Yearly Archives: 2012

No Place On Earth will appear at a few more festivals in early 2013. There are more to come, but here are what are announced to date. I am planning to make it to one of the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) screenings:

Upcoming Screenings:

Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival
Sunday March 17 at 11:15am
Chilmark Community Center
Martha’s Vineyard MA

The JCC in Manhattan
Monday, March 18 at 7:00pm

334 Amsterdam Avenue at West 76th Street
New York, NY

Port Jefferson Documentary Series:
Wednesday, March 18 at 7:00 pm

412 Main St.
Port Jefferson, NY

I’ll be at this one in Los Angeles the 21st of March:

Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance
Q&A with Director Janet Tobias
Thursday, March 21st at 7:00pm

9786 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA

Sarasota Film Festival
Sunday, April 7 at 7:00pm
Regal Hollywood 20, Theater 10
1993 Main St.
Sarasota, FL

(Recent screenings)….

Palm Springs International Film Festival
Friday, January 4 at 10:00 am 

Palm Canyon Theatre
538 North Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA

Sunday, January 6 at 1:00 pm 
Palm Springs Regal
9789 East Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs, CA

Washington DC Jewish Film Festival
Sunday, January 6 at 7:15 pm

AFI Silver Theatre
8633 Colesville Road
Silver Spring, MD

Sunday, February 17, at 3:00 p.m.
Boulder Theater
Boulder, CO

Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
Wednesday, February 20 at 7:15 and 7:45 pm (Closing Night)

Lefont Sandy Springs
100-152 Sandy Springs Circle NE
Atlanta, GA


Human Rights Watch Film Festival
Sunday, March 3rd

TIFF Lightbox
Toronto, Canada

Miami International Film Festival
Wednesday, March 6 at 9:00 pm
Regal South Beach Cinemas
1100 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, FL


Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival
Saturday, March 9 at 8:00 pm

Sabes JCC Theatre
Minneapolis, MA

Posted 4 years ago by John Piscitello
I recently scored a short film The Stain which played at the Norris Theater at USC. The story is simple – three survivors in a post-apocalyptic city need to get to a hospital. The woman has caught the contagion, and her boyfriend ends up sacrificing himself while failing to save her.

Right after the screening I watched the pilot of The Walking Dead, and  I noticed post-apocalypse stories often have a similar structure. Namely, characters must journey from A to B and there are obstacles along the way.

B is usually a safe place where civilization is rebuilding. The threats en route can be bandits or zombies (or both). In The Book of Eli, Legend, or even The Road Warrior, you find these elements time and again. Sometimes the journey involves finding lost family members.

The genre is sort of a morally-deconstructed update of the Western, in that the characters have to rely on each other to survive. Classic Westerns seemed to have clearly-defined good guys, bad guys, and ideas about justice. The post-apocalyptic stories have on worlds where moral structure has collapsed – zombies are neither good nor evil, they’re simply a threat and it’s a mercy to kill them anyway. This difference seems to fit a world where people feel unmoored and like things are out of their control.

The Stain was filmed in LA and centers on a contagion virus, so I wrote a very heavy and industrial sound to go with the empty urban landscape. Here are 2 cues: the first contains percussion made of trash metals and a machine pulse. The second is about lost hope, built from a simple keyboard line but layered repeatedly through a dozen different sounds to create the feeling of a brutal and unsympathetic universe.

It’s not exactly holiday season music, but what they hey…enjoy!

Posted 4 years ago by John Piscitello
Finally saw Tree of Life. 

(a) The “Soviet montage theory” editing – combining shots of the universe intimate family moments and whispered thoughts, the constant movement of the camera – I suspect this style will be imitated a lot in the coming decade. 

(b) My wife pointed out to me, this as clear a dramatic depiction of motherhood as either of us have seen, especially the nature of mothers and sons. 

(c) Haven’t seen The Artist, but I’m genuinely surprised it beat Tree of Life for Best Picture. It strikes me that a very forward-looking picture lost out to what seems like a very backward-looking silent picture. 

(d) How Malick used classical music shows the strengths and weaknesses of relying on classical music for a score. By cherry picking masterworks, you can get enormous emotional power and depth…for the first 60-90 seconds of a given scene. But then there is often a tendency for the emotions of the drama and the music to drift away from each other. The other problem is that the masterworks tend to be than longer film scenes, so you end up with awkward fadeouts. Also, using multiple masterworks means a score without a unified theme, and that can make a film feel a little more like hard work to watch than it would otherwise. 

