Mission: Possible

Joe Kraemer ’93
Joe Kraemer ’93

Scoring Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation was the opportunity of a lifetime for Joe Kraemer ’93. The music of any Mission: Impossible film will inevitably be tied to the iconic theme penned by Lalo Schifrin for the original TV show. The challenge for any composer is how to incorporate that very recognizable theme while also creating a new and memorable movie score. Kraemer is the fourth composer to meet this challenge, following in the footsteps of Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, and Michael Giacchino. In the opinion of many critics and fans, Kraemer’s score to Rogue Nation is the best yet.

Kraemer’s score was recorded with an 86-piece orchestra at Abbey Road Studios, Studio One in London. Using a full orchestral palette for this score was a dream come true for Kraemer.

“I have spent most of my professional life working toward the goal of scoring a sweeping action film with a symphony orchestra,” he says. “I’ve devoted years of study to the works of the great concert composers like Stravinsky, Copland, Mahler, and Holst, as well as such film composers as John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and David Shire.”

After graduating from Berklee in 1993, Kraemer moved to Hollywood with the dream of a career like that of his idol, John Williams. His first major break came in 2000 with The Way of the Gun, directed by his longtime friend Christopher McQuarrie. Despite critical acclaim for his score, more than a decade passed before Kraemer landed his next major film, the 2012 thriller Jack Reacher, again directed by McQuarrie. When McQuarrie was chosen to direct the latest Mission: Impossible film, Kraemer was handed the highly sought-after scoring role.

He freely acknowledges that McQuarrie’s loyalty to him was a major factor in his landing the three biggest assignments of his career. “With technology leveling the playing field, and with so many talented people available too, it’s our relationships and loyalties that are key in this business,” Kraemer says.

Kraemer’s 22-year journey in Los Angeles has reinforced his belief in Malcolm Gladwell’s concept that it takes 10,000 hours to reach the level of mastery in your field. At times, Kraemer may have felt that his mission was nearly impossible, however, his passion for film music was never in doubt. “I spent several years making mockups of John Williams’s scores in my spare time trying to get the samples to sound like live instruments,” he says. “I’ve also scored nearly 40 TV movies for the Hallmark Channel alone. You have to be dedicated for the long haul.” Kraemer put in his 10,000 hours and more. But just as important, he had the patience to still be standing at the crossroads where preparation could meet opportunity.