Interview with Keegan DeWitt (HBO’s Divorce, Kate Plays Christine, Morris From America)
Entertainment n More caught up with Composer Keegan DeWitt. Keegan is known for HBO’s Divorce, Kate Plays Christine, Morris From America, and lots more. Check out this exclusive interview below.
What inspired you to become a composer?
Keegan DeWitt: I had gone to conservatory to be a filmmaker, and somehow stumbled into it. I always made music privately, almost in the same way many people keep a journal. I had my little 4-track cassette recorder and I’d write and record as a teenager and through film conservatory, but it was never something I had aimed to do. Then, my friend Aaron Katz had a film called “Dance Party USA” get into SXSW Film Festival and he called one day: “Hey, you do music, you should score my film”. That’s where it all started.
I think, as a filmmaker even more than a musician, I was excited by the idea that score could speak on an almost tectonic intangible frequency. My job was to take two people sitting next to one another, saying absolutely nothing, and use a single piano note to speak volumes. That floored me as a young filmmaker! Using something so small to say something so sub-conscious and beautiful.
Which projects are you most proud of?
Keegan DeWitt: Well, it sounds like a cheesy answer, but it is definitely the stock answer in that… they are all so different and special for specific reasons.
That being said, I am recently very proud of my work on “Hunter Gatherer”, a film I made with my close friend Josh Locy. It’s so unique, so definitive and so intimate. It mixes sadness with goofiness, beauty with ugliness and is entirely it’s own world. The score mixes some of my favorite instruments: ambient textures, tape loops, saxophones, Afro Beat rhythms and more. The theme for that film is one of my favorite things I discovered scoring films. A beautiful ambient loop with a plaintive saxophone breathing the main theme line.
What advice do you have for aspiring composers?
Keegan DeWitt: Luck is big. I was lucky in that I had a crowd of filmmakers that I was close friends with who took me in and were loyal.
That being said, I’d say that harnessing your limitations as strengths and figuring out how to use them as a key asset is big. Can’t afford an orchestra? Record a cello, chop it up in the computer and reverse it, make it sound like you found it on a cassette tape. Can’t find a sample set of horns that you like? Record them on your iPhone the wrong way and play them back in a big room on a loud speaker. Record THAT and layer it 5 times. Turn mistakes into magic.
Pride is only useful it’s making you work hard and be a reliable collaborator. If it’s limiting your ability to create, find new sounds, get rid of it.
What are some of the differences between writing for a band and for a tv show or film?
Keegan DeWitt: I think pop music is an art form and a weapon in a great way, most perfected by Bruce Springsteen probably. Pop music allows you to reach out to people and tell them they are not alone. For me, that’s why you make pop music.
Film is all about the intangible. For me, a perfect film or score is similar to when you walk into Saint Eustache church in Paris. Even if you’re an atheist, there is something about the stillness and the presence of that room that speaks to you. Not in words, but in some primal haunting way that MOVES you. That’s film. For me, that’s why nothing will ever touch the feeling of aiming for perfection in film making.
Keegan DeWitt: Yeah absolutely. Something Sharon and Sarah Jessica have done some perfectly is combine the dualistic nature of adulthood. Sadness comes with silliness, heart break comes with hopefulness. It’s one of the richnesses of adulthood that’s so seldom talked about: that there is a complexity to every moment. I tried to meet them at that place, with music that could pivot from silliness to tenderness and sometimes toe both lines at once.
Where is the best place for us to follow your career?
For the latest in all things film: http://keegandewitt.com
For irrational rantings about sports and politics: