Nicole Russin-McFarland is an incredible multi-talented person. She’s a film director, music composer, journalist, model and more! During her tender youth art was coursing in her veins. She spent her childhood studying classical music and today she’s well prepared as to pleasantly surprise everybody with her art. Last year, the world first heard her compositions with the release of ‘The Eyes of Old Texas‘ soundtrack, so if you want to discover more about Nicole and her interesting life please read this interview.
1 – You’re very well known for your classical music compositions. Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
I love all kinds of film scores, whether they are traditional (Hans Zimmer) or experimental (The Social Network by Trent Reznor). Because none of us are ever perfect, you can never stop learning. Sometimes, I’ll listen to a particular century of classical music on the radio. It just depends. When I was in school and taking lessons, I had to play Rachmaninoff a lot, so I’m kind of sick of his work! LOL! Though I now love working with crazy chromatics, which I have a lot of saved up on themes I want to use.
2 – Tell us a little about your composing style/method.
I love chromatics for some reason. Also lately, when I’ve been doing themes for a particular film project goal I have in mind and doing really rough drafts, I’ve been fascinated by themes that start and end on the same note. Of course, because our first movie uses “The Eyes of Texas” – that’s how it’s called The Eyes of Old Texas, for the old song – I didn’t have much room to play with. But on the track “I Know What to Do,” I proudly made it really evil with lots of brass. Usually, the song is this really sweet and happy school theme song. I’m glad I got to make it angry for once.
3 – What’s your favorite and least favorite movie soundtrack?
I just love Gladiator’s score. It was one of the first ones I bought, and ironically, with an Eminem album and I want to say Christina Aguilera. That goes to show you how eclectic I am. Some of it almost sounds like it could’ve been out of a 1940’s or 1950’s drama. And then we have that really amazing theme that isn’t really in the movie a lot but plays when Maximus just confronted Commodus in the arena. When you remember a theme that much, you know someone’s done an outstanding job. I mention Hans Zimmer at times, so let’s have some backstory on him. Remember Pharrell doing both of the Despicable Me soundtracks? Pharrell actually did more than the “Happy” tune. He did a lot of the music, and Hans Zimmer was his boss on those films.
Alexandre Desplat is pretty much the other standard gentleman when it comes to great film scores. I advise people to check him out.
As far as least favorite film score, I don’t like those generic scores that fade into the background you usually hear on romantic comedies. Or any comedy. Throw in random clarinet here because Ryan Reynolds needs to break up. Stuff like that. A good score makes you remember the music as much as the movie.
4 – Have you only made soundtracks for animated/cartoon films? Why you love this movie genre so much?
No. Animation just happens to be what we are starting out with. I as a film director want to eventually branch out of that to doing both animation and live action. I have a lot of ideas, but due to the way filmmaking works, you don’t one day come out with your masterpiece as your first film. Nobody will watch it. You need to be established first – and that’s why I chose animation with my film’s co-executive producer because we both love animation, but at the moment, we also both have side occupations we’re trying to work on. He’s a celebrity chef and NYC restauranteur in addition to being a rocker. His rock band was the first professionally touring metal band in China. Meanwhile, I’m trying to get the books side of Lucky Pineapple Books + Films heavily established so I can have a bigger staff of people running things in the near future while I work on my movies. And, I’m currently animating this film…MYSELF. I have a lot to take on before I move onto scoring live action.
5 – Did you feel ready to call yourself a music composer after the release of ‘The Eyes of Old Texas’ soundtrack?
Of course! You are a composer when you release your first work to the world professionally. I would’ve loved to have called myself a composer when I was 11 to 12 though. Technically, I enjoyed composing then, and some of the themes I want to use in my future film scores are from that time period of my life. When you write a good theme, or at least a theme that sticks in your head for that long, it’s all how you do the rest. You really only need the theme. What you do with it can range from any kind of sound or emotion. You’ll see this a lot if you look at some of your favorite films. Indiana Jones is a great example of this my teacher made us study for our homework assignment. I guess unlike everyone else, I was paying attention in class! We had to play that and see how the same theme changes. The other day, I rematched the movies on TV as they had a marathon and I saw, “Yeah! That’s true!” The theme shifts around the whole movie beautifully, but it’s the same theme. You do so much with a simple basic theme.
6 – Are you currently working on a new movie soundtrack? Please let us know something fresh about it.
