The Making of Tempting Fate’s Score by Pedro González Arbona

Today marks the theatrical release of Tempting Fate across Nigeria. It is a day I’ve been anticipating and praying for ever since Pedro González Arbona signed the contract to compose the movie soundtrack while we were together in Madrid two summers ago.

wp_ss_20150717_0001Early last year while Pedro was in the final stages of synchronizing the music with the movie, Kevin Kwankwor, the film’s director, asked Pedro to write about the movie composing process. At that point, it was uncertain where the premiere would be held. There was talk of a Hollywood premiere and Pedro didn’t expect he could make that. The script below was to be recorded for showing at the Hollywood premiere.

Pedro and I did attend the red carpet VIP screening in Houston last year. And last week was the premiere in Lagos, Nigeria with the major U.S. cast and crew and Nollywood star Ramsey Nouah. If Tempting Fate does well in Nigeria and Ghana, there is much hope that the movie will make its way through Europe and back to America for an official nationwide release.

In the meantime, I’m sharing Pedro’s account of his work on Tempting Fate and his creative music process.

THE MAKING OF TEMPTING FATE’s SCORE
by Pedro González Arbona

Introduction

I received the call from Kevin Kwankwor—producer, director, screenwriter, and CEO of KevStel Group LLC.—in the middle of July 2013. I was finishing the score of two short films, so it was the best time to start a new project.

Kevin and I had some conversations about music in general, and the “Tempting Fate” project in particular. We connected very well from the beginning because we had the same approach to this story of a deep relationship between two brothers and how their different paths in life affect their destiny.

Pedro in his studio in Madrid, July 2013.

Pedro in his studio in Madrid, July 2013.

Kevin showed me some classical music he had in mind when writing the screenplay and some instruments he wanted to use in the project. He told me they were shooting in September and wanted some of the tracks of the score to be done by then. That was just the beginning of an amazing process.

Music in Films

In my opinion, there are four aspects that are needed in order to make a good film: a good screenplay, a good director, good acting, and a good score.

When I started focusing my composing on cinema, I started realizing how important a good score is for a film. I actually think that music creates the magical environment needed for a film. Music is another kind of narration, apart from the screenplay and the visual narration made by the director. More importantly, music helps to tell the story with the intent of immersing the audience in the movie.

What would the famous shower scene from “Psycho” be without the screeching strings by Bernard Herrmann? Or the scene from “ET” with the kids peddling their bicycles through the sky with the moon in the background, without the music by John Williams? Or the Hobbit´s Shire in “The Fellowship of the Ring” without the music by Howard Shore? I am sure you can imagine dozens of examples, and by then you will realize that those films would not be the same without that music.

Photo credit: Universal Studios

Photo credit: Universal Studios

The question now is, what do you consider a good score? Well, there is not a perfect theory, but I usually consider two kinds of scores.

On the one hand, are the composers who just use the music in the background of the film in order to create the perfect environment for the film. In these kinds of scores, the music is so well done that when the audience leaves the theater, they do not realize that they heard a score. Some examples could be amazing composers such as Thomas Newman or the Spanish composer, Alberto Iglesias.

On the other hand, are the composers who use a lot of melodic music that goes directly to the mind of the viewer. Most of the “famous” composers are from this second group. But there is a big problem with this kind of music; they have to have caution in order not to distract the viewer from the film. And that is a very difficult task. Wonderful composers such as John Williams, Hans Zimmer, or James Horner are from this second group.

TF Script with border

The script to “Tempting Fate”

The Process of Scoring

The process of scoring all starts with the reading of the screenplay. In the case of “Tempting Fate,” Kevin sent the screenplay to me after the contract was signed in late July. I read it three or four times in order to fully grasp the film´s message and get a feel for the characters. I took a lot of notes about what scenes needed music and what kind of music was needed. Then I start the composing process.

Most composers start creating the score when they get the film, but I have always preferred to start the scoring even before the shooting starts. This makes the composing more fluid for me, and because it is better if the director has the music while shooting the film. This also allows the director to plan the film with the music in mind.

