Global View Entertainment’s latest horror film, Followed, has been at the top of the box office charts since it was released, June 19th, thanks to drive-in theaters and the few theater chains that are beginning to open up. In case you aren’t familiar with the film, the official synopsis reads: When aspiring social media influencer “DropTheMike” is offered a lucrative sponsorship to grow his channel, he’s joined by his video crew on a visit to one of the most haunted hotels in America, where he’ll give his audience a horrific night of thrill-seeking the likes of which they have never seen before. What begins as a fun investigative challenge including the infamous Elevator Ritual quickly descends into a personal hell of true evil, begging the timely question: how far would you go to pursue internet fame?
Followed stars Matthew Solomon (Ballers), John Savage (The Deer Hunter), Sam Valentine (A.P. Bio), Caitlin Grace (Jill and Bobby), Tim Drier (Murder Among Friends), and Kelsey Griswold (The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story). It was directed by Antoine Le, written by Todd Klick and produced by Matthew Ryan Brewbaker, each making their feature debuts.
With the recent announcement that the film’s international sales rights have been acquired by MPI Media Group, we spoke with one of the film’s creative talents, composer Jason Soudah. Some of Jason’s other credits include Gravitas Ventures’ Braking for Whales starring Harry Potter’s Tom Felton and PBS’s Paradise Reef to name a few. In the below exclusive interview Jason discusses everything from how he got connected to the film to working with director Antoine Le. Read here:
Congrats on Followed making it to #1 at the box office. How does it feel knowing that audiences are connecting with and enjoying the film?
Thank you very much! It is really exciting!! Followed was getting great responses from audiences in the lead up to this, at festivals and at other screenings, but getting to #1 on our opening weekend is a whole new level! I am really happy about this myself. I am also delighted for the director Antoine Le, the Editor Matthew Brewbaker, the writer Todd Klick, the sound designer and re-recording mixer Pyata Germano Penedo and his assistant Christopher James Thomas – they made the movie even scarier with how awesome it all sounds – all of the actors, the VFX team, all of the crew, the producers, the marketing team, everyone involved in getting this film out there to fans – they have been relentlessly working very hard behind the scenes so they more than deserve this and continued success! I am so thankful to the fans who have been raving about this movie and spreading the word – it’s so awesome to have connected with so many people with a movie which had such humble beginnings.
How did you get approached to compose Followed? What was the initial appeal of the project?
I was initially approached by the writer, Todd Klick. We have been friends for around 10 years now, having met at a mutual friend’s party, and are both transplants to Los Angeles, having moved here primarily to pursue careers in the entertainment business. Todd has been a big supporter of my music since we met, coming to shows at Hotel Café in my singer-songwriter days, coming by to see me at Remote Control Productions when I worked there (he is a huge Hans Zimmer fan, like myself) for a tour. When Todd’s script was being made into the Followed movie, and the film makers were looking for a composer, he kindly introduced me to the director Antoine and the editor Matthew. They all came by my studio in West Hollywood and we discussed Followed. I suggested that I write a “suite” (presentation of musical ideas for the vibe/tone/themes of the movie), and then if they liked my sounds and ideas, or at least in general could see my potential for being a good collaborator and fit for the project, then I would be delighted to get involved. Thankfully they were really into what I presented to them, which was the foundation of the main theme.
The initial appeal for me was to get to work on a movie that was inspired by true events – this made the story even more bizarre and terrifying for me, both as an audience member and as composer. It was also so great to be able to work on one of Todd’s creations!
How would you describe your score for the film?
I would say my score is driving, intense, glitchy, visceral, guttural (Antoine often spoke of how he wanted to “feel” the music physically even more than it was audible), and I was trying to be as emotive as possible – whether supporting the tension and terror, or the more heart-warming moments. The soundscape is often built upon a bass hook (I grew up on a lot of Massive Attack and Nine Inch Nails), and I used a lot of delays, chopping, mangling, growling synths, ethereal pads, and atonal sounds. There are also some Hip-Hop tracks, usually for a montage or interlude – not all of these are on the score album as they were so short, but I did include the end credits song, “Problems” as well as “Feast Or Famine,” both featuring vocals by a very talented rapper friend’s alter-ego, Kingidiom. There are also moments for piano (mainly in the hip-hop), electric guitar, and string arrangements, and I do rely on melodic themes as well.
The main theme, usually playing on solo cello (which can be heard in “Logging In” and “Problems”) was based on an idea I had to translate what is known in the movie as The Korean Elevator Ritual into a melody – the ritual involves going up and down an elevator in a specific sequence of floors, and I turned those floor numbers into the melody. I presented this as part of my initial suite to Antoine, Matthew and Todd, and thankfully they were really into both the idea and the music! For the other melodic theme, which I called “Come Home,” which centers around our lead Mike and his partner Jess’s relationship as well as the relationship between our main characters. For “Come Home,” I reversed the main theme’s melody, since in the Korean Elevator Ritual you are supposed to reverse the order of floors you visit in order to get back to our world.
