The Dating Project Teaser Trailer!

What is Dating? 

Coming Fall 2016, a heart-warming documentary by Jonathan Cipiti about the heart of dating, its problems and challenges, and the hope we can find in it. 

Here's the teaser trailer! 

Grant FondaComment
My $50,000 Harmonica

In 2013, I received one of the most unusual and yet coolest graduation gifts that I could never think of: a C-Major diatonic harmonica. It wasn't from my mother, grandfather, or any other blood relative. No, this harmonica came from my Alma Mater, the USC Thornton School of Music as a gift for my graduation from the Scoring for Motion Picture & Television Program (SMPTV). My wife and I joked that it was a $50,000 instrument because of the cost of the program. And yet despite the joking, I held onto that harmonica like it was actually worth that much. 

It was a fun and quirky gift. It sat on my desk for a few weeks, made its rounds around our home after dinner and at random intervals when boredom set in, really functioning more as a novelty piece in our home than something functional for my career, which, is probably how it was intended to be used. (I can't imagine the Thornton administration sitting around and thinking "one day, one of our graduates will actually use this to make a living.") After a few weeks, the harmonica went back in its case, packed up, and moved across town to our new home, and then packed into a box and moved again 1 year later to the new studio location. The novelty gradually became forgotten. 

In the last 12 months, I was fortunate to be connected with Graham Kelley of Naknek Design. We hit it off as pals immediately, and have since collaborated on several projects together that have both paid the bills and satisfied our creative tendencies, most of these projects being corporate gigs helping businesses grow their brands through visual storytelling. And then, in January of this year, Graham told me that he was going with Ryan Francis (his business partner) to a small town in north central California to start work on what would be a multi-part narrative short series on hard work. He said that he'd love for me to help score it. I didn't object.

Months went by, life happened, and I completely forgot about the project until Graham asked me if I'd take a look at the temp that they had for their final cut of the first episode about three weeks ago. I'm now scoring the first short in this series called "Sweat of Thy Brow", releasing later this summer. Without giving any spoilers, I'll just say that it's been a blast creating an Americana-esque score that's based around a une. A real, fleshed out, 16 bar tune with a B section! The little things in life... 

As I was scoring today, I was fiddling with various textures and couldn't quite get the right balance between reediness, gritty earthiness, warmth, breathiness, and humanity. I tried building synth patches. I tried over 100 patches in Omnisphere (I mean, c'mon! No one built a patch with ALL of those tags I needed??). I tried singing. Nothing fit. Frustrated, I took a lunch break and then came back up to the studio to file a few pieces of mail that had arrived. Much to my surprise, the solution to my texture problem stared me down from my score-taping table. At some point in the last month, my wife had come across the harmonica again and placed it neatly next to a lamp in the studio, almost as if it was begging to be used again. I thought "what the heck" and brushed up on my harmonica chops (which are minimal), then started playing along to the B section of my tune for Naknek. It was absolutely perfect. The texture, the warmth, the grit, the humanity... it was all there. 

It's been said that live instruments increases the production value of a score. Well, as of today, this small budget project just got a $50,000 score. Fight on! 

"Work hard, be nice, get lucky." [Dan Carlin] 

I recently had the privilege of lunching with Dan Carlin, the chair of USC's Scoring for Motion Picture and Television Program, my alma mater. Dan is an all-around great guy, great listener, and has been around the block in this town enough to know who's who, what's what, and what to say (or not) to said who's. I was reminded when I spent some time with him of how many different collaborations I've had in this town, many of which seem to be because of the above principles (I'd substitute "get lucky" with "trust God."). 

Hard work is hard to come by these days. Nice people are hard to come by. Nice people who work hard are even harder to find. So, by simply being nice and working hard (that's an understatement), it's amazing to see how  relationships are grown (and kept). And, by being in the right place at the right time, you never know... you might get lucky. 

Also, if you've never been to Tam O'Shanter in Glendale, it's worth the trip. Their Corned Beef is spectacular. And their horseradish is hotter than Hades. 

Ophelia! Ophelia!

