Peter Calandra, New York City-based composer has recently scored ESPN’s ‘Pat XO’ in which a special screening will occur at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, Sunday 4/21 and Saturday 4/27. The documentary was directed by Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern Winters of Lookalike Productions and produced by Robin Roberts.
In August 2011, Pat Summitt, college basketball’s winningest coach, made the stunning announcement that she had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Before and after resigning in April 2012, the legendary coach and her son, Tyler, have set out to beat this challenge as they had every other—with grace, humor and, most of all, each other. Pat XO tells the remarkable story of this incomparable coach as it has never been told before, straight from the people who knew her best.
“The film is an interesting take on biopic documentary in that along with archival footage and professionally filmed interviews, there was a decision made by the filmmakers to send out about 75 “Point And Shoot” cameras set at ‘movie mode’ to former players, friends and colleagues”, explains Peter. “Along with these cameras there was a letter with some suggested topics if they were stuck and couldn’t think of anything. The goal of this process was for the interviewees to feel ‘at home’ and comfortable when they were talking about Pat. The end result of this filming technique was that the true personality of the interviewees came out in a way that was very natural and more heartfelt than it would had there been a full camera crew, lights and an interviewer there. It came out feeling that they were just sitting around the kitchen table or on the back porch talking to another friend about Pat. Another result and one that was used in an artistic way is that these interviews came back with many different levels of sound, lighting and overall film quality. This Lo-Tech method added an element of real earthiness to the film that would be very difficult to capture otherwise. The decision was then made that the music for the film should support this and with that we came up with the idea for a score that would be is very spare and roots oriented.”
“As filmmakers, this raw and low tech visual approach was very different for us”, stated Nancy Stern and Lisa Lax. “In fact, we were nervous until the footage started to come in. Once we started to see and hear the stories, we new we were onto something very real, authentic and true to our subject, pat summitt. Our next creative challenge was to come up with a sound track that was as genuine as the visual material. After brainstorming with Peter, he sent us a riff that he came up with on one of his guitars and he nailed the perfect vibe.”
Peter states, “Most of the film music I write has a combination of orchestral, choral, piano, ethnic and electronic elements but for this we decided on a score based around acoustic guitars and live percussion that I would play and record one instrument at a time but with the goal of it sounding like a small ensemble. While I have quite a bit of experience as a professional pianist, I have used my guitar playing skills almost exclusively in a supporting role (rhythm, some melody playing). This set up a challenge for me and after some research I decided to use alternate tunings almost exclusively. Open E and D, Open G as well as DADGAD tunings were used for 85% of the score. This let me write and perform melodic parts with open strings ringing to add some fullness to the sound but not overtake the images on screen. I also came up with an ensemble with 4 different acoustic guitars, a Resonator guitar for playing Slide, a Parlor sized guitar for Rhythm and Melody, a Jumbo sized guitar for supporting the Parlor and a Nashville Tuned guitar to add texture. In each cue the instruments were panned into the same spot on the stereo field. I also purchased some hand percussion instruments and on several cues overdubbed shakers, tambourines, claves, maracas and even used a guitar case for kick drum and snare drum sounds. I used a multiple tube recording chain with a tube mic pre and a tube channel for eq and compression to give me a more vintage sound. I also employed a pair of Astatic Dynamic mics with ceramic capsules that are over 50 years old with a very limited frequency response as well as the more modern Copperphone mic to blend or as an alternate to the Neumann I used as the main mic for my guitars. This enabled me to have more control over the fidelity of the score and while many cues only have a touch of the Astatics, there are a few that only use them and one cue that has them for the first half of the cue and then changes to full fidelity for the remainder of the piece. I also played electric bass and some blues harp on several cues. On one cue I used a tenor Melodica and a Bass Melodica to simulate an accordion.”
“When the mood of the film changes after they start discussing her Alzheimer’s, I kept some of the melodic material in the acoustic guitars but added some light string orchestrations to reflect the mood change”, said Peter. “All the cues were also scored to picture inside of Pro Tools.”
Peter reflects, “It was an interesting challenge for me to work this way as I do not usually write music from the guitar but at the piano and orchestrate from there. I found that as the project went on and I settled into a working method that it was really enjoyable to create the score. To play and record everything live thru mics on an instrument that I am not 100% comfortable playing required me to come up with alternate creative ways to score a picture. That was refreshing. To see it work with the film and especially to have the directors like it was very satisfying.”
Click here for more info on the film.
Click here to visit Peter Calandra’s website