When James Rolfe’s “Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie” is completed, it’s going to have some big-name talent behind the music: “Battlestar Galactica” and “The Walking Dead” composer Bear McCreary will be scoring the indie feature and he spoke to us recently about it.
Hey Capcom, listen up–if you’re ever looking to do some kind of new, orchestral arrangement for another “Mega Man” game, Bear McCreary’s your guy. He worked with the publisher on the soundtrack for the 8-bit “Dark Void Zero,” working in subtle references to the Blue Bomber themes into the game. When I asked him about his favorite video game score, he jumped right to “Mega Man X.” “I almost didn’t say it,” he adds, “because the music is already so effective in the 16-bit form, and I wonder if I’d be ruining it if I updated it.”
That passion for gaming is what has linked McCreary and “Angry Video Game Nerd” creator James Rolfe–the latter’s cutting, funny evisceration of bad games speaking to the composer’s inner gamer. Back in 2010, McCreary scored the Christmas episode of the web series, and he wanted to work with Rolfe again.
“I had reached out to him because I’m a big fan of his work,” McCreary says, calling the series “cathartic” in the way it resurrects all of those memories about pre-Internet game purchases where you could get a frustrating, buggy clunker. He thought Rolfe’s work on the series is effective at tearing the games apart while still being insightful and concise. After working on the Christmas special, McCreary told Rolfe that if he ever needed a composer, to reach out.
The feature, which was fully funded through Indiegogo back in February, promises a B-movie romp co-written by Rolfe and Kevin Flinn. “I started reading the drafts of the scripts quite a while ago, and I definitely had ideas that I wanted to bring to it,” McCreary says. And many of those ideas are in line with his “Dark Void Zero” work, calling on game scores from the past. He calls the project the perfect opportunity to meld his love of old-school gaming with orchestral storytelling.
“It’s just so beyond what [James has] done so far,” McCreary adds, describing the story as “epic” (although he doesn’t drop any hints about what we might expect from a web series-turned-movie). McCreary aims to bring something to the low-budget aesthetic of the feature, something that he feels is essential to the appeal of “AVGN.” When I asked if Rolfe would get his own theme, he says that they’ve been talking about that, looking at Indiana Jones’ theme and the like for reference. “I’m not sure yet, because we’re early in the process, but I also want to do the [show’s] theme song that Kyle Justin wrote. It already has a theme and I want to incorporate that somehow.”
I asked if working on web series presented any challenges, opportunities, or limitations when composing–McCreary was responsible for the music of both “Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome” as well as the Tim Kring-produced “Daybreak.” But for McCreary, it’s all about the story–if the story’s good, he’s able to weave his own musical narrative throughout it, something he holds true for his video game work as well, including composing for Sony’s “SOCOM,” drawing inspiration from the main character’s narrative and some of the cinematic aims of the developer. “I don’t view the web as any other secondary medium to television or film–I just think it’s another avenue.”
The secret to a great score for his long form work: planning ahead. McCreary says you don’t know if your series will last beyond the pilot, but he’s scored them with the opportunity expand on some of the musical themes worked in early on. He offers that when composing for “Blood & Chrome,” he looked beyond just these first web-based stories of young Bill Adama, adding, “I’ve written themes for those characters, so I already know how they’ll evolve. So I scored it differently than I would have if I’d known at the beginning that this would just be a one-off movie.”
“Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie” began shooting this spring.