I have things saved on my computer and iPad I want to work with, but because I’m not done yet with finishing The Eyes of Old Texas – in both the animation process which is hard, and in how we’ve recently filmed backgrounds locally in Peru, Argentina, Chile, and are hitting Brazil – I want to focus on finishing the movie for now. As I said, the main importance is completing the themes, anyway. When the time comes to use them, I will be fine as I have the basics down.
7 – What do you love most about what you are currently doing?
My mind gets really bored by knowing what will happen next. For my mind to be happy, I have to train it like I’m doing puzzles. What that means is I have zero tolerance for doing the same thing over and over again. Of course, making a movie and composing classical music does involve some repetition, but nowhere near what most “regular” jobs involve.
For example, journalism I did not related to food or cinema. When I wrote about divorce and depressing relationship articles ages ago for one place I did journalism for, I hated it. Not only was it so awful to interview people about depressing subject matter, it felt like the same thing nonstop. I really wasn’t using my brain. I was sitting there taking notes and rewriting what people said about horrible things happening to them. Later on, I did this again, but the subject changed to stuff like, “Someone wants to take away my apartment.” Or people suing someone. I currently once in a while do food or film related journalism, at least interviewing someone in fashion, but because those people talk more about positive topics and creativity involved, and often business, I’m more interested. So not all journalism is bad and deadly.
8 – Have you ever being criticised for being a female music composer?
I’ve never had criticism about my gender with the job, but I have dealt with lots of sexist comments. I always explain it like this to people. When a young boy says he wants to direct movies, people give him a camera and how to book. When a girl says the same thing, they ask her to be an actress. Which is what happened to me all the time from 11 up to 27 until I, for lack of a better gesture, began speaking my mind when people told me to do. I’m not opposed to acting. If ever Will Ferrell called me up to be in Zoolander 3, I would love it. I love being funny and telling jokes. But acting is a choice someone makes. People often are really disrespectful when you express your interest in making movies or composing music. They ask you, “Why?” But men or young boys don’t get the why question. And, the other thing is, when I say what I want to film or compose, people have other suggestions for me. A women’s themed film CAN be good, like In Her Shoes, or it could be a disaster like most of them out there. And that’s what people generally, especially women, suggest I make. As far as music, women also like soft, dainty songs that don’t really have any particular strengths. Yet, I don’t.
9 – Which music composers or film directors would you like to collaborate with?
As far as music composers, James Horner died, so I can’t really collaborate with him. With my first soundtrack, we blended Brian Tsao’s rock music into chunks of it. I’d love to do that again with him forever…collaborate on film and music and see it sell big like a John Williams score! Or something putting classical over a shocking genre, like country or rap. Weird stuff like that always sounds good because it’s like how this horrible sounding fusion cuisine item on the menu may taste delicious! Being adventurous is the way to go! With film directors, I’m open to anybody who is serious about their work and blending music into it. The person doesn’t have to be famous. They can be an up and comer who’s made a few movies but wants to be the new Tim Burton, for example, and has that drive. Pedro Almodovar could be a fun gentleman to compose for though. He really uses music a lot in his work. And his work is crazy. I love that he defies standard genres. I’d say any DreamWorks cartoon too. I would jump for joy and dance in my room if DreamWorks Animation hired me to direct cartoons and compose the scores for them. I love Shrek so much and How to Train Your Dragon. The attitude!
10 – What are your future plans for 2016?
I want to do anything in my power in 2016 to make Lucky Pineapple Books + Films a force to reckon with. Everyone has to start from somewhere. And as I cannot rub in enough about my love of working for the “next Steven Spielberg” or whoever that “next” is, I hope people will see how I feel… when they look at me. Our culture is weird because we want all our actors to look unnaturally young and/or not to work with anyone over 30 for roles written for women in their 30s and 40s as Anne Hathaway has discussed, but we cling on the established film directors and composers. I love the guy, but honestly, at some point John Williams will no longer be with us. Nor with our favorite film directors. What do we have left? People who don’t know what to do anymore because most of their film directors of this generation 40 years old and under are taking the initiative of going on their own like these film directors did when they were young. It’s hard. I’m not denying that. But I’d love to establish myself on my company in that demeanor people had when they ran out and made the biggest movies they could at age 20-25. We don’t have that anymore. Nowadays, people lack drive.