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John Ottman and Bryan Singer | Gimme a C... a Bouncy C
an emily blunt article





The first "soundtrack" I received was The Beatles' Help album. I played it so much the album started to skip. In between the "songs" were these delightful instrumental pieces that reminded me of the film and the adrenaline within the film. About 1000 soundtracks later, you could call me an addict.

Soundtracks have a supreme power in a film. Since the medium was born music has been there guiding audiences' emotion and accenting the drama. Silent films have scores. The piano that accompanied a print usually came with the studio issued sheet music, complete with side-notes on where the theater should add sound effects.

Music helps drive a scene, define a character, and lead us into the spot of the mind the director was heading...

One of my favorite musical manipulators is John Ottman. I discovered him via The Usual Suspects soundtrack. I give this cd away to this day as gifts, instead of wine, to my more arsty fartsy friends. There's nothing like popping in that soundtrack and riding a bike about town! Everyone looks guilty of some sinister deed. Which of course was the theme; confusion, suspicion and suspense. Try it - trust me.

Like all composers, John Ottman's work isn't all on Academy Award ® winners. But his soundtracks are always lasting and able to stand on their own.

He has worked on several horror films like, Halloween H2O and Pumkin as well as dark comedy like The Cable Guy. I enjoyed Eight Legged Freaks for the B horror flick it was and I'm quite sure Ottman's soundtrack assisted in the enjoyment. He also has a long-term relationship with director and cuteysteak Bryan Singer as both editor and composer on Suspects, Apt Pupil and X-Men 2. Having been in an edit session for both the red carpet shorts here at, I can appreciate the load this man must be under. Yet immense pressure allotted his latest double duty piece, X-Men 2, is still perfect.

I sat in on a question and answer session the two gave for The Society of Composers and Lyricists the other night after screening X-Men 2. They talked about having a shorthand and John's genius.

Singer admitted he kind of strong armed Ottman in a semi - "you'll never work in this town-ish" way for their first dual role collaboration, Public Access after the editor and composer he's hired were not working out. And lucky for Singer, Ottman agreed.

Their relationship on The Usual Suspects created a plethora of careers thanks to the pristine bits around the talented cast. The unrealized "actors," which in this case as both editor and composer were John Ottman, were just as important as the devilishly complex script. Editing is so very important to punctuate a director's vision and the music, when done right, smoothly links scenes and keeps the flow of segments. The Usual Suspects is a shining example of that power and in this case produced by the same man.

Ottman talked about the character themes he tried to develop - before scenes dissipated - in X-Men 2. He said the caveat was the short amount of time vs the depth the characters needed to distinguish themselves. He also admitted there's a restyled version of Mozart's Requiem within all the mayhem that nicely linked the sequences.

He also talked about the pressures of big budget studio films and the absolute deadlines versus independent film where schedules can be manipulated or stretched if time is needed. The two joked about sharing a particularly intense powwow session for X-Men 2 under the influence of a calming solution that helped smooth the score along...Singer just agreed to anything that evening awaking with no recollection of his approvals! The audience of peers were in hysterics. Tricks of the trades the jolly two insisted. The stress can be strenuous and Singer joked Ottman's technique wasn't unusual...some composers serve wine, others like Danny Elfman serve directors, like Tim Burton, a couple of top-shelf martinis so they can calmly get through a score session. My editor Carrie Schultz and I get whacked off two-dolla Shaw and my graphics - suddenly - get a tad Pythonesque while we roar with giddy glee...It's called taking a tedious situation and making it fun-o-rama.

Ottman insists as also the editor on X-Men 2 he didn't edit with a composer's eye, but went on to say he did leave a few scenes pregnant for drama sake knowing later he'd accent with an oboe or cymbal. And when he'd play back the synthesized score versions that would later be orchestrated, he would add snippets of instruments to grandly paint the audio visual for Singer.

It was a delight to hear how a score comes together from the "temps" they throw on a film to play for studio execs pre-final edit, to the "cartoons" a composer/editor gets before the real-life actors and stunt people get ahold of a scene. They joked about the opening CGI heavy scene in X-Men 2 with the character Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming). It was so delayed from the effects department that neither of them actually saw the scene complete until ten days prior to the film's could see Singer re-sweat over that little scene while Ottman squirmed reliving the stress segments in his mind. Ah, wilderness .



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