer, although I could not have done it without Tommy’s input”, he says.
“There is an arc in the score, as there is in the story, from a quirky, dark comedy feel, to a much more intense dramatic feeling”
During the film there’s a rapid change from humerous moods to deadly seriousness. This created a challenge when attempting to create a universal score that would fit the film’s overall storyline and visual content.
“The mood variation in the film was definitely one of the challenges of the score, and it took some time to overcome. The demands of the true story were quite difficult to unify score-wise, as the film combines a biopic, with a very strong, feisty female lead, lots of humor, and a dark true crime story! We went through various iterations before we found a texture for the score which I believe helps unify and glue together the tone”, Alan explains.
“There is an arc in the score, as there is in the story, from a quirky, dark comedy feel, to a much more intense dramatic feeling. Interestingly enough, the initial drafts of the first half of the score got thrown out, and we rewrote, once we had figured out what the second half needed to be!”
Score vs. Soundtrack
Film music is about more than just a score though. Music supervisors are usually tasked to find the best music for particular film scenes, and this film is no exception. The fact that the time period in “The Most Hated Woman In America” changes four times made it difficult to create a score that represents the style and tempo of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or 90’s. If you were to pick one decade, the score would be misplaced in the rest of the film. This is where the music supervisor came in.
“Music was a very important part of creating the sense of different periods and eras in the film. However, this affected the use of source and song choices rather than score. The music supervisor, Amine Ramer, worked hard to find song choices which would create the vibe of the period in question. The score had a more unified sound to it, which was independent of era, and was more focused on the characters and plot developments”, Alan explains.
The decision to create a more unified sound took Alan all the way from Los Angeles to Macedonia where he recorded the score with the F.A.M.E.’S. orchestra.