Eli Roth Diaries: The Music Of ‘Hostel: Part II’ Comes Together

Eli Roth has been documenting the making of “Hostel: Part II” with a series of diary entries for MTV. Yesterday we delved into editing room lessons he learned from David Lynch. Today Roth writes about the process of scoring a movie.

Our day begins at 9:45 or 10. We talk about coffee, and then start cutting at 10:30. We break for lunch around 1:30 and come back at about 2:30. [My editor] George like to nap for 15 minutes after lunch, and I’ll make some phone calls, and then we’ll get back into it at about 2:45 or 3:00. We cut until about 7:00 or 7:30, and if we’re really in a groove, we’ll even go until 8:00 or 8:30. George goes home, and I stay in the editing room and start playing with music cues. I eat dinner from 8:30-8:45, and then music editing until about midnight, or 1:00 in the morning.

This goes on every day for months. I work weekends, just music editing. Music editing is where you try out different pieces of score in different scenes, just to give your composer an idea of what you want. Sometimes the songs in the film are the final songs, but most of the time my composer will write new score for those scenes. But one thing I learned very early on is that when you show other people scenes, even though it’s rough, and even though you’re in the editing room, those scenes had better be scary. And if you don’t have the right music, a scene won’t work. Imagine “Jaws” without that orchestral string music, or “Psycho” without those shrieking violins. They just wouldn’t be the same. I used a lot of music from the first “Hostel,” so the film would have the same feel, and supplemented it with tracks from “The Grudge” and “The Shining” if I couldn’t find something from the “Hostel” score that worked.

This goes on for weeks without a break. Every day. Weekends included. I find that I get a lot of my best work done at night. I like to work until about midnight, at which point I stroll through the empty studio in a daze, my head filled with the various problems I have to work out the next morning. I love being the only one on the lot at night. It feels nice to have the place to yourself. The security guards know me after a few weeks, and I say good night, and then come in the next morning around ten. Whenever I’m editing, the only music in my car is score music from other movies. That’s really the only time I have to listen to new music cues, and I listen to them as I go home, when I’m at my house, and when I’m driving in the next morning.

I have the film playing in my head all the time, and I never stop thinking of ways to make improvements or adjustments. This goes on for about eight or ten weeks until you have a rough cut, at which point I’ll show a few trusted people, like my producers and a few studio executives. I always keep a few close friends totally in the dark and don’t show them the script or any footage, just for these screenings, because the fresh eyes you trust are invaluable. If someone’s confused or a something isn’t working, they tell me, and then I have time to fix it before I go and embarrass myself releasing it in front of the entire world that way. I’m usually 100% confident in my cut, but there are always things that simply never occurred to me that confuse people.

George always says before our first screening, “We’re gonna learn a lot from this screening,” and afterwards, no matter how clearly I think it all works, there’s always something that people misinterpret or simply miss. It’s just part of the process. I’ll cut for a few more weeks until I have what’s called a fine cut, where I’m locking picture. This is when I go through the film with a fine tooth comb with my producers, and I can tweak the film frame by frame. Once the film’s locked, we send it to the MPAA for the rating.

Missed any of his daily entries? Click here for the “Eli Roth Diaries” archive.