Monthly Archives: September 2012


“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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 years ago by John Piscitello
One reviewer called Cloud Atlas a mess. The film is anything but. There is some argument to be made that, being 6 movies in 1, you don’t get enough time with each character. But there are big laughs in the film (something the reviewers don’t seem to be mentioning), great action, big-picture themes, and the whole effort has a sense of fun. Cloud Atlas is why people make and watch movies. Will it profit? I hope so. But it’s arty (this ain’t no Avengers). Reviewers are polarized but everyone I’ve talked to who saw it loved it.

Writers is light, and will likely appeal like Crazy Stupid Love. I don’t happen to like the title (it seems insular). Romances among a divorced couple and their two kids. Impressive for a debut director. A couple of song choices maybe intruded on the drama (nothing wrong with the songs, just the singers’ performances drew too much attention to themselves IMHO), but the original score was tasteful. Loved the Thanksgiving turkey recipe in the film.

GDR-in-the-1980s prison drama Shores of Hope is Shawshank Redemption meets The Lives of Others. There is one scene in particular that amusingly pays homage to SR (“do you love your wife?”).
A lot of this movie is executed very well, and I bet this film is going to be very good for the lead actor Alexander Fehling, who had a small part in Inglourious Basterds. I was engaged, but wanted to feel more at the end than I did.

Posted 6 years ago by John Piscitello