Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Fool's Hope

I feel compelled to add one more post before I close my eyes for the day...

Creating things is difficult. Creating things in which corporations, artists, writers, accountants, estates, and fans have a vested interest is well near impossible. I know what The Hobbit team is feeling tonight. Maybe not in exactitude, maybe not in magnitude, but I've walked this road and have felt its grim contours. I still have that mud on my feet. I know what it's like to invest your heart and soul in something, and to see it gravely wounded by a business inclined -- perhaps understandably -- to consider everything in terms of numbers.

I am incredibly sorry for Guillermo Del Toro tonight. I'm sure he must feel that he's let the world down, even though he's suffered far more than any of us. I wish him peace. I have nothing but respect for GDT. He's an articulate, intelligent artist, and has treated his fan base with respect and candor. Surely he'll be back in the saddle in no time, and will continue to be a powerfully creative force for decades to come.

For The Hobbit and its captain-less crew I would wish perseverance. I'm still too young and too fresh to have accumulated the battle scars that eventually decorate all creative types. But I can speak from recent experience. Sometimes projects sail right off the rails only to come back far better for the experience. It can happen, I've seen it! Although Peter Jackson now seems unlikely to step in as director, he has shown himself to be a fine judge of emerging talent. Just as Del Toro would have made the perfect Del Toro version of The Hobbit, so can Director X make the perfect Director X version of The Hobbit.

I have not spoken to Howard Shore regarding this situation, though I will next week. But I know that Shore's love for this material is rooted in his abiding admiration for J.R.R. Tolkien's craft. I haven't a doubt that he will remain involved in this production.

Tonight's despondency is perfectly understandable, this is not the end of this tale. "... In the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer."


The Departure of Del Toro Pt. 2

An update to the earlier piece:

Although a number of readers have suggested Peter Jackson as an obvious choice to step in for GDT on The Hobbit, deadline.com claims that this will not happen. PJ's manager Ken Kamis is quoted as saying: "Peter has and has had obligations and commitments to other films that would make it impossible for him to direct The Hobbit at this time, even if it was offered, which it hasn't been. I've been quietly working on setting up a film for him to direct while Guillermo would have been directing The Hobbit. What you saw in their respective statements must be taken at face value. All of that said, Peter and Fran's commitment to The Hobbit is total and they will do everything necessary to protect the franchise and the investment made by New Line, Warners and MGM."

The Departure of Del Toro

The One Ring is down at the moment, so I'm reposting this joint release from Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro here.

GDT: "In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming 'The Hobbit,' I am faced with the hardest decision of my life. After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures. I remain grateful to Peter, Fran and Philippa Boyens, New Line and Warner Brothers and to all my crew in New Zealand. I’ve been privileged to work in one of the greatest countries on earth with some of the best people ever in our craft and my life will be forever changed. The blessings have been plenty, but the mounting pressures of conflicting schedules have overwhelmed the time slot originally allocated for the project. Both as a co-writer and as a director, I wlsh the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product. I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director."

PJ: "We feel very sad to see Guillermo leave the Hobbit, but he has kept us fully in the loop and we understand how the protracted development time on these two films, due to reasons beyond anyone’s control – has compromised his commitment to other long term projects. The bottom line is that Guillermo just didn’t feel he could commit six years to living in New Zealand, exclusively making these films, when his original commitment was for three years. Guillermo is one of the most remarkable creative spirits I’ve ever encountered and it has been a complete joy working with him. Guillermo’s strong vision is engrained into the scripts and designs of these two films, which are extremely fortunate to be blessed with his creative DNA. Guillermo is co-writing the Hobbit screenplays with Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and myself, and happily our writing partnership will continue for several more months, until the scripts are fine tuned and polished. New Line and Warner Bros will sit down with us this week, to ensure a smooth and uneventful transition, as we secure a new director for 'The Hobbit.' We do not anticipate any delay or disruption to ongoing pre-production work."

Please note that none of the above currently has any bearing on Howard Shore's involvement. He is set to score the two Hobbit films, same as ever.

Turntable Twilight

Our resident Eclipse enthusiast Alex writes today to alert us to his latest Amazon find -- Howard Shore is going retro and will be offering the newest Twilight score on vinyl!

I wouldn't call this a growing trend per se, but Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's score to The Dark Knight was likewise released on vinyl year before last. Not sure if these products are aimed at audiophiles, djs, or cover art enthusiasts, but they are pretty cool.

Those of you too young to have ever encountered vinyl LPs ... don't tell me, because it makes me feel old!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Return to Form

It was pointed out to me the other day that it's been quite a while since I enjoyed an outright bit of sneak-peek teasing.

Ok, then...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Krakow 2009 Doc

Łukasz Waligórski has sent over this wonderful (and lengthy -- over 51 minutes) film that covers the 2009 Film Music Festival in Krakow. Most of the piece is in Polish, though some English pops up here and there. No matter how much of the language one picks up, this film remains a beautiful homage to a festival that celebrates music in film not as a commercial product, not as a populist cash cow, but as an emerging art form that is as related to the classical masters of yesteryear as it is to modern culture.

