Talk: Composer Erica Procunier of Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go

Thomas and Friends went through a reboot titled Thomas and Friends: All Engines Are Going! who currently plays on Cartoon Network in the US and Treehouse in Canada. The new series has been approved for 104 episodes, all of which are directed by Erica Procunier in Ghost writes fame

SoonSoon comes to Erica to discuss her work on the project and the composer discusses everything from her influences to the challenge of creating new music for the beloved character Thomas.

Erica also scored for critically acclaimed films such as inappropriate comedy do not Talk to Irene directed by Pat Mills and Thyrone Tommy’s thriller drama Mariner, both became the official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival. Erica was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Toronto International Film Festival to compose the score for DAM! The Story of Kit the Beaver, a live film-concert for Canada’s 150th birthday celebration. The film was screened live in concert with the TSO and toured with orchestras across Canada.

Jeff Ames: How did you get involved in film and TV writing? What brought you down that path?

Erica Procunier: I think I just decided one day that this was my job. I was inspired and then I did everything possible to become a film and TV composer. I think a lot of people do a lot of other things and then it happens to score. I was inspired by Rachel Portman with academic awards, and I thought, “Oh, that’s a job I can do and I think I want to do that.” I get used to movies and I go watch a movie and then go home and play the music I heard in the piano movie. It’s a natural thing for me, I think.

I love that you mentioned Rachel Portman because I remember watching the academy awards and I heard her music for The Cider House Rules and I immediately walked over and bought the soundtrack the next day. That was my first introduction to his music. I understand how motivated you are by that.

They do this thing where they dance to the Oscars and they dance to the scores. I was also a dancer at the time and it was the essence of everything I dreamed of! They no longer do the dancing, sadly.

The last time I saw that was their blocking the soundtrack of Saving Private Ryan, which was kind of not surprising.

A little translation, I think!

I heard what you said, I think that kind of stuff is good. Did you find your own dances for the soundtracks you would listen to?

I wasn’t as creative at that age, but I should have!

You’ve been working on short films and tv shows since 2006, so how has your music or your style of music improved over the years?

I think I’m still focused on melody and a lot of marks now, the latter half of this decade. There’s a trend towards a more atmospheric score and I’ve always been more focused on melodic marks. You can get something that really comes across or actually consists of a character using a melody. After all, I find myself doing more atmospheric things lately, I think that’s how I’m improving my marking style. I always come back to the ones that get the melodies or the motif -style musical marks. I want people to come up with something memorable. Thomas there are melodies for many hours. I do more questionable things and more dark things. And then I have this side of doing things with kids, so I have this thing of similarity going on now which is kind of interesting.

You have a style you want to use, but there’s a difference whether it’s appropriate for the project or not. Is this why you apply yourself to a show, like Thomas or Ghostwriter, or do you adapt your style of show?

I think, in terms of my own sound, I can’t be anyone but myself. I can never completely mix a new style into a show or a different kind of music that I don’t notice. There will always be “Erica” on the score. I have a lot of shapes in my voice, but I don’t try to be someone else. Coming to coming to a sound for Ghost writes or Thomas, I really am but also wearing such a costume. the Ghost writes things were really interesting, it was really melodic and something I would do perfectly, and after it happened I added these mysterious elements to it.

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What time do you need to work on these projects? Do you have a lot of time to experiment, and work with sounds that you may not be used to doing?

Not really, specifically for the sound of Ghost writes, the sound is kind of determined in the demo I submitted. I wrote a theme and this time it just came to the showrunner and we hit it and the aspects of my sound serendipitous gelled the sound of the show at times. I thought if I wasn’t the right person for the job, then I wouldn’t be able to go to the gig. I end up with shows that really benefit from something I can bring to the table. I may be like a chameleon but also, you never know what people want in the end. I think they want to hear the voices of each of the composers that come.

With something like Thomas, which has 13 episodes and I think it has a lot more, and Ghostwriter having 23 episodes, how do you protect it for yourself? The show has to follow the same style but you also don’t want to keep doing the same tones all the time, I think.

With Thomas, specifically, I don’t have to think of everything from scratch all the time because some of the cues are reused throughout the show. Whenever there are new characters, I know the themes and I write in each episode. I don’t want to give up anything again. I’m always trying to get a new idea to go, a new musical or something we’ve never heard of in a new style. Often, each episode is different and it demands new material anyway. For example, I just did this good episode with a Calliope and, if you’re familiar with what a Calliope is, it’s the steam engine train but musical instrument that’s all the same. I had to think of a tone for that but also the trains themselves would decide to use their own whistles to play Calliope’s tunes. That’s a stage that won’t happen in other stages. They travel to a new location and I write things that are more specialized in the new place they are visiting.

So there are a lot of ways you can play the little sound and keep it going to appeal to you as well.

Oh yes! And I really push myself on purpose and I don’t copy and paste things. However, when the characters return it’s good to go back to their original themes that I built to feel this unity. It is also a part of Thomas canon, where each of the characters has their own theme and I want to continue that.

Speaking of that tradition, do you find it intimidating to jump on something like Thomas and Friends that has this long-preserved history? Does it racks up for you or did you jump in there and offer a new take on the franchise?

If I knew we weren’t using old music, I wouldn’t have thought of that. I grew up watching the show, so I knew all the music. Specifically I didn’t go back and listen to it, I went back and listened to it ever since, but I wanted to avoid it because I didn’t want to have that when I arrived. I scored a different one. show because they are not model trains, they are animation. It’s a different movement and energy. The characters move differently so it lends a completely different approach when it comes to music. I have to avoid changing old things for that specific reason, even if the old things are weird.

How do you react when you hear your music on a TV show like this? Has the innovation faded or is it still exciting?

I think it’s still sinking that I’m participating in this iconic franchise, it just premiered but I hope people like it. I wish it was new Thomas fans growing up now will end up wanting it. I think it will sink in when I hear reactions from people about what they want or if it makes sense to them. Specifically, with Ghost writes, I get emails from people all over the world telling me they want to play piano music. I think that’s weird and I hope that young people really achieve this and that it makes them happy.

Who knows, maybe in 20 or 30 years, no matter how long the original, there will be a new composer trying to imitate your style or trying to distance themselves from your style in some way. way!

Yes! You never know, do you?

Good luck with that and hope that is a great success for you. Do you have any other projects you’d like to discuss?

Yes, I worked with an actress turned director named Laura Vandervoort, she already Smallville and Napaak. He’s directing a short film that is coming out and it’s the no-nonsense story that’s terrifying. It was like a magical fantasy world he enjoyed. I’m happy to be working on that and already on the holidays to come soon. The name of the film is My Soul To Be Taken.

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