As La La Land reminded us this year, every movie needs to have a good score or theme. Without it, a movie just doesn’t feel complete. Prime examples being Rocky without Bill Conti’s motivating ‘Gonna Fly Now’ theme or Hans Zimmer’s whole Inception score for that matter. They would just be completely different films. Continuing the conversation of importance a score has on a film in today’s market, we decided to speak with writer/director Sanjeev Sirpal and composer Bryce Jacobs and discuss their collaboration on the upcoming film, Random Tropical Paradise which is being released in theaters & VOD June 9th and stars Bryan Greenberg (The Mindy Project), Brooks Wheelan (Saturday Night Live), Spencer Grammer, Jessica Lowe and Joe Pantoliano. Read the full interview below…
You wrote and directed Random Tropical Paradise, How did you initially come up with the idea for the film? Was it based on a personal experience?
Haha no, thankfully this movie is not based on personal experience. I’m happily married to a wonderful woman who is well out of my league and has terrible eyesight, which works in my favor. I initially came up with idea for Random Tropical Paradise when thinking about that universal rite of passage of sort of having your heart unexpectedly broken, whether it’s being cheated on or just blindsided by the breakup, or realizing that a relationship you thought was going to work doesn’t or whatever, it’s something that everyone’s gone through, (and if you haven’t I can only imagine the number of bodies you keep in your basement), and at some point during the recovery process of getting over it and figuring out who you are now, either you, or more often than not, your friends come to the conclusion that this experience has earned you the right to just go bonkers and party for a little while, whether you want to or not, in order to get over it. So, I basically took that concept and thought, “What’s the movie version of that? What is the biggest, most high-stakes, over-the-top way to tell that story?” And it was “Of course, guy gets cheated on at his own wedding, and instead of canceling the honeymoon, goes on an epic ‘homie-moon’ with his best man instead.”
How did you initially come across Bryce’s work?
There were two simultaneous things that happened. The movie’s music supervisor, Andrea Von Foerster (who is AMAZING) and Bryce share the same agency, the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency, and I had been talking with them about composers for the film, they had a great grasp of the movie and what I was looking for, and they sent over Bryce’s materials, which were fantastic. At the same time, I had just watched the documentary, Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead: The Story Of The National Lampoon and the score of that movie really stood out to me, I loved it. It matched the story so beautifully, and lo and behold when the credits rolled, I saw “Music by Bryce Jacobs”
Did you have a pretty specific idea of what you wanted the score to sound like before Bryce began or did you let him experiment more and find the right sounds that way?
Both. I knew what I wanted conceptually as both themes throughout the movie and with the characters and in some scenes, and what was amazing working with Bryce was that not only were we on the same page from day one, it was like we were on the same sentence of that page. Bryce and I would get together and talk about themes and the vibe of the movie and the themes and concepts for the score in terms of it also being its own storytelling device, with the music elevating and bolstering the narrative and sometimes even having the ability to dictate and influence it. And of course, Bryce and I instantly bonded over our love of both 80s and 90s heavy metal and the smooth stylings of yacht rock. So, we would talk at length in terms of character themes, how they connect into the overall musical concept of Random Tropical Paradise and then Bryce would go off and do his magic and then we would meet up again. And this is what’s crazy, so, in moviemaking, nothing is ever easy, even the stuff you think will be the easiest stuff, always ends up taking the most time, but this, the score, one of the biggest parts of the film, really was! I would come into Bryce’s studio and he would play me his ideas and thoughts for characters, scenes, the overall score, and I would be like “This is perfect! That’s exactly how I was picturing that would sound when we talked about it too!” So basically, I would just come into his studio every week, eat all of his pastries, and leave. I’d get e-mails in-between or we’d talk on the phone and he’d say that he had the idea to experiment with steel guitar for one of the cues or he’s thinking about going with a hard electric guitar for another cue, at one point he described one of the cues like “a punk song sung by a barbershop quartet.” I loved it. There’s a lot of humor in the score. I’d basically talk concepts and themes with him and then let him go nuts and experiment, and what he’d come back with was magic. One time, I walked into his studio and he basically said something to the effect of, “I was working on a cue, and then I just started coming up with lyrics to it based on the movie, so I went ahead and wrote out the full song and music and produced it. What do you think of it?” And that song, “Best Man,” is the movie’s theme song now.
