We could all use a little laughter and a good dose of love in our lives these days. Released this weekend, The Broken Hearts Gallery promises to provide film audiences with those feel-good vibes we’ve been missing. But no piece of media can truly affect our emotions without the appropriate musical score. Thankfully, The Broken Hearts Gallery had the very talented composer and musician Genevieve Vincent at the helm.
Last week, Blast Magazine had the opportunity to chat with Genevieve about her professional journey, her latest project, and what advice she has for aspiring composers and musicians.
Blast Magazine: When you work on composing for films, do you tend to have more of a collaborative relationship with the director or do you prefer to create on your own?
Genevieve Vincent: It’s a collaborative relationship with the director. When I first read a script or watch a rough cut, I try to come up with an idea for what the score should sound like and explain what I am thinking. Because I used to be a music supervisor, I find that I can articulate what I want to do. Basically, I like to propose an idea and then do a first pass at it. Then, we can start to collaborate from there to hone it in.
Blast Magazine: What was it about The Broken Hearts Gallery that made you want to take it on as your next project?
Genevieve Vincent: I loved the script and really related to it. I spent 5 years in New York right after college, so I kind of lived the life that Lucy, the film’s main character, is living. I could really relate to her. It just felt like a natural fit. I also really enjoyed talking to Natalie Krinsky, the director. The other cool thing about this film was that I was able to do a hybrid score using both a typical cinematic score and also synths, drum machines, and more contemporary stuff. All of that was really exciting to me. Everyone involved was just really impressive and it was an amazing opportunity. I had all the reasons in the world to want to do it.
Blast Magazine: Like most artists, you probably have faced some writer’s block during your career. How did you move forward and keep creating for the project you were working on?
Genevieve Vincent: I’ve had that happen to me a million times. Every time you see a new film, it is a new puzzle to solve. Part of the puzzle is figuring out what the director and the other creatives want. The other part of the puzzle is figuring out how to give them something special and unique. I never want to give them something someone else has already done. It is important to me that whatever I am making for someone is just for them and their project. Every time I start a new project, I need to psych myself up for it. At the beginning, there is this sense that you have to do something that you have never done before. Even if it is another documentary or rom-com or seems familiar in some way, it is always a new puzzle.
To combat the writer’s block, I do a few different things. One thing is that I always write multiple ideas for my first idea. It takes a bit of the pressure off of having to have one perfect idea because it is important to explore at the beginning. It’s important to try different tones and know that there is more than one right answer. I then go back over it and pick a few that are the best to present. The second thing I do is familiarize myself with the expected tropes of the particular genre I am working in for this project. It’s important to immerse yourself in the genre a bit before you get into the film. Right now, I am scoring a thriller and it is the first feature thriller I have ever done. I went back through and watched a ton of thrillers to see how tension builds and releases in this genre structurally. The special ideas are up to you and you want to give your original take. That’s being an artist. But you want to design a structure that makes sense for the piece. I will often start with the technical design of a scene to free myself up for the creative stuff later.
Blast Magazine: In addition to being a film composer, you also make up half of the electronic-pop duo darkDark. How do you feel your experiences creating music for film vs. individual listening differ and where do you think there is some commonality?
Genevieve Vincent: For songwriting, it really comes from a story that I want to tell. For work that isn’t commissioned, it comes from a need to express something and it really is kind of a necessity. You’re processing emotion through creating music and then you feel closer to the people around you when you can express your feelings through your music. The hope is that we can all empathize easier with music. There is some kind of back and forth that happens when you create music and someone listens to it. It’s an unspoken communication. I am very artsy when making songs. I don’t think too much about whether it is good or bad, I just think about what I want it to be and what I want to say. Later on, I put my editor hat on and become more critical. For film, all of my work is in service of the film. When I approach scoring a film, it’s about what the film needs, not what I want to do. I try to think of what it needs and what my version of that looks like to provide my truest expression of what this film needs. For me, the thing that connects the two creatively is that when you are always experimenting on your own with no stakes and just for creativity’s sake, you’re exploring different feels, instrumentation, and ideas. Then, when you end up getting a film job, you have a wider grasp of emotional exploration and you can bring things you discovered on your own while experimenting to articulate this story. Sometimes when I write songs, I feel like I am writing to an invisible movie that no one else can see.
Blast Magazine: Since you’ve had such a versatile career, can you tell us about your early experiences with music and what led you to the career you have today?
Genevieve Vincent: Music has always comforted me. Every time I felt sad or anxious as a child, I would sing or play piano. The sound soothed me. I was addicted to music immediately. I started to play violin when I was 3, which provided me with a deeper understanding of music and tones. It also trained my ear to be sensitive to pitch. I then took singing lessons and began writing songs. I would sit at the piano when I was 10 or 11 and just make up songs. I was in a few bands in high school. I went to Berklee College of Music and wanted to be a singer. I didn’t think I would be a composer. Even though I had been writing these songs and studying music my whole life, I just imagined a composer to be like Beethoven and couldn’t conceive of myself like that. When I went to Berklee, I took a bunch of technical classes and met a teacher who really liked the music I would write and she told me that I had to take composition as a major.
I’ve also always loved movies growing up and I always loved film scores. I was asked by a friend in Vancouver who had a short film if I could score it for him. I was excited to do it. I scored his short film using all electronics and he really liked it. The film ended up going to Tribeca Film Festival. I was still at Berklee at the time. That really cemented that I love scoring films. I got to see this score that I had done in a theater and it blew my head off. All of that made me realize that I don’t get the pleasure out of singing that I get out of writing, being able to collaborate, and seeing the final product of the mix of film and music and sound design on a big screen. That really excited me.
After I graduated, I had various jobs in music advertising and on the music supervision side until I finally ended up being able to quit and pursue full-time composing. It just took me a minute to find myself but it was there all along. We all have such different paths to get to what we want to be doing.
Blast Magazine: As someone who did not just become a full-time composer straight out of college, what is the best piece of advice you have for someone aspiring to pursue a career as a composer?
Genevieve Vincent: I would say that you should figure out the small manageable goals that can get you to doing what you want to be doing. It can be really valuable to have those in-between experiences. As an artist, it’s important to accumulate life experiences and to invest yourself in what you do. Even if that’s not full-time composing at first, you gain really valuable perspective from every job you have, whether that’s learning how to work with people, learning how to listen to someone else’s ideas and picking up on their taste, or seeing what’s popular in the music world. Whatever it is that you do right after college, it can all be a part of your path towards what you want to be doing as long as you keep your eye on the prize and keep moving towards it.
For me, I couldn’t see a path from college to working for another composer but the path I did see was working in music, but not being in composing right away. It got me around people who were established in the music world who had good taste in music and who could expose me to different genres of music. It also taught me how to speak about music and about what the people on the other side need from a composer. You need to remember when you are in those times that those things will all come back around and be important to you later. That is the key. Give it 100%, whatever the next step is. Don’t forget that you want to be a composer. Always be writing all the time, whether it is for yourself, for free, for paid opportunities, whatever. Know that a lot of people can’t financially just go from school directly to full-time composing and sometimes you have to find another path. As long as you are strategic and keep your eye on the prize, you will find yourself where you want to be.
Be sure to listen to Genevieve Vincent’s music in The Broken Hearts Gallery and check out darkDark on Spotify and other music streaming services!