Composer News

Schaun Tozer – Genesis of a Piece “Rabbit”

19 Aug 2016

Christopher Dedrick Music Fund

The Christopher Dedrick Music Fund was established by Moira Dedrick in honour of her late husband,  prolific musician and composer, Christopher Dedrick.
In partnership with the Screen Composers Guild of Canada, an annual award will be established to recognize an Ontario based composer and to celebrate and encourage the use of live musicians in the production of media music soundtracks.

2015 Recipient:  Schaun Tozer


Composer – Schaun Tozer

Choosing the Project
I had been approached to score a new CBC drama series, “The Romeo Section”, for a fall 2015 premiere. When my name was drawn from the hat for the Chris Dedrick Award, I got the wheels turning to compose & record the piece as the series main title. Only problem, after speaking with the writer/creator Chris Haddock, was that there were no plans for a main title sequence. From past experience, writing an end credit piece wouldn’t work either, not least because the CBC squeezes the end credits on its broadcast in order to promote the next program – not an ideal way to promote the SCGC & the Award in Canada, but probably pretty good everywhere else.
The feature documentary that I was currently scoring, “Spirit Unforgettable” directed by Pete McCormack of “Facing Ali” fame, didn’t seem to be the right project to utilize the funds. Looking ahead, I had two projects coming with the same director, Jesse James Miller; the feature documentary “Chasing Evel – The Life of Robbie Knievel”, & “Rabbit”, a feature film. We had already been prepping the doc & Jesse – through my encouragement – had been listening to a lot of Philip Glass, particularly his early work. I had been plying him with my extensive Glass collection and his elegiac solo piano pieces were beginning to resonate. Simultaneously, we were looking at the score for “Rabbit”, & once again the work of Gustavo Santaolalla.
About 18 months previously, I had scored a trailer for the film as a way to help Jesse raise additional financing. Confident of hitching a broadcaster, together we decided that “Rabbit” would be the ideal project for the Award. The main challenge for me would be scoring the main title before any principal photography, due later in November 2016.

To quote from the book: “Rabbit” is a film about the human condition – why we are who we are and how we are moulded into what we’ve become. Can we change our general make-up? Or does the past cement the present? “Rabbit” is a cinematic meditation that investigates these elements. Michael is haunted by his past, but has managed to forge a new life far away until he is “called” back. His journey provides us with the knowledge that perhaps the human condition does allow for redemption and that sometimes you need to fight to find it…

The Right Instrumentation
Jesse had been particularly drawn to Santaolalla’s wonderful score for “Biutiful”, featuring baritone guitar. Also, as in my piece for the trailer, we were set on once again including the charango, a 10 stringed Andean instrument somewhere between a lute and a ukulele. I had first heard this instrument in Buenos Aires when I stumbled across 12 players in the San Telmo district who were creating beautiful music and sounds I had never heard before.
For the Rabbit trailer, I had hired the inspiring guitarist John Ellis, who had never played a charango until the session – he’s that good. For the main title, it was becoming apparent that hiring one multi instrumentalist for a long day was going to work better than 3 players doing one session each. Getting confirmation that this was OK with the Award, & the recording day was booked.
I had pre recorded the demo for John to replace, expand and experiment as he does so well. Beforehand, I had also prepped him about the film, and reminded him about the trailer, watching it together several times. As with any music for film, the tone, the atmosphere, and the performances need to synchronize and gel. John played baritone guitar, charango, acoustic guitar, electric and bass guitars, alongside keyboards, percussion and odd little fills played by myself. A few days later, I mixed in a day, tweaked the following morning to play to the director in the afternoon.
“Rabbit” premieres on Super Channel in 2017.
Schaun Tozer


Vol.4 No.2 Summer 2016


Congrats to Adam White, Jamie Shields, and David Wall who’s film The Skyjackers Tale screens at TIFF!