I always write around two main themes, which usually are linked to the main characters.

  • First was the “Love Theme”, about the love story between Edu and Tracy. For this theme I composed very melodic music with a violin solo and a piano in order to get a romantic melody that was going to be used in the most poignant moments of the film.
  • Second was the “Brother´s Theme”, about the relationship between the two brothers, Ugo and Edu. I made different variations of this theme throughout the film, because of the different facets of their relationship. I used the guitar and clarinet in the good moments, the piano and the violin solo for the bad moments, and the woodwinds for the background scenes.
Music Composer Pedro González Arbona

Music Composer Pedro González Arbona

“Tempting Fate” was shot in September 2013, and during that time Kevin and I continued to keep in touch. He told me very important details about the filming. With Kevin’s keen directorial insights and the screenplay in hand, I had lots of inspiration to compose the score.

After the composing process was completed, and after I received the final edited version of the film, I started what I call the synchronizing process. This process consisted of comparing the music I created, with the scenes from the film, and deciding what music to use, what not to use, and how many changes were needed.

Finally the time came for the recording process. As violin and piano were the main instruments in this score, professional violin and piano players were hired for the recording. A soprano, a guitarist, and a percussionist were also hired. It was so exciting to be at the recording studio and to see my compositions come to life thanks to them.

So this is the end of this amazing project which involved so many different people from so many different countries such as Nigeria, India, Spain, and the United States.

I am very thankful:

  • to the head of the project, Kevin Kwankwor, for giving me this opportunity;
  • to Francisco Arbona, for consulting with me on the music;
  • to José Iglesias, the director of the musical academy where my music foundation was formed;
  • to Ardis Nelson, my manager, for helping me so much with my composing career and producing my first two CDs;
  • to Guillermo Servera, for introducing me to orchestration software and for sharing his expertise with me so many times;
  • to Chani Bas, for giving me my first job in the cinema;
  • and to my parents:
    • my father because he played the piano and immersed me in what is now my passion for music,
    • and my mother who expanded my musical knowledge so well and instilled my Christian beliefs.

Congratulations to Pedro and the entire cast and crew of Tempting Fate. I am proud to support the release of this faith-based movie across Africa and beyond.

Below is a slideshow of images from the press tour and the Lagos premiere on July 10.  Special thanks and credit goes to Chris Willard at willardphotographic.com and the Nigerian Press for use of many of these photos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For up-to-date information about Tempting Fate and to view more photos, check out the movie’s Facebook page.  Stay tuned for more updates on Pedro’s musical pursuits, and an exclusive interview with co-star Dan Davies.  He is nothing like Scorpion, the evil character he so convincingly portrays in the movie.

Making “Memories,” a CD by Pedro González Arbona

My desk and my mind are cleared of the clutter and busyness of life.  The most amazing music is engulfing me, stirring my senses, and begging me to share its beauty and my joy with the world.

What am I listening too?  It is the new CD by my favorite musical protégé and composer, Pedro González ArbonaMemories is Pedro’s latest foray into the music and film scoring business.

Memories CD Cover

Pedro’s Musical Background   

In the three years since Introducing Pedro González Arbona, his debut album, was released, Pedro’s music has grown by leaps and bounds.  His first album was a collection of his earliest solo piano compositions performed on a Steinway Concert grand piano in a recording studio in Seattle.  It was a gift for his 18th birthday while visiting from Madrid.  It was a monumental day for us both.

I’ve written a lot about Pedro’s love for music and how it was nurtured and inspired at an early age by cinema.  Now his work has matured and blossomed into full orchestral music that rivals the likes of other famous film composers that he admires, like John Williams (Star Wars), Hans Zimmer (most recently Interstellar), and Alexandre Desplat, winner for Best Original Score for The Grand Budapest Hotel at this year’s Academy Awards.

I don’t say this to boast, although it is hard for me to be impartial.  I say this because, at Pedro’s request, I’ve been immersing myself in various film scores over these last few years as well.  I hear the similarities and have been captivated by Pedro’s music.  Not just listening to it, but also as I witnessed it on the big screen at the VIP screening of his movie Tempting Fate, last July in Houston.