I greatly regret missing the festival this year, but am so happy to relive last year's memories thanks to Łukasz.

Vamp it Up

The Eclipse OST cover art has been made public via Amazon. Thanks to Alex for bringing it to our attention!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hobbit Talk 16 -- A Thief in the Night

It has been decided that our fine readership should proceed with an en masse review/discussion of The Hobbit. This series of Hobbit Talk threads will now refresh bi-weekly as a new chapter of the book is introduced.

For the sake of clarity, let's please use this thread solely for Hobbit Talk, and the Ongoing Discussion for our general chitchat.

And now, on with Chapter Sixteen, A Thief in the Night!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Krakow No Go

Facebook picture by Dan Goldwasser

If the past years on this project have taught me anything, it's that you never know what's going to happen. Sadly, I've had to miss this year's performance of ROTK in Krakow due to illness. I'm fine, I'm fine, don't worry about me. Already on the mend. (Varèse Sarabande's Robert Townson looks pretty broken up in the background, however! ;) )

On the upside, this means that I'll be seeing ROTK Live for the first time this fall when we premiere the book in London!

My deepest apologies to everyone I was planning to chat with at the beautiful Krakow festival. I hope to be able to catch up with you all soon.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Howard Shore's official website has slightly updated the layout on its splash page with additional links and images. Some of our regular readers will be happy to see that their concert pics are now featured prominently. Check it out!

And speaking of appearances, expect this blog spruced up a bit in the coming weeks when we begin to coordinate with the book's new look.

Yesterday's flurry of activity involved discussion on varnishes (again) and head/tail bands, so you know we're close now! I'm still a bit behind on emails at the moment, but will try to catch up over the coming days. Thanks for bearing with me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Metric Conversion

I'm posting this via phone, so the formatting may be a bit odd. Apologies.

The following comes from www.ilovemetric.com ... and I can confirm that Canadian band Metric has indeed done a version of one of Shore's Eclipse themes for the film's soundtrack.

Not a bad tune, either!

Anyway, thought you'd like to know!


Yes ... It's official.  Our song "All Yours", co-written with the legendary film composer Howard Shore and performed by Metric, is going to be featured in the movie Eclipse, the next installment in the worldwide phenomenon known as the Twilight saga.
I've always wanted to write music for film, but I never expected to start with something on this scale, so you can imagine how surprised I was when out of nowhere I got a phone call from Howard Shore, who I'd never met or even spoken with before. Most people know him as the man who wrote the acclaimed score for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I grew up on Shore's earlier works--  his score for David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch in collaboration with jazz great Ornette Coleman still stands as one of the most ambitious & unusual scores out there. 

To my amazement, Howard was calling to ask me to work with him on his latest project: scoring the next Twilight movie, Eclipse. He wanted Jimmy & I to write the theme song for the pivotal last scene in the movie, integrating the music from his existing score into a composition that would express the emotional ending of the film. Seriously?!?!  The lyrics would have to be in the voice of the main character Bella, and we had to stay within the confines of harmonic and melodic themes Howard had in mind for the last scene. 

We've had songs from our albums licensed for use in movies & tv shows before, but composing for a score was completely different.  Every day as the song progressed--from sitting at the piano with Jimmy in NYC recording acoustic versions and reading the script (see photo below), to working at Howard's studio upstate, to tracking vocals at our own studio Giant in Toronto, to mixing at Electric Lady with Howard on the line from Abbey Road in London-- every step of the way we did our best to fulfill Howard's vision of the film's last moments.

Still, everybody knows the movie business is insanely competitive, and for things like this, it's never a sure thing until the movie is done and the picture is locked...

But as of today, it's happening.  Our song, "All Yours", is in the movie and will be the lead off track from the soundtrack, to be released on June 8th.

I don't have to tell you what an honor it was to be hand picked by Howard to do this work. We are massively grateful for the opportunity & hope you all enjoy Metric's first ever film composition.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book Update, May 2010

For the moment, it seems the world has stopped spinning quite so furiously. After several months of madly intense work, I think I'm finally able to sit back, sip at some fresh air, and provide a fresh Book Update. Honestly, I can't remember where we were at the last significant update, so maybe I'll backtrack a little...

For the better pa rt of 2010, I've been rising between four and five a.m. in order to catch the London workday before noon. Gary Day-Ellison would already have been up and at the coalface for a few hours at this point, and would generally have materials ready for me to review as soon as my alarm sounded. Most of these first-thing emails were marked 'Java Time' ... I suspect it may have been Gary's way of reminding himself that my responses, when they arrived, were likely to be either incredibly brief, or horribly misspelled and unfocused ... Or maybe both!  Why can't early morning come later in the day!? Anyway, as soon as the real java began brewing, I think I began to make a little more sense. You'd have to ask Gary!

