ComingSoon’s Jeff Ames got the chance to talk with The Lost City composer Pinar Toprak about her work on the comedy adventure. Pinar also composed the score for Captain Marvel, the TV series Krypton and Stargirl, among many other projects.
Starring Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, and Daniel Radcliffe, The Lost City follows “a reclusive romance novelist on a book tour with her cover model gets swept up in a kidnapping attempt that lands them both in a cutthroat jungle adventure.”
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Jeff Ames: What was your approach to the score for The Lost City?
Pinar Toprak: I wanted to create something that was a little bit of a homage to certain genres like Indiana Jones, you know, something that is hopefully timeless. And also, something modern that’s a blend of a comedy and drama — something with a lot of layers that’s not just comedy, but also features quite a bit of heart and depth in it as well. So, I wanted to make sure I captured all of those emotions.
How do you find that perfect balance between all the different genres?
You know, it’s a bit of an emotional Jenga [laughs]. I think it’s really important to capture the right theme, that’s an important element for any score. Once we home in on the thematic material, it’s a matter of making sure the instrumentation is appropriate and the comedy is carved at just the right amount.
The film is super funny, the dialogue is great. So, it’s a matter of making sure nothing interrupts the jokes and allows the actors to shine. A lot of times the music takes turns. You know, you go from adventure to comedy to dark — it’s all about timing. It usually just boils down to trial and error.
In terms of the general feel of the score, I wrote five demos to get the job — I really wanted it. I was asked the same question you asked me, you know, can we feel action, adventure, fantasy, comedy and drama and all of these things. I said, well, maybe I can do all of those things. First and foremost, I had to make sure for myself that I could do it and then make sure the directors and everyone felt more at ease. Two of those themes that I wrote for the demos are actually the main themes for the film.
In this instance, we you given footage or a script to look at?
I did have a script to read and then I had a wonderful first meeting with the directors. That was super inspiring. I wrote the main theme in my very first demo as soon as I hung up from our Zoom meeting. Aaron and Adam [Nee] were really fantastic, and I loved them as human beings first and foremost. As directors, they have really vast knowledge of film scores and an appreciation of the things I loved growing up. Not just films scores, but classical repertoire and a lot of things that really helped me get to know them creatively. So, I met them and wrote the main theme in one day.
Did you start with a specific moment in the film and branch out from there?
Once I got the cut, the whole scoring individual scenes process went quite fast. I think I started from the top. It was important to establish Loretta’s theme and those aspects just to make sure they blended well. We knew what we were going to do with the bigger moments, so it was really about cracking the code for those moments at the beginning of the film where we establish all the characters.
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Was there a scene that was difficult to score?
Every scene had, I don’t want to say difficulties, but every scene had a lot in them. A lot of twists and turns. So, that was really the challenge. I would say figuring out a theme for Daniel Radcliffe’s character wasn’t necessarily a challenge, but it was a puzzle trying to figure out his sound. I hadn’t written a theme for him before the film was shot, so getting that was a little difficult. You know, villain, but not too villain — I don’t want to give it away, but just making sure we’re threading that balance.
Was there any instruments you had to learn on the fly when composing this film?
Not quite. Our instrumentation is a pretty traditional approach. Some of our tracks have some hybrid elements, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it was out of the ordinary in any way. For me, it was just important to get the themes and the general vibe right and be able to create a score that’s timeless. If you watch the film in thirty or forty years, hopefully it holds up.
Is there a track or specific sequence you want audiences to pay attention to?
Near the end of the film there are quite a few scenes where everything kind of grows. One particular moment, I’m going to call it the rebirth moment, that scene came out really nicely. It’s a very delicate moment. The big stuff is fun, but the delicate, intimate moments are very special.
Once you’re done with a massive project like this, how much time do you need before you move onto the next score?
It can be intense, but I rarely have the luxury of time, which is a good problem to have. I like it that way, to be honest. There is a kind of project blues that happens with each project because it’s such an emotional experience. You’re living and breathing with these characters for so long and then you mix and record and then it’s all done. So, I think the longer you stay in that phase, the more dangerous it can get. So, I like having other things to jump on right away. It keeps the energy going. For me, that’s the exciting part, doing different things and different projects.
Do you have any projects coming up?
Yeah, Slumberland, starring Jason Mamoa, directed by Francis Lawrence, coming out later this year. Also, Shotgun Wedding with Jennifer Lopez, and I’m working on Stargirl Season 3 and a lot of other TV projects and a video game that shall go unnamed for now.