Pedro knows music!

Making Memories, the CD

While I was in Madrid last fall, Pedro and I met over dinner one night to discuss his next CD project. On another night in Madrid, he played one of his newest songs for me, “Opening Titles.”   He was fully engaged in the music, as if conducting the orchestra with an invisible baton.  This was Pedro’s first orchestrated piece, complete with pages and pages of sheet music.  Watching his delight in the final cut of this piece, and immersing myself in the music, was one of my best memories while on this trip to Spain.

Sheet music

A proud moment in Madrid: “Opening Titles” plays through Pedro’s sound system as he reviews the sheet music.

Although we collaborated in the production of the CD, it is truly his project from start to finish.  He designed the album cover, titled the album, and naturally, composed the music.  I brought his vision to completion by working in America with our music distributor, CD Baby.  They make worldwide sales and distribution via iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and other internet music sites easy for any artist.

Pedro’s album cover design (above) conjures up feelings of old time movies, before the age of digital technology, with strips of film negatives pinned to a clothesline.  Which scenes will make the final cut of the movie?  Which songs will make the final cut of the CD?

Selecting the Songs

It was a difficult process to select the final 14 songs for this CD.  The music was mostly composed over the last year during a period of prolific musical and artistic inspiration.   I received some of the songs along his composing process.  I’ve collected a large archive of his music over the past four years from his various film and internet projects or impromptu personal musical inspirations.

Some of the pieces included on the CD were composed for the Tempting Fate film, but didn’t make it to the final cut of the movie.  As I’ve come to learn, it is just part of the film composing process.  It gives Pedro the opportunity to showcase them on his CDs or use on other projects.  (The soundtrack to Tempting Fate is available on Amazon.)

Pedro also collaborated with orchestrators (credited as ‘featuring’ in the track titles) to provide the professional sound quality and feel to his music.  The final 14 songs showcase the variety of Pedro’s music composing ability.

Memories Track TitlesThe easiest way for me to describe this album is to say that even though it was not written for a specific movie or movie scenes, it is just like a soundtrack.  The songs conjure up a wide breadth of emotions that are commonly experienced in a movie:  romance, suspense, action, drama, mystery.  You’ll be hooked after the first song!  I certainly was.

So in my next post about Memories, I will take you on a behind the scenes musical adventure through his latest album.  Until then, you can preview one of my favorite songs “The Great Beauty” on Soundcloud or by selecting the song on the media player in the right sidebar on this page.

For more information about Pedro González Arbona and his music, visit pgarbona.comMemories is available for your immediate listening pleasure through any of the links below:

profileYou can show your support for this young artist’s music career by liking his page on Facebook, Pedro González Arbona, composer.

A Year To Remember, Part 2

While God was transforming and healing me with my mother’s passing in 2011, He was also giving me a connection with a family in Spain.  Our families met the year before through a short term summer exchange program when their son, Pedro, stayed with us.  Pedro’s grandmother was also diagnosed with a terminal illness and only had a few months to live.  So Rosa, Pedro’s mother, and I ministered to each other through the painful process of preparing for our mother’s passing.

Neither Rosa nor I spoke each other’s native language, but we used an online translator to send emails to each other.  Occasionally, Pedro would fill in the gaps or translate on a Skype call.  Our letters back and forth were beautiful gestures from the heart and proof that with God there are no barriers that cannot be overcome.  Each time I gave to Rosa, I also received from her and vice versa.  It was very comforting and healing.

