July 01, 2003

Dynamic Duo: A Composer Team On The Rise

Klimek and Heil

Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil

Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil, the composer team behind the music for Run Lola Run, are bringing a fresh approach to film scoring. Now based in Southern California, Klimek and Heil have quickly established themselves in America's film scene. They were even named in Variety's elite top "20 Creatives To Watch" list. Last year they completed the score for Fox Searchlight's successful One Hour Photo along with the indie feature drama Swimming Upstream starring Geoffrey Rush.

Other recent score work for the duo includes: Six episodes including the pilot for Jerry Bruckheimer's CBS hit TV series "Without A Trace," Run Lola Run, director Tom Tykwer's film The Princess and the Warrior, the feature Tangled, starring Rachel Leigh Cook and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers; Bang! Bang! You're Dead, directed by Guy Ferland for Showtime; and Malcolm X scribe Ernest Dickerson's Big Shot: Confessions of A Campus Bookie which scored big for F/X. Currently, they are scoring the Lions Gate film Shattered Glass due later this year while at the same time co-producing the next Pale 3 CD with Tom Tykwer and Beth Hirsch. Klimek and Heil recently talked to ASCAP's Mike Todd and Diana Szyszkiewicz about their work.

What are your backgrounds and how did you get started in the music business?

Heil: I majored in classical music production in Berlin and graduated, but never worked in the field, because at the time I left the music academy I was already playing in a very successful German band (the Nina Hagen Band, later called Spliff). The academic background was just something to fall back on and to compliment my musical and technical education.

Klimek: I started playing with pub bands in Australia when I was 17. Then I went to Germany with my brother Alf, and formed the pop band The Other Ones. After that project fell apart I got heavily involved in the Berlin electronic scene, writing and producing my own projects as well as producing many high profile DJ's. In 1996 I met Tom Tykwer. Since then I have been dubbed a film music composer.

How do you work as a team to score a project?

Heil: We once attended a seminar about team composing in order to get a few more ideas about that subject, but we realized quickly that people just seem to split up the work -- you do cues # xxx and I do # yyy. That's really not team composing. Obviously it is a rare case when we actually conceive musical ideas together, but it has happened. The usual process is that each of us writes a bunch of material, we see what works for the director and then work each other's ideas and compliment each piece of music -- a much more elaborate approach, especially since we sometimes throw it back and forth several times. But this way we really get the results we wouldn't get when working separately. There wouldn't be much point to the team if we didn't work through each other's filters. Sometimes it happens that one of us discovers a little motif in the other guy's demo that he had already dismissed, and these newly appreciated motifs have risen to quite prominent status in a film score now and then.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of working together as a team?

Klimek: An obvious advantage is that in a team it is twice as likely that one member has a good idea at any given point. And the workload of all these meetings and keeping the stuff together is shared. We still mix our music and do a lot of the musical sound design. Due to the high share of electronics in our sound, that seems imperative. Creating and tweaking a sound is sometimes the whole composition.

Heil: Obviously we don't have exactly the same tastes, so it can happen that we're not on the same page with a piece. But in our field that's not too much of a nuisance, because we always have a coach: the director. In a line of work where neither of us has the last word on anything, there aren't many arguments. There is also a lot of trust and respect for each other that helps overcome petty difficulties.

How did you get the chance to score Run Lola Run and One Hour Photo?

Heil: In 1996 Johnny met Tom Tykwer and played him a project we had done together (Babyloon). Tom was looking for composers to team up with and gave us the chance to work on Winter Sleepers. When I moved to Santa Barbara in 1997, Tom gave us the screenplay for Run Lola Run. A little more than a year later he actually agreed to come to Santa Barbara for the whole process of music writing and producing! He had to leave behind the post-production's day to day operations for about 10 days -- twice -- in order to do that. It made sense, because the music is so important to the movie, but it also showed his confidence in our team.

Klimek: One Hour Photo was not easy. Despite the fact that we had a ton more experience than three years earlier, we really didn't have a major U.S. movie on our list of credits that we had done without Tom Tykwer. We had to work hard to earn One Hour Photo director Mark Romanek's trust, but it was one of those long and sometimes frustrating processes that are rewarded with a truly excellent result.

Any aspirations to release your own CD of original music, perhaps in the style of Run Lola Run?

Klimek: We have been planning to do such a thing with Tom Tykwer under the name Pale 3. That's the team that composed the scores for Winter Sleepers, Run Lola Run and The Princess And The Warrior. These scores are quite different from each other, and we don't necessarily think of Run Lola Run as the defining style for our group. Instead it seems to have become a defining style in the industry ever since it became a hit here in the U.S. That's actually very flattering, but we have more to offer than to re-hash it over and over again. A big advantage of film scoring is that you can show a much wider range than in the music industry, where fans are easily turned off if you change direction.