The email was unexpected and short--a single sentence: "Is this you?"--with a YouTube link and a signature from a name Ryan Amon didn't recognize: Neill Blomkamp. "It's a little bit embarrassing," Amon says of his first reaction to the message: "I had to Google his name!" When he did so, of course, he found the up-and-coming South African-born director who had catapulted to international acclaim with his 2009 film "District 9." (Our "Elysium" review and roundup here.)
Amon was sure it was a joke. "I didn't have any experience in film scoring or any connections in that world," he says. But it wasn't a prank, and on a Skype interview with the director soon after, Amon quickly realized Blomkamp hadn't reached out about just another commercial, the director was calling about "Elysium," his sci-fi actioner set in a 22nd century Earth of haves and have nots.
A classically-trained pianist who went to college for biology and art but dropped out to pursue a 2-year program at a St. Paul music school in composition and songwriting, Amon cut his teeth in Los Angeles as an assistant, ghostwriting for reality TV composers and learning to write music at hyper speed--something like 2-3 tracks a day.
Amon gravitated to trailer music, as he puts it, "to do something a little more epic and orchestral," later marrying and moving to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where his wife--a Bolivian native--practices law. He was in Santa Cruz when he received Blomkamp's email, complete with a YouTube link to a fan-made trailer featuring a percussive action piece Amon had composed but which never made it into a trailer.
What followed was a decidedly unusual scoring experience for a major Hollywood film, one based on mutual admiration and a healthy dose of trust. As expected, the process was very secretive--at first, Amon wasn't even given a copy of the script--and the composer began writing without any footage, armed only with the premise of the film and some location stills.