Rosa, Pedro's mother

Rosa, Pedro’s mother

Early on in this relationship with Rosa, Pedro also took steps to deepen the connection between our families.  In January 2011, Pedro sent us a link to a YouTube video of ‘Seattle’ a song he composed and dedicated to our family.  It was an amazing gift of kindness and gratitude.  Over the next few months, Pedro sent more original piano compositions.  We were astonished by this young man’s talent and oblivious to the fact that he had played several of his compositions in our home the previous summer. 
The more Pedro sent his songs to us, the more I toyed with the idea of recording his music.  And so for Pedro’s 18th birthday, when he was in Seattle, I took him into a recording studio to produce his first CD.  That day was very memorable.  I did a photo shoot of Pedro in the studio for his CD cover, artist photos, etc.  I video recorded several of his songs as he performed in the studio.  Those videos are on youtube.com.  Then we spent several hours with the music engineer editing the songs.  We left the studio with a fantastic master recording of 13 songs from his prepared playlist.  As soon as we got in the car, we popped the master into the CD player.  Pedro was in disbelief—smiling ear to ear—as he listened in sheer delight to his music kiss the speakers and fill the car.
In the days that followed we created all the CD content, labels, burned disks, etc. and mass produced 50 CDs for friends and family in Spain.  The first printing of the Spanish CD was titled, ‘Compositions of Pedro González Arbona’.  An English version of the CD soon followed with the title ‘Introducing Pedro González Arbona’.  After all, I’m betting this won’t be this young man’s only album.  Pedro’s music is mostly inspired by cinema and soundtrack composers like Hans Zimmer and John Williams.  He dreams of scoring a motion picture soundtrack someday.
Introducing Pedro González Arbona, Pedro's debut CD

Introducing Pedro González Arbona, Pedro’s debut CD

After Pedro returned to Spain, I pursued having his music set up for online sales and digital downloads.  Months earlier, Pedro had affectionately started calling me his ‘manager’, but now it is a role I take more seriously.  I used my love for writing to create Pedro’s website copy and worked with Pedro on edits and Spanish translations as well.  By Christmas 2011, Pedro’s music was available on itunes,Amazon, Zuneand various other music sites.  He now has a Facebook artist page and his music can be purchased through his Facebook store as well.  Physical copies of his CD are available on CDbaby.com.

So 2011 really was a year to remember for me.  Although it started with the passing of my mother, it ended with the expansion of my family and some radical ‘career’ changes that I never would’ve anticipated. 
After some of my first published devotionals, one of my friends told me I found my calling.  Those were precious words to me.  I hope and pray that is true, because now that I’ve been writing this past year, I can’t imagine not doing it.  I cannot not write.
In the case of Pedro’s music, I ‘manage’ his American music endeavors out of love for him and his music.  Pedro is like a son to me and his mother is like a sister (which probably makes me more like an aunt).  I am Pedro’s #1 American fan so it is only natural that I would do this for him.  Someday the proceeds will be enough to buy the long-awaited ticket to Spain to meet Rosa face to face.  That trip will be the trip of a lifetime for me as I plan to write about their amazing country and more of the story that has brought our families together. 
That will be a year to remember too.  Will it be 2012?  Only God knows.  I’m waiting for His answer.
4/26/2012 Update: God provided a way for me to get to Spain in 2013.  Here’s the related story. Expanding My Spanish Circle of Friendship 
1/23/2013 Update: Tickets purchased. I will finally meet Rosa face to face on June 24, 2013.
6/24/2013 Update: Read about meeting Rosa and my travels to Spain starting with España Update 1: The Longest Day.