Almost exactly two years ago, my incredibly humble and visionary friend Caress Reeves approached me about scoring her thesis for her Masters in Fine Art Animation at USC. Caress and I had collaborated on several projects prior to this, so I knew that it'd be extremely out of the box and terribly creative. She didn't disappoint. Her idea? Create a space-opera animated musical.... without any spoken dialogue. Yes, opera in the truest sense. (I would also like to point out that Caress is the only director that I've ever worked with who has temped at least part of EVERY one of her projects with something by Stravinsky. Talk about great taste!)

We brainstormed for several months and as things progressed, Caress ended up with this idea that would manifest as a funk-opera. Yes. Funk-Opera. Without giving away any spoilers, I'll just say that we had a TON of fun. And so, before a single frame was rendered, we started working on the music and libretto with lyricist JJ Bassette. Over the next several months, I worked to create themes and orchestrations that were reminiscent of The Magic Flute and Rigoletto, throwing us into the heart of an opera house but in a far-fetched enough manner that our audience still found things comic. We were, in a way, making fun of the dramatic (in a true dramatic, not musical dramatic sense) soprano divas of opera. And my, what fun we had. I've never done as much score study for a project as I did for this little film, but the end result was worth it. After hours of studying Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Aloe Blacc, Mingus, and even some Ella, writing, throwing things out, writing, and re-writing again, we were finally ready to hit the studio.

"Ophelia! Ophelia! God's hand-picked chosen queen!"

"Ophelia! Ophelia! God's hand-picked chosen queen!"

After auditioning over 50 women for the three lead roles, we ended up hiring the extremely talented Christin Hunt (Ophelia), Candace Coles (Maria), and Ashley Sirls (Daphne). (I might add that Ashley sent me the COOLEST Michael Jackson cover recorded on her iPhone while she was on Choir tour for part of her audition! Totally impressed!) After a day of tracking vocals, we brought in a 30 voice choir.... while Caress filmed the entire thing to model the eventually animated characters after facial expressions, body movements, and Adam's Apple movements (true story).  These three women COMPLETELY brought these characters to life, and incredibly, NONE of them had previous experience as voice actors. Absolutely brilliant. Trust me, when you watch Caress's animation of Ophelia, it's like a completely startlingly hilarious (and at times disturbing) version of Christin bringing her to life! 

One of Caress' photos from our day tracking choirs and soloists. 

One of Caress' photos from our day tracking choirs and soloists. 

After two years of sitting on this score, Caress and I are happy to share a portion of it with you. In celebration of Mothership Opera returning home to Los Angeles in Festival this Friday night, I present you with the Miserable Opening Act from our short funk-space-opera. (For the record, you won't hear any funk in this bit....)

"Unfriended" Soundtrack Now Available!

Josh Weisbrod is one of the most clever animators I know. And yes, I know quite a few. About a year ago, he created a little sci-fi flick that's been running around the festival circuit and is coming home to LA this Friday night at the First Frame Festival. To celebrate, I'm pleased to announce that the score is now available to purchase and stream on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and Pandora. 

Check out this little score that I recorded with some killer players at a little place that's becoming a home away from home: Scott Frankfurt Studio. As is usually the case, the quartet that I used brought an entirely new life to this score. Special thanks to Aidan Rowe (piano), Sean Sumwalt (saxophones), and John Urban (bass) for the HOT solos! 

Be sure to check out the film's facebook page HERE for details on the screening and updates!

To whet your appetite, check out one of my favorite cues from this film: The Pig Dance. 

The Dating Project
"Such a great recording session a few nights ago at the studio. Crazy to see this original score to our film... So blessed to be working with  @gfonda , brought so much life to our movie with his insanely creative score. Big thanks to Scott Frankfurt Studio and all the players involved!!" // PC & Quote:  @jcipiti

"Such a great recording session a few nights ago at the studio. Crazy to see this original score to our film... So blessed to be working with @gfonda, brought so much life to our movie with his insanely creative score. Big thanks to Scott Frankfurt Studio and all the players involved!!" // PC & Quote: @jcipiti

In late summer 2015, my good friend Brian Ivie (The Drop Box, Shawn) told me that there was a project that he was loosely involved with that I might be well-suited for as a composer and inquired whether I might be interested. He asked if I could put together a short reel of anything that I had that was "indie" oriented. Fortunately, I had just finished up a collaboration with the lovely and talented Janey Feingold (more coming on that later) that was "cinematic indie". I sent off a bunch of work to Brian, no idea what I was getting into. As it turns out, Jon Cipiti, the director of The Dating Project, happened to really dig what he heard. I was hired on to be the composer for a fun documentary about, well, dating. 

