[WATCH] ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ composer Alexandre Desplat on making a strong first impression

“My main protocol on every film I score is to find the opening sequence,” said Alexandre Desplat about composing the score for the animated film “The Secret Life of Pets” (watch below). Desplat was part of a “Meet the Experts” panel presented by Gold Derby at the Landmark Theater in L.A. on Nov. 16 to spotlight great achievements in crafts.

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Desplat adds, “I always think it’s crucial when you start scoring to put yourself in the position of the audience … They parked, they sit, the lights go down, and what happens then?” So making a strong first impression is crucial to a musical composition. “If there’s music in the opening titles it has to capture the soul of the film, but at the same time capture the attention and emotion of the audience right away into what the film will be.”

For “Pets” Desplat worked closely with director Chris Renaud, and they decided to try something a little different. “[Renaud] has a great instinct about how music should work and what it should bring to a scene … Very early on we decided that because it’s New York and there was some playfulness about the story that we could try to get away from a pure orchestral score and add a jazz influence. There was a long time I wanted to do that in an American film.”

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“Secret Life of Pets” followed a Jack Russell terrier named Max (voiced by Louis C.K.), who becomes upset when his owner takes in a stray, Duke (Eric Stronestreet). It’s not Desplat’s first animated film — he also scored “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009) and “Rise of the Guardians” (2012) — but its pure comic silliness was especially inspiring to him, reminding him of animation he loved in his youth.

Desplat is one of the most prolific filmmakers currently working. He earned his first Oscar nomination 10 years ago for “The Queen” (2006), and in the decade since he has already accumulated another seven, finally winning his first trophy for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014). Among his long list of other credits are “Birth” (2004), “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008), “The King’s Speech” (2010), “Argo” (2012), “The Imitation Game” (2014) and many, many others. In 2016 alone he also composed the scores for “Florence Foster Jenkins,” “The Light Between Oceans” and “American Pastoral.”

Will he earn a ninth Oscar nomination this year?

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