My Spanish Connection – Introducing Pedro González Arbona

Those who know me well know that I have undergone some dramatic changes in my life over the last year.  It all started with the opening up of our home to an exchange student from Spain in July 2010, Pedro Gonzalez Arbona.  Pedro and his parents are like family to us now.  Even though his mother Rosa does not speak English, we are like sisters.  We have gotten to know each other very well over this past year as we communicated via online translators. 
We have both had a difficult year with the passing of our mothers.  But God was merciful to us as we were able to comfort and encourage each other in preparation for the inevitable.  He blessed us with some miraculous healing as our mothers entered eternity just three weeks apart. 
Another one of the ways that our families connected is through our love of music.  Pedro was initially placed in our home because he plays the piano.  What we didn’t know at the time was that Pedro was actually a budding composer.  In fact when he played his music in our home that first summer, he played some of those pieces, but didn’t let on that he had composed them.
Six months after Pedro left, he sent us a link to a youtube video for a song he composed, “Seattle“, and dedicated it to our family.  This was the first clue we had to this young man’s talent.  Over the next few months, Pedro continued to compose new songs and sent them to us.  Each time he did, I became more and more convinced that his music needed to be shared with a broader audience.
When Pedro returned to Seattle this past summer, in celebration of his 18th birthday, we took him to a recording studio to produce his first CD, ‘Introducing Pedro Gonzalez Arbona.’   We recorded 13 of his 18 original compositions.  Pedro’s songs are inspired by the events and travels in his life.  They range from beautiful melodies based on his travels to Rome and Paris to songs that celebrate and memorialize some of the key milestones in his life thus far—from the painful reality of losing 10 teachers from his school after the Al Qaeda train bombing in Madrid when he was 11 to the joyful completion of his university entrance exams at 17 this past June.
Ardis introduces Pedro at his American debut, June 2011

Ardis introduces Pedro at his American debut, June 2011

Pedro is also an avid cinema buff—American and European—and his music definitely reflects that as well.  His favorite composer is Hans Zimmer who composed soundtracks to such major motion pictures as Inception, The Lion King, Sherlock Holmes and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  Pedro recently got noticed by Hans Zimmer through the aid of twitter after Pedro sent him a link to one of his compositions, “Portman.”   Hans Zimmer responded that the piece had a beautiful melody and that Pedro had a future in composing scores.  That is high praise for any musician to receive let alone an 18-year-old who is just starting out.

As Pedro’s ‘American manager’, a term he jokingly coined for me, I am inviting my friends and family to give your ears (and eyes) a treat by viewing and listening to some of Pedro’s music on youtube.com.  (Do a search on his name or click on one of the above links.)  If you like it, please share the link on your Facebook page.  His CD is now available for purchase also.  Soon it will be on itunes, Spotify and Amazon to download as well.  The CD cost is $12.50 for one or two for $20, plus $5 shipping, if necessary.  To purchase a copy of his CD, you can contact me directly or email ardis@pgarbona.com.
Introducing Pedro González Arbona, Pedro's debut CD

Introducing Pedro González Arbona, Pedro’s debut CD

I am not doing this for profit though.  It is a labor of love.  All proceeds are going to a fund for a trip to Spain so that Rosa and I can meet face to face instead of just virtually on skype.  I know that day will come.  Rosa is learning English in preparation for it and I am managing Pedro’s American music endeavors.  (Pedro is studying law and business administration at a university in Madrid where his real career goals lie.)
I never imagined I’d be going down this road in my life.  I never imagined I’d have family in Spain either.  I was pretty content in my own little corner of the world.  But the events of this past year have been a testimony to God’s healing and mercy if we surrender to His will.  It is proof that there are no geographical, language, religious or cultural barriers that God cannot break down.  For me all it took was accepting the invitation to open our home to a young man from Spain and choosing to invest in him and his family.  
What about you?  Where is God calling you to invest in someone or stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone?  You’ll never know the opportunities that await you unless you take those bold steps of faith and follow His will.
5/1/2012 Update: Pedro’s music is now available online through itunes, Amazon.com, Zune, Spotify and various other music websites.  His music can also be downloaded through his Facebook Store.  Physical CDs can be purchased at CDBaby.com.
8/3/2014 Update: I visited Spain and met Rosa in the summer of 2013. It was the trip of a lifetime, 6 weeks on a reciprocal sort of exchange program. You can read about my travels starting here. Pedro and I devoted many hours to his musical projects while I was there. Hans Zimmer was right about Pedro. He has gone on to compose for several movie projects including his latest American film score to Tempting Fate. You can find out more about the music of Pedro Gonzalez Arbona on The Music pages on my site, check out pgarbona.com, or like his Facebook page, Pedro Gonzalez Arbona, Composer.
On the red carpet with Pedro at the premiere of "Tempting Fate", July 2014.

On the red carpet with Pedro at the premiere of “Tempting Fate”, July 2014.

 

  • WELCOME to my site!

    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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