(e) I agree with many that the universe sequence near the start of the film was too long. Felt indulgent. Maybe handing the audience a little bit more narrative along the way would have helped…we were away from the family’s story for quite a while there. 

(f) Malick is clearly a fan of Fellini and Kubrick. 

(g) I loved, loved those cavernous shots of the atriums and skyscrapers in Sean Penn’s sequences. 

Even with quibbles, I thought TOL towers over recent Oscar winners (King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, Hurt Locker). I suppose the one thing you could say is that those films are great stories, and The Tree of Life isn’t much of a story. But exploiting the medium of filmmaking…I was ready to be bored by an ambitious, arty film, but instead I was often astonished and rapt.

Posted 5 years ago by John Piscitello
Having just seen a bunch of horror comedy shorts at the Jumpcut Cafe last night, I thought of Man Cave, which screened a few weeks ago. I liked the concept film right away, which is a satire of the basic haunted house story.

A couple moves into a house with a mysterious hidden room, which the husband uses as a man cave. It’s inhabited by a supernatural force. Only, instead of a demon yanking you over to another dimension or the mirror world or whatever, all this force does is turn you into a cave man.

So the husband starts having trouble putting sentences together, gets obsessed with hunting (and roasting) squirrels, and mostly wants to just stare into a fire while drinking from a beer hat. You can imagine this is frustrating for his wife. Turns out the house has been turning men into cave men for  decades, and he links up with the local clan of cave men now roaming the suburb.

Obviously the score had to be primitive, and able to encompass horror elements. So this became a combination of percussion, vocal drones, and atmospheric sound design. The big rules were: no modern instruments, and no melodies.

Here’s the result on SoundCloud, from the end titles. I had to do a lot of overdubbing to get those grunts:

There are some great primitive scores out there. There is something iconic and very defining of the 80’s in Alan Silvestri’s score to Clan of the Cave Bear.

Posted 5 years ago by John Piscitello
Finally saw Tree of Life. 

(a) The “Soviet montage theory” editing – combining shots of the universe intimate family moments and whispered thoughts, the constant movement of the camera – I suspect this style will be imitated a lot in the coming decade. 

(b) My wife pointed out to me, this as clear a dramatic depiction of motherhood as either of us have seen, especially the nature of mothers and sons. 

(c) Haven’t seen The Artist, but I’m genuinely surprised it beat Tree of Life for Best Picture. It strikes me that a very forward-looking picture lost out to what seems like a very backward-looking silent picture. 

(d) How Malick used classical music shows the strengths and weaknesses of relying on classical music for a score. By cherry picking masterworks, you can get enormous emotional power and depth…for the first 60-90 seconds of a given scene. But then there is often a tendency for the emotions of the drama and the music to drift away from each other. The other problem is that the masterworks tend to be than longer film scenes, so you end up with awkward fadeouts. Also, using multiple masterworks means a score without a unified theme, and that can make a film feel a little more like hard work to watch than it would otherwise. 
(e) I agree with many that the universe sequence near the start of the film was too long. Felt indulgent. Maybe handing the audience a little bit more narrative along the way would have helped…we were away from the family’s story for quite a while there. 

(f) Malick is clearly a fan of Fellini and Kubrick. 

(g) I loved, loved those cavernous shots of the atriums and skyscrapers in Sean Penn’s sequences. 

Even with quibbles, I thought TOL towers over recent Oscar winners (King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, Hurt Locker). I suppose the one thing you could say is that those films are great stories, and The Tree of Life isn’t much of a story. But exploiting the medium of filmmaking…I was ready to be bored by an ambitious, arty film, but instead I was often astonished and rapt.
Posted 5 years ago by John Piscitello
Variety:

“No Place on Earth” is a genuine hybrid of historical drama and dramatic reality, with witnesses portrayed by actors, and the real-life survivors providing the movie’s grounding in fact. Despite the occasional cross-genre collision, the story is gripping and moving; its History Channel connection will provide apt exposure.

The Hollywood Reporter:

Let those who think they’ve heard every inspiring tale of Holocaust survival have a talk with Chris Nicola. His discovery of a cave where dozens of Jews waited out the Nazis is the subject of Janet Tobias’s No Place on Earth, which not only uncovers their story but finds a handful of them still left to tell it. The astounding tale has strong arthouse appeal and looks like a natural for feature adaptation.

Posted 5 years ago by John Piscitello
Here is a roundup of the coverage of No Place on Earth.

