Apple Original Films’ upcoming holiday film Spirited required the hands and talents of multiple creatives behind the scenes including Ian Eisendrath, who served as the musical comedy’s executive music producer. After his performance of an original song at Deadline’s Sound & Screen event, he revealed the elements of his job that kept him busy amid the singing talents of the cast that includes Ryan Reynolds, Will Ferrell and Octavia Spencer among others.
“On a film like Spirited that has so many elements — we have an incredible score created by Dominic Lewis, [and] several actors who have maybe sung a bit before or have never sung — one of the big lifts on this one was to get them to sing as themselves,” Eisendrath said. “We had over 13 song cues written by the incredibly talented Justin Paul and three co-writers — job number one is to make sure that everything comes together and works together.”
He continued, “And I’m really involved with the recording process for all the vocals and the orchestra, the mixing and editing of the camera work, which is a lot of where the actor is on camera actually singing their songs. As I’m sure as you all know, these films often are a mixture of live vocals and things from the studio. We have always had them singing on set because we really wanted to make sure that the audience was experiencing a performance that felt like it was connected to what they were saying. We ended up using a lot of live vocals which was really wonderful.”
Amid all those tasks on his to-do list, Eisendrath also tackled the role of therapist with the actors who were at various stages of comfort getting in front of the microphone.
I think one of my jobs is therapist, which is getting people comfortable with singing, first in the studio then on set and on camera,” he said. “We all know Will’s done a lot of things where he sings, but I don’t know he’s ever done something where he sings genuinely as a character that’s not a parody of anything else. And these songs are not easy. [Composers] Benj [Pasek] and Justin [Paul] write really rangy, complicated things to sing. So it was really fun to work with [Farrell] on like, what is your voice and your sound?
“The thing I find out about these actors is that if we can connect the text to what they’re acting, and they can really think of songs as monologues on pitch — suddenly, they’re able to do it. It’s almost as if their body and their voice know what they need to do to achieve what that character wants or needs to communicate in a scene.”
Check back Monday for the panel video.