Composer Will Bates (‘Hillary,’ ‘Unbelievable’): Scores treated as ‘cinematic experience’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“I try to keep the beginning of the process pretty much the same. When I’m coming up with those themes and figuring out instrumentation and harmony, I treat it as a cinematic experience,” composer Will Bates responds about how scoring differs for fiction versus nonfiction in his exclusive interview with Gold Derby (watch the video above). Bates will be on the Emmy ballot this year for the premiere episodes of two miniseries, with the documentary “Hillary” and the docudrama “Unbelievable.” “It was something that I learned from director Alex Gibney,” Bates continues, referencing the Oscar and Emmy winner with whom Bates has collaborated for both fiction and nonfiction, although he acknowledges that “a different skill set” is ultimately required for each form.

Given “this internal concept for the score” overall with “Unbelievable” on Netflix, Bates says, “It really required a light touch.” He continues, “There was constantly this fine line of the darkness of what’s happening and the feeling that we can at least attempt to go toward some resolution.” Noting that he did not want to drown out the performances, Bates “wanted to try something different” and brought in “50 or 60 different random things” that he employed for “these simple rhythms” with a metallic tinge to complement his more traditional pieces.

“One of the interesting things about the way that that show is structured is this dual timeline scenario,” Bates says about Hulu’s Hillary Clinton documentary, although this also applies largely to “Unbelievable.” Bates reveals that his previous scores for the film “I Origins” and the series “The Path” served as temporary music during rough cuts for “Hillary.” He explains, “That’s a way that composers jump around and get the gig is they tend to cut to music that they might find online and then fall in love with something and why not just call the person that wrote that thing? So fortunately that’s what happened in this case.” For the original score that Bates used as replacement, he notes that “it was very tricky tonally to get that fine balance” between how “she is a hero” and how “it needed to be neutral.”

“I’m very sad to see it go, but man, what a ride,” Bates says about one of his other projects this season, closing out “The Magicians” on Syfy. He reflects, “That was a huge part of my life, that show really. ‘The Magicians’ was the beginning of my TV career and I will never forget, so it was a bittersweet pill to swallow.”

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