Tzang Merwyn Tong’s Faeryville is a dystopian teen movie, a stylish coming of age film about youth making sense of their idealistic dreams in our increasingly surreal world – a fictional manifestation of very real issues prevalent in the Post 9-11 world. The movie features an original score composed by Alex Oh.
Oh is one of Singapore’s most prolific and versatile film composers. His philosophy to scoring is telling the story of the film through music. In his career, he has scored many award-winning features, ranging from comedy, family-oriented, action films like Taxi!Taxi!, My Dog Dou Dou, Imperfect, It’s A Great Great World to darker films like Bait 3D, Rule Number One and The Maid . He was nominated for Best Original Music Score from Asian Television Awards in 2004 for the TV Series, The Frontline.
Oh’s music score complements the movie perfectly with its edgy synthesiser ambience and choral nuances providing a contrast between innocence and danger. Also included is the dynamic driving “Baptism of Fire” which feature Jessel Yam and Alan Chan on guitars, Meryvn Lim on bass and John Ho on drums.
Read below what Oh thought and felt about working on Faeryville.
As the film’s composer, you’re probably one of the first few people to have seen Faeryville, edited and cut. What are your thoughts when you watched the first cut of the film?
Faeryville turned out beautifully. It has lots of depth. I like the characters, the Nobodies, Laer, Chloe, Belle, Fraternity members. There are debates on whether society is becoming or has already become dystopian. I like how Tzang uses the film to address certain issues we are facing in our society. In that aspect, I think he is successful in bringing these to light, as many will find after watching the film that they can relate to it someway or another.
Do you have a philosophy bout your music scoring?
I try to find where the heart of the movie is. I will watch the film with the Director and talk about it. I want to understand the film from his/her perspective and hear what he has to say. Why he/she wants to make the film? What is it about? What is it the story that he’s telling? Once I have an understanding about the film, I will let the film speak to me. I do not want to come with any pre-conceived ideas.
Is there anything you set out to create with the score of Faeryville – a dystopian teen movie? What kind of world are you trying to take us to? How does dystopia sound like?
I remember Tzang once telling me that he based the colour palette of Faeryville on catholic imagery. He had this vision of saint-like rebels in a psychological post modern landscape.
I started working on the opening scene as I was very inspired after watching the first cut. In the first cue, the Faeryville theme, a four note motif, is played by a solo cello. This represent the voice of the misfits (the Nobodies), a feeling of being alone and trapped in a place they cannot get out of. We also have the low strings, brass, choir with low male menacing choral chant to bring audience into a world that’s cold, oppressive, unnatural, serious, brooding, multi-layered-ness, the quality of inevitable fate of doom with larger hands at work. This set the tone for the rest of the film.
Do you have a preferred method to how you work?
Yes, I prefer not to read scripts. I like to watch the film and wait for the moment of discovery so that I can be as surprised as the audience and know where the music should be placed and end.
You’ve worked on OST and film scores for a decade or more now, with 16 feature films under your belt. How is Faeryville different?
I will describe Faeryville as illuminating. Tzang lived and breathed Faeryville for 8 years and revised the script a number of times to perfect it. I do not know or have worked with any other director that has worked on a film that long and for that I greatly admire him. When I first watched it, I loved how it was shot, the colours, story and to me, the film is very much Tzang coming of age with his craft and presenting his thoughts to the world. All I can say, it’s a great movie. I only hope that the music compliment and is worthy of the subject.
I understand the work took 4 months. (or is it more?) Is there a reason for this length of time?
Faeryville was a difficult film to score. Tzang and I chose to work on it carefully and slowly. It’s very personal to him and we spent most of the time trying to get the right balance of emotional feeling and intelligent ideas. The film is very thought provoking and we want to give audiences the space to think, and not just to be told what to think. if you make it too emotional, it overpowers the scene, and that doesn’t work for a film like Faeryville. There were days where we know the music was not working at certain scenes so we have to re-work it. Some days, we know the music hit the right spot. There was a lot of trial and error and getting it right.
Was it difficult building a sonic universe for FAERYVILLE? Why?
The film does produce a number of challenges. Mainly it’s the balance that we talked about earlier. Getting the right colours (sound) that suits the film. It’s very delicate. Tzang wanted the music not to intrude into the dialogue and at certain scenes, he wanted the score to be intelligent rather than emotional.
This is your first time working with Tzang. What’s your working relationship like?
I think it’s great and a good start. There was one particular scene he asked if I know what it means. I just turned to him and gave him the answer and he was shocked! Since then, I think he realised we are on the same wavelength and share certain beliefs and this does help in the working relationship.
In your opinion, what is Faeryville about?
I believe it is everyone’s right to be free, to be who they really are, to not conform for the sake of fitting in, conspiracies, rebellion, fighting for a cause.
Live your life not someone else’s life. Free your mind.
Why should audiences pay attention to it or Why is it important. that a film like Faeryville is made.
Faeryville address a number of issues. Bullying, class segmentation, mind control, behaviour alteration, conspiracies. These are issues that are very real in the world whether we realise it or not. It will be good for people to watch the film and think about it.
Any advice to filmmakers who want to work with you on music?
Be open, let us explore together and come up with a score that’s unique and best for the film. Let me tell your story with music.
There are tons of films waiting to be scored. What do you look for in a project to take on?
Great storyline if not lots of drama or romance. I will love to score a movie that has Dragons, folklore or magic. Till date, I have not scored any fantasy movie.
KAMCO Music will release the Faeryville OST on all digital distribution platforms (e.g. iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Deezer etc) on 19th May. Listen to “Fidei Defensor” streaming at Soundcloud for a limited time only.
Faeryville opens at Filmgarde Bugis+ from 26th May. Check out the trailer below.
Connect with Faeryville online.
… still there’s more …