Field Notes: An interview with Marmoset Producers Rob Dennler & Tim Shrout

Communication is everything.  Especially when it comes to locking in the right soundtrack to film. Marmoset producers Rob Dennler (pictured left) & Tim Shrout (pictured right) make this point clear.

We got the filmmakers perspective in our interview with Trun Pence from Instrument. He gave insight into his vision when working on the recent Levi's Commuter video series. Finding the perfect vibe in the soundtrack was essential for him—enter Rob and Tim. 

Now, getting the production perspective, we chatted with Dennler and Shrout about how they orchestrated the perfect score through clear communication and collaboration with Pence.

M: What was the general direction/vibe you were working with? 

RB: Well, the overall direction for music on this project was a kind of retro soul/funk revival sort of sound. We talked a lot with Truen and the team about music. They provided us with a ton of inspirational references to chew on initially. 

TS: We were working with a refined, energetic aesthetic, and a classic/vintage feel — These pieces were calls to action.

M: What was the revision process like?

RB: Everything moved pretty fast, and the notes were usually very specific. We would typically receive feedback from the team within a few ours of our deliveries, and then jump on a call to further discuss everyone's thoughts. The quick turnaround and open dialogue was really helpful for us in maintain a clear focus on our objectives and really allowed us to stay in the zone. 

TS: There were lots of revisions for NYC in particular.  Timing was very important as the cut was changing as we were working.  The sonic palette was really important for this one, so we added live drums on a vintage kit and added real horns rather than relying on samples.  It needed to sound like it was a band in a room. Getting to that point took a lot of back and forth.

M: How do you feel the music compliments this piece?

RB: Each of the artists in the series have very different backgrounds, live in different cities, and each has his own unique approach to life and how they make art. Taking all of that into consideration, we sought out match the tone, style, and energy of the music to their individual personas and environments, so that the music was truly a soundtrack, reflective of who they are and where the come from. 

TS: The NYC vignette has a classic, urban grit and soul to it.  A little dingy to complement the subway shots and the old furniture, but also driving to support the outdoor/riding scenes. As for the London vignette, it’s fun — showcases the character’s sheer enjoyment of life.

M: What were some possible ways that this might not have worked?

RB: Really, I think it just came down to us having such clear communication with Truen and the team from the very beginning. So, I suppose if we were to remove that aspect of the project, the open forum we had with them, and replace it with a more rigid or ambiguous structure, I would guess that our results would have been far less successful. 

TS: We could have gone too dark or serious with both of them.  More modern sounds might have made it feel too much like an ad. 

M: What value do you find in custom music in projects like this? 

RB: I find value in collaborating with filmmakers to develop a musical identity for their project. It is rewarding knowing that we help to fulfill their creative vision, while giving musicians an opportunity to craft truly memorable and evocative compositions they can be proud of.  

TS: There's value in the ability to tie in the music with the project’s overall aesthetic. We were involved before they even started shooting.  Truen and the rest of the team had a vision that we were clued in on from the start. So they were able to make decisions while shooting and editing with full confidence that the music would support the piece.  And we had a stronger connection to the project because we felt fully responsible for the music.  We were given responsibility and plenty of creative freedom.