We would continue on sending files back at forth for the better part of the day... sometimes to early evening London time, sometimes to the middle of the night. What was discussed? Everything! Placement of images, the ratio of sketches to film stills, new photography of original LOTR props, never-before-seen work from John Howe and Alan Lee, fonts, caps, music examples (which we nicknamed 'the tadpoles'), relative visual weight of recto versus verso, icons, emblems, the significance of color in Tolkien's writing. John Howe gave us an FTP full of imagery. Alan Lee delivered hard drives packed with design work and finished pieces  -- everything from large, frame-worthy illustrations to silly margin doodles (one John Howe doodle shows 'Sauron's Mace' ... a small can of anti-mugger mace spray bedecked with a commercialized Eye of Sauron logo). We were still discovering things up until last week. We had access to so much beautiful work, it was almost ridiculous.

When the day's visual work concluded, I switched gears and began working through reviews and business affairs with New York. Paper weights, cloth choices, page signatures, inks, shipping routes -- and yes, the all-important licenses and legalities -- were all on the docket here.

This would take me a bit past dinner time, at which point I'd do final reviews on whatever I'd not yet checked during the morning. Occasionally this involved some rewriting on my part. It was always helpful to remember that a book is a physical thing, and a physical thing can only hold so many words in so many places. We tend to think of books -- even those with images -- as limitless 'thought depositories,' but a word in a book has real dimensions and properties. It's no longer just an avatar for a meaning. Once printed, it's a solid object. This isn't to say any heavy rewrites were ever necessitated. In fact, seldom was more than a small rethink required ... and that's good, because my brain cells were generally screaming for mercy at this point in the day. This work would usually take me to 10 or 11 at night, at which point sleep would step in and make its presence known.

If all the above sounds like the precise -- if demanding -- workings of a well-oiled machine, then it's only because I'm leaving out the following: software issues, FTP overloads, tech-frying lightning strikes, blizzards, illnesses, hospitals ... and yes, even masked gunmen! ... all of which conspired to make this process a little more exciting than it should have been. I'm not saying this was ever a 'troubled production.' Far from it, in fact. But the more people a project involves, the more complete the spectrum of human experiences will inevitably be. And that means that every once in a while you'll be hung up by some bizarre circumstance that leaves you scratching your head and wondering if the universe is testing you. I suppose in reality, we never faced anything all that out of the ordinary ... the masked gunmen thing did feel like it was pushing the limit though!

But we made it, and as of last week, the book's interior layout is locked and has been delivered to the printers. As I announced earlier, our legal mumbo jumbo is all sorted and we've struck all necessary deals for licensing, royalties, copyrights, manufacturing, publication, distribution, etc. We have our UPC codes generated and our ISBN is registered. In fact, I think the only thing we haven't yet signed, sealed, and delivered is my contract. But that's no cause for concern, and will soon be on its way as well.

In the design world, we need only to address a few details on our dust jacket, and to address our end papers. Oh yeah, and I think we need to finish the sticker that goes on the shrink wrap. For some reason, I like the idea of ending with something as innocuous as the sticker. A little digestif to conclude the creative work.

This summer will be dedicated to printing and shipping ... and press! Our little (or not so little) online community knows all about this book, but now it's time to take it a bit wider. I don't think that will be difficult at all. As you're all well-aware, I can blab on about this project for hours. However, I feel my enthusiasm is justified. This is something so unique. The writing is by turns narrative, analytical and journalistic. The layout is both informative and flat-out beautiful. I always used a couple of key phrases when describing my initial concept for the book. I wanted a piece that existed somewhere between a coffee table book and a textbook. I wanted something that encompassed as many art forms as it could, from literature, to photography, to filmmaking, to storytelling, to illustrations, to music. If we were going to dance about architecture, we were going to do it well! And I think we have. This book is now everything I ever dreamed it would be. And in an atmosphere of cynicism, where there's supposedly nothing ever new under the sun, we've made something that you've never seen before.

I'm hoping that this post will mark a change for me. I *think* this may be the last post where I'm purposefully a bit vague. The book is now real, and I can start speaking about it in specific terms. Won't that be a treat! :) I guess a few things are better left for press releases, but the 'we'll see' and 'hinting' aspects may soon be a thing of the past.

You know, until The Hobbit gets rolling with some authority ...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hobbit Talk 15 -- The Gathering of the Clouds

It has been decided that our fine readership should proceed with an en masse review/discussion of The Hobbit. This series of Hobbit Talk threads will now refresh bi-weekly as a new chapter of the book is introduced.

For the sake of clarity, let's please use this thread solely for Hobbit Talk, and the Ongoing Discussion for our general chitchat.

And now, on with Chapter Fifteen, The Gathering of the Clouds!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ongoing Discussion Thread [May, 2010]

The book's internal layout is locked; on to exteriors! Updates when my mind can manage ...

April 2010 thread here.
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