If you could describe Bryce’s score in a few words what would they be?
Layered. Thoughtful. Whimsical. Intelligent. Perfect.
Do you have a favorite scene musically?
The actual Best Man speech is a favorite musically. It was an idea I pitched to Bryce based on what Brooks Wheelan’s character is actually talking about in the speech and Bryce crushed it. And then the scene where the guys meet Joe Pantoliano’s character. He plays a mob boss, but he’s on vacation, so the score that Bryce came up with, where it’s very driving and forceful and has a lot of gravitas and is very Godfather-esque but then the melody is played by a steel guitar. It’s amazing. I laugh every time I hear it.
Random Tropical Paradise seems very lite and fun, along the same lines as The Hangover or Animal House. Did you go back and watch any of your favorite comedies as research before beginning work on this film?
Not specifically. Sanjeev and I had such a rich conversation over so many brilliant comedies and romantic comedies; once I watched the first cut I was pretty inspired to dive right in. In our initial discussion, we also talked a lot about our love of “all-in” genre films that were so rich in the 80’s. It’s a sensibility that you don’t see that often today and a style that is not easy to pull off. Sanjeev had done a brilliant job on Random Tropical Paradise, so it gave way for the music to have much more depth than it would normally.
Does each character have their own theme? If so, do you have a favorite?
There is a bromance theme, a love theme, a stoner/other planet type musical setting, a “mafia-on-holiday” theme (yes, that’s right), and a tropical theme that is derivative of the bromance material. My favorite would have to be the bromance theme, which is based off the first thing I wrote for the film – a song called Best Man. It really embodies the heart of the film – the depth and history of friendship, the comradery, the “looking out for/distracting your buddy” side of friendship we have all experienced, and so on. The song, when it is adapted to score, can play against the comedy in an interesting way on-screen. In some situations, Sanjeev and I would decide to have this sentimental music play against the banter on-screen to give the extra layers of the friendship so you really feel the history and sentiment between the two main characters.
You have worked with a lot of different directors/showrunners in your career. How has your experience been different working with Sanjeev as opposed to someone like Brian Trenchard-Smith, whom you worked with on the film Drive Hard?
Every film and every director is so different, which in turn, inspires different things within me. I’m genuinely interested in people, so I love watching a film then getting to know the person who has brought the whole thing to life. Brian has a great dark comedy streak in him that I really loved to play into with the music. Sanjeev has so many different facets to his work, which is reflected in Random Tropical Paradise. It’s interesting you mention Brian with Sanjeev – they are both people I had a lot of fun working with… I’m sure a good part of that is that they both gave me a lot of creative license.
What would you say one of Sanjeev’s big strengths as a director is?
His talent for “all-in” genre filmmaking. It is a rare talent and one I love working with. He also really let me explore musical ideas, no matter how weird. There’s plenty of times you don’t get that on a project, but I always believe that the project and music always benefit by giving the score room to find its own signature.
What was your favorite part about working on Random Tropical Paradise?
It was just so much fun. I loved the unusual amount of diversity we were able to inject into the score. We always had great meetings – most of the time if we were all laughing at the fusion between score and screen then we knew we were onto something. Probably my favorite thing that came of the film is Best Man. It’s a song I feel like I’ve lived from both sides and Random Tropical Paradise was a wonderful excuse to write, perform and produce it… and watch it come to life inspired by the film.
Check out this exclusive track from the film titled ‘Best Man’ : https://soundcloud.com/bryce-jacobs/best-man/s-e3LuQ