Alumni Profile: Lucas Vidal '06 and Steve Dzialowski '07
In town for the Boston Ballet premier of a piece he wrote for his cousin, dancer/choreographer Yury Yanowsky, Berklee alumnus Lucas Vidal '06 stopped by his alma mater, along with his Music and Motion Productions cofounder Steve Dzialowski '07. Vidal's film scoring abilities and Dzialowski's business sense have proven to be a very successful combination. Two movies Vidal has scored—Cold Light of Day, starring Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver, and The Raven, starring John Cusack—are being released this summer, and they have already moved on to other projects, including three feature films and a commercial. Vidal, from Spain, and Dzialowski, from Belgium, took time out of their busy schedule to sit down with us to talk about their careers and Berklee's influence on them.
What was the process for scoring Cold Light of Day?
Vidal: Two years ago, they started shooting the film and I met one of the producers. He introduced me to the filmmaker, and then we started having some creative conversations. I went to the shooting. Then I did the music last summer, and we recorded at Abbey Road in London. It was a long process, because they did a lot of editing. It was an action film with a lot of chase scenes. It was kind of difficult, but a lot of fun.
The Raven has a darker sound than Cold Light. Is it a challenge to compose for very different movies?
Vidal: Before I start a project I'm always doing research to try to find the right sound for the film. It's very important to spend some time thinking of your themes and also how the music is going to evolve throughout the film. So it's very important to talk to the filmmaker, and for The Raven it was James McTeigue. He did films like V for Vendetta—he knows what he's doing. I learned a lot, especially to see the big structure of the film.
How is ballet different? Are choreographers as involved as directors?
Vidal: For ballet I have a lot of conversations with the choreographer, but they give you more freedom, because the music is the motor of the story, whereas in film, the dialogue and the actors are the motor. So they tell you, "I need a pas de deux, and then I need a big finale, and the piece needs to be five minutes," and it gives you more creativity in terms of what to do with the music. I think that music for ballet helps me understand how important rhythm is, which translates to films, too.
What are you working on right now?
Dzialowski: First of all we're working on Invasor, a Spanish movie, produced by the guys who did Celda 211, which was one of the highest grossing films in Spain. The other one is called After Party; it's a horror movie. It's interesting, because it's a totally new style for Lucas; it's dub-step music. And a commercial with Julio Medem, one of the most renowned filmmakers in Spain. And then we started working on a career-changing project, but unfortunately we can't announce it until after Cannes.
Do you find that it's difficult to be taken seriously as a young film scorer?
Vidal: Not anymore. When we were 23, 24, and I was building my filmography, it was definitely more difficult to talk to producers.The fact that I looked like Ashton Kutcher when he was 11 years old didn't help. Now that we have more projects, I think it's the opposite, because they love the energy. If you've done 100 films, one more film is one more film, but I've done 12 films and every film is a new world. I love that.
For students who are just graduating from Berklee, how do you suggest that they get their foot in the door?
Vidal: The most important thing to me is to make sure that they are properly trained, that they don't waste their time. I remember on the weekends, I would go to the library and study Wagner until late at night, while all my friends were partying. I really wanted to learn as much as I could, because there are so many opportunities that Berklee has: studios, students, different departments. You can do whatever you want, so it would be sad to waste time doing other things. And then once they graduate, it's a matter of always trying to meet good, talented people and continue learning.
Dzialowski : I think being patient is key, and understanding that things will happen, but it's step by step and it's a matter of hard work and dedication. At the end of the day what I really think is that it's a numbers game: it's the last one standing. If you have talent and a good work ethic, there's no way you don't make it. But it's not easy. If you're lucky enough to get one project, you think that you're already there, and that everybody is going to open their arms, but the truth is that it's about looking for a lot of opportunities.
How large is your production company now?
Dzialowski: Right now we are between five and six people at the studio. Usually the way we work is that we have a bunch of people on payroll and the rest of them are freelance, because every project is so different. When we were working on Cold Light of Day and The Raven simultaneously, we had 34 people: orchestrators, music editors, electronic producers, engineers. . . Most of the people we work with are Berklee alums—very often not even on purpose, it's just that the way that we do things is so similar, because we have the same background. We actually take two Berklee interns every semester. The company is small enough for them to come in and see a little bit of everything, from the business side to the more creative side.
Vidal: After all that Berklee did for us, we thought that the least we could do was to help students, and the best way to help is to show them what we do and make sure that they are ready for the real world.
How large a part has Berklee played in your lives?
Vidal: I was very fortunate to have an amazing teacher here, Dennis Leclaire, who helped me a lot with all my orchestration classes, conducting, and composing. Every time I come to Boston I meet with him to continue my learning process. He's a genius. He's really the best teacher I've ever had in my life. I was extremely lucky to have him in one class, and approach him, and then start having private lessons with him.
Steve and I met in English as a Second Language with Pratt Bennet. It was the only C I've ever had in my life. Steve was in music business, he knew a lot about classical music and film, so it was a perfect fit. It's not just a matter of the teachers that you have; it's also the students and the different kinds of majors that are around. Those guys are going to be the ones running the industry in the future. That's one of the reasons I wanted to be at Berklee, because I knew I was going to be surrounded by the best people.
Dzialowski: You never know who you're sitting next to.