How much input did the film’s director, Antoine Le, have on the score? Did he have a very clear idea of how he wanted it the score to sound or did he give you more freedom to decide?
Antoine and I had a great rapport from the start. He is a huge fan of music. Antoine definitely wanted there to be hip-hop where we had it, and had great vision and instinct, which I trusted. He also allowed me the space to trust my instincts, which I really appreciated, especially since Followed was my first feature as composer (I had worked on many studio features doing additional music, and several short films and a feature-length documentary as composer, but this was a big step for me). He gave me a lot of freedom to do my first pass of scenes, whilst also guiding me to make sure certain story points were dealt with in the music at certain times the way he felt was going to work best for the story.
However, there was one time I remember where his instinct for what music to use in a scene was different to my initial thoughts: Antoine was determined that we use the “Coming Home” suite for the beautiful drone footage over Downtown Los Angeles at night (“LA Over” on the score album). I hadn’t intended this music for that scene, so at first wasn’t sure about this at all, but as soon as we tried it, it worked perfectly (especially once Matthew Brewbaker kindly re-cut the scene to be even more in time with the music without me having to tweak tempos)! Antoine was right! Antoine was always very driven towards excellence. I love working with him.
Is there a scene of sequence in the film, that you are particularly proud of, musically?
I would say I am particularly proud of, and was challenged the most by, the main chase sequence of the movie (“Who’s Following Us?”). It is a relentless, panic-fueled, anxiety-driven, fast paced scene, full of sound effects, scares, turning around on a dime. I actually did two completely different versions of this scene. We were all generally happy with the first version, but once Pyata and Christopher were doing the sound design and sound mix, it was clear to them that this original version wasn’t going to work as well as it could have with the sound effects, so Christopher made some very helpful suggestions to me for a new version, and I am so glad I went back to the drawing board! The new version, which is what made it into the movie, has way more pace as well as a few resets and rhythmic changes which help keep the scene exciting and driving.
Did you go back and watch any horror films to get inspiration for the film’s score?
I honestly didn’t. I just went with what felt right to get my initial suites going, and used those sound palettes to guide me. I have watched a lot of horror films in my life and so of course I would have been inspired subconsciously, channeling the terrors of my horror/thriller movie memories. I am very easily freaked out by horror films, especially once you get into the psychological thriller creeping up on you, as well as the big jump scares, so I took a deep dive and tried to terrorize myself as I wrote the music!
The film is told through a series of vlogs, did this format affect the way you scored the film?
Absolutely. Antoine and I had a discussion quite early on about how we should approach scoring this movie, in terms of, is it found footage and therefore just a bunch of royalty-free library music that a vlogger would use, or are we making this more of a cinematic movie experience? This was especially important for the opening (“Logging In”), and we decided that, as this footage was found by a team of producers who were making a movie with it, we had license for me to score this as a cinematic movie, from the very start. We did decide to use some library music for the vlogs (mainly the older ones that establish Drop The Mike’s character, before we are in present day). This approach seemed to be the most authentic. I also wrote a few hip-hop interludes (too short for me to justify putting on the score album) and a short hip-hop song with Kingidiom as we drive into Downtown LA (“Feast Or Famine”), which were a step out from the rest of the score.
What would be your dream project to work on? With what director?
If this question refers to any project, past or future, I would have loved to have been involved in Memento with Christopher Nolan – I think that movie had such a huge impact on me, the way the story was told was so unique and immersive – I really felt confused, like the main character, and watched this movie so many times (on VHS back in the day), and I loved the strange music as we try to figure out who can be trusted and who is manipulating! I got to (kind of) work on a Christopher Nolan project, as an intern for Hans Zimmer on Inception, which was an amazing experience, keeping Christopher’s Earl Grey thermos hot and fresh during the recording of the orchestra, and generally being on hand if the team needed anything. That was my first experience of witnessing the orchestra recording cues for a movie and it blew my mind! I am still in awe now nearly ten years later. I think my dream project would be something groundbreaking like an Inception or Memento with a director like Christopher Nolan.
Antoine Le has new projects in the pipeline, and I am very grateful that he called me to work with him again on his next movie! I can’t reveal anything about it, except that it is going to be bringing a few genres together, and as we who grew up in the UK say, it’s going to be “brilliant!”
SEE ALSO: Read our review of Followed here
The Followed score will be released digitally July 7th by Derby Zero Six Productions.
Many thanks to Jason Soudah for taking the time for this interview.