Indiewire: Living History: Toronto Doc ‘No Place On Earth’ Explores Remarkable Story of 38 Jews Who Hid In a Cave For 511 Days

“No Place on Earth” had its world premiere at TIFF on Monday night with some very special guests in attendance. “Emotional” seems too humble a word to describe what it was like to watch this film in the same room as the survivors. Following a standing ovation, Sima Dodyk, the youngest of the survivors said “I think I waited all my life for this moment.”

Toronto Star: TIFF 2012: Incredible story of Jewish families’ survival in a cave

No Place on Earth, a documentary directed by Janet Tobias, made its world premiere at TIFF Monday to an audience of festival patrons, press and family members.
In the aisles at the Cineplex Odeon at Yonge and Dundas was a boisterous reunion, with people greeting and embracing one another as the packed theatre filled with laughter.

Indiewire: TIFF Futures: ‘No Place On Earth’ Director Janet Tobias On Telling “One of the Best Stories I Ever Heard”

As a woman who began her career as a journalist at 60 Minutes working for Diane Sawyer and Don Hewitt, it’s safe to say that Janet Tobias is no stranger to a good story. You can imagine, then, how extra-ordinary a story must be for her to dub it “one of the best stories I had ever heard” – which she says of the plot behind her newest film, “No Place On Earth”.

Posted 5 years ago by John Piscitello
No Place on Earth is my largest score to date. I wrote over 65 minutes of music for this film,  recorded by an LA orchestra at The Bridge Recording in Glendale, CA. Here’s the synopsis from the film’s TIFF web page:

This extraordinary testament to survival from Emmy-winning producer/director Janet Tobias brings to light a story that remained untold for decades: that of thirty-eight Ukrainian Jews who survived World War II by living in caves for eighteen months.

The story is extraordinary, as director Janet Tobias filmed many hours of compelling interview footage from four of the survivors – Saul Stermer, Sam Stermer,  Sonia Dodyk, and Sima Dodyk. Cave explorer Chris Nicola discovered articles left behind in these caves, and after 9 years of searching, eventually connected with the families, leading to the story and the making of the film. The film’s reenactments are very artful and cinematic, which made it a clear choice to use a live orchestra for the score.

Of course like all film composers I had help from a lot of people, not the least of which was the direction from Janet Tobias. On the music side, Jeff Tinsley orchestrated, Tim Davies conducted, Steve Juliani did the copy work, Robert Fernandez engineered and mixed, and I was just over the moon with the solo performances by Belinda Broughton on violin, James Thatcher on horn, and Alan Steinberger on piano. You can hear a sample of their work over on my SoundCloud page. And here’s one cue from the score:

Posted 5 years ago by John Piscitello
Sati Shaves Her Head will be playing at Atlanta Shortsfest on Sunday, September 16th as part of the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” program. Here’s their description:

A sophisticated Cali-girl transforms her dopey Indian cousin into a first class Beverly Hills beauty. However, revenge must be served when her cousin suddenly becomes more popular than she is.

I’ve mentioned this film before as it was a fun score, merging Cali-style with a touch of Bollywood.

It’s actually a “medium” as much as it is a “short” – at 28 minutes perhaps that’s 1/3rd of a feature – but it’s a lively retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Bernice Bobs Her Hear”, which I’ve always thought of as the original “Mean Girls”.

The screening is at The Goat Farm Arts Center, 1200 Foster St. NW Atlanta, Ga 30318.

Posted 5 years ago by John Piscitello
I recorded a piece for a large orchestra at the Warner Brothers stage. This was written to a scene from The Legend of Neil (the climactic hand-to-hand battle, which inspired he title of this piece, “Let’s Go Man to Beast, No Weapons, No Magic”). I can’t share the video with you unfortunately.

I wanted to score a big action scene, and the great thing about hand-to-hand combat is that it’s very dramatic, you can score it big, there is a lot to synchronize the music to, and it can be shot cheaply. You don’t have to trash any cars or spend a lot on CGI.

This scene is mixed with a lot of comic lines, so when you hear pauses or changes in the instrumentation, more likely than not, I’m simply getting out of the way of dialogue that the audience wants to hear.

A couple of impressions from my first time on a large stage. From the podium, the percussionists are way, way far in the back. There is a real sense of distance. I found that surprising, but you also realize that percussion sounds great when it’s far away.

Also, the particular sound of this piece cannot be achieved on a small stage. I wanted sections of this tobe a little brutal and primal, and the particular mix of percussion and orchestra to get this sound needed to be just right. The big room really makes all the difference.

Posted 5 years ago by John Piscitello