Even though Greig has just become the father to his second child and hasn’t had much sleep, he managed to make some time to sit and talk to us about his vision and experience working on Music and Audio through Pressure Cooker Studios for this Triggerfish produced Netflix animation film.
Watch the teaser below:
What was your vision for Seal Team?
I thought that a family military movie could only work if it was silly and over the top. Think ‘wild fun’ meets 80s and 90s action movies.
In some ways Seal Team is a love letter to the films I wanted to watch growing up but either had to sneak in or find a sneaky VHS copy. So I looked at these classic pre-CG action movies for inspiration for the film as a whole, and musically.
And what was your brief to Pressure Cooker Studios?
I wanted to stick to the 80s and 90s action movie cheese feel, adding in some rock and roll and orchestral themes too of course.
To quote from my music brief: The music of SEAL TEAM is 50% emotive cinematic score, 50% balls-to-the-walls rock ‘n roll, 25% military march music, and 10% bad mathematics.
I also wanted to embrace the opportunity of making a feature film and go a little bigger and more orchestral than I would in the TV work we’ve done together.
Pressure Cooker really took this complex brief on, you’ll hear silly steel drums sometimes that come out in force, stuff that I would have considered the opposite of what cool action movie music is, but it works so well.
Pressure Cooker not only handled the original music composition, but the whole audio process as well. Tell us about that.
I’ve worked with Pressure Cooker doing music composition for many many years when we worked on the series Supa Strikas together. Seal Team was my first time doing sound design with them and my main motivation was to torture the head of sound design just to make that sad look on his face. Kidding.
It was an amazing learning experience for me, the sound design for a film is very different to TV, and we all grew in the process. For TV it’s quick and you get in and go, but for this feature film we really had to think about the foley, the sound design, so that we weren’t just putting arbitrary noises in to tell the story, but rather creating our own unique soundscape for the film.
If you listen very carefully you’ll hear the sound of eagle cries whenever something epic happens in Seal Team.
We also had to focus on the challenge of creating a soundscape for both the above and below worlds and early on in the process we went through many drafts for these two particular spaces to give them distinct sonic landscapes.
Tell us more about your experience on the original composition for this film?
As I mentioned before, I’ve worked with Pressure Cooker on the Supa Strikas series, and we used to always joke that each episode was a movie with music. And this time we actually made a real movie. And the joy in having more time on a film meant that after the briefing process and delving into our references, we could collaborate and spend time creating themes early on in the process. Pressure Cooker would send me a couple of options for each character’s theme, which ended up informing some of the decisions I made for the film.
Being able to get Pressure Cooker on in the early stage of the film was such a pleasure. It really allows you to explore and find those great moments in a way that isn’t just rushed cut to picture kind of thing. In fact, next time I think I’d get Pressure Cooker involved even earlier, I can just imagine listening to themes during the writing process and how much value that could potentially have.
Can you give us examples of how the music influenced the filmmaking process?
Sure, there are many examples of this. One of first pieces of music they sent me was a character theme for Grimes, our big evil shark supremacist, and it had this kind of almost lullaby-esque feel to each which was so slimy and creepy. And from this we then re-wrote the character to be more of a cheesy salesman type, a calm veneer with menace behind it. This wasn’t part of his character before I heard that piece of music.
Another example is for our character Geraldo, who is big, brash and over-the-top (voice played by the legendary iconic Patrick Warburton). After listening to his theme we decided we wanted his theme to be almost like music that’s playing in his own head when he gives his bravado speeches, no matter the context.
And what was it like having one port of call for both Music and Audio?
It was really helpful. As a director on a film, especially a CG film, there are so many people and so many moving parts. So being able to get all of your artists to move in the same direction is a real challenge. Sometimes it’s easy for things to get ever so slightly twisted, or lost in translation.
And for Music and Audio, there is such an intricate dance between these two elements, they could either clash, or carry each other. So, to have both of these departments in one building and to have one person supervising both means that we were on the same page from the get go.
Having a good long working relationship with Pressure Cooker, and them being at the helm of the entire audio process, also helped with my insecurities, because sometimes perspective can be a real challenge. So having someone like James (Pressure Cooker Creative Exec Officer) as the point of contact meant I spent less time dwelling in my spinning brain about music and audio decisions because I could rely on reaching out to him about how certain decisions were impacting the film.
How do you think Music and Audio elevated the storytelling in Seal Team?
Audio makes up so much of the viewing experience, and it’s strange that it is often isolated into a single department in post-production. But it is such a huge part of the audience’s understanding and appreciation of the film. So, the impact that the music and audio made on the film was absolutely huge. It was such a privilege having dramatic moments represented by music, and not feeling like we had to score the whole thing. It helped me realise what was working in the story and what wasn’t during the process. Because not only does the music elevate the film dramatically, but it also shines a light on what wasn’t working in the writing or edit, so we could get it just right.