Working with Jon was really a dream. The guy is overflowing with joy and, while he knows exactly what he wants, is incredibly encouraging in the process of creating and refining. Jon sent me the link to the final cut before we spotted the film, and much to my delight, saw the film was DP'ed by my friend and videographer extraordinaire David Bolen. (Let's just say that it looks nothing short of incredible.) Jon never tired in pushing us to the best possible option for score, even if it meant trying different ideas and then circling back to square one. Megan and Catherine, the producers, were equally as sweet and excited about what was happening. These people KNEW their film backwards and forwards. WHAT A JOY to have this happening. 

The film follows four “Dateables” (people who are well, date-able…) who vary in age from late teen to 40-something over the course of a couple of years. Because of the age gap, it was tricky to find the right sound for the film and then to write almost an hour's worth of music in said palette in very short “cues”, or pieces of score (we ended up with almost 30 cues). Because of the fast-paced nature of the documentary, a majority of the cues I wrote ended up being between 20 and 30 seconds long, so it was tricky to create pieces that were compositionally sound in such a short time. Jon and I finally decided on an ensemble that was a whole mess of guitars (acoustic, electric, folk), electric bass, piano, drums, recorders, a solo cello, and some toy percussion, and wove the entire film together with themes for each of our Dateables. All in all, the whole score became kind of a big set of theme and variations and an exercise in colorful orchestration for a modern ensemble. 

I've got to give a shoutout to my entire team on this one. My players were willing to try a TON of unconventional scoring practices on this.... especially my pal Wil Pearce. This guy has his fingers ALL OVER this score, and played more string instruments than I can count. My orchestrators did a fantastic job pulling some long hours getting traditional notation matched up with chord symbols, and Scott Frankfurt and his team proved to be the most hospitable, easy-going, and professional crew yet again. We tracked the entire score at Scott Frankfurt Studio. What a day, what a night! This entire film was a joy to work on, and we couldn't be happier with the results!! 

The Dating Project releases nationwide later this year. Stay tuned! In the meanwhile, here's two cues from the film! Enjoy! 

Mizzou Music!

During my time at The University of Missouri, Columbia, I had the immense privilege of studying under Dr. Julia Gaines in my Percussion emphasis. She's now the director of the School of Music there, and interviewed me about my life and work. Here's a little bit more about what I do! Many thanks to Dr. Gaines for putting up with me for two years for the interview! Enjoy.

Click HERE to check out the interview.  

Grant FondaComment
Green Convergence

I've had the great privilege of collaborating with Naknek Design for the last several months. I'm consistently inspired by their commitment to excellence, customer service, and tireless efforts to give their clients the very best, no matter what. Graham (Creative Director) consistently challenges me to try new things and explore new textures, and always, always, there's a request for a melody (I like this guy!).

Here's the latest score for a series of short documentaries they're putting together for a local company that's serving Santa Clarita's Solar Power needs. We went for a very bright and upbeat sound... full of energy (get it?). Many thanks to my friends Wil Pearce (guitars), Gabe DiMarco (cello) and Brett Bird (violin) for adding humanity to this. 

The Story

I was privileged to be able to collaborate with my friend Phil Borst and a company called Spread Truth to put together a 6 minute animated film that tells the story of the entire Bible from start to finish. We recorded with a full rhythm section and orchestra for this project, and rather than telling you more about it, I'll let it speak for itself. I couldn't have done this without the artistry of my friends Belinda Broughton on solo violin and Scott Frankfurt as engineer. Check out the score HERE and the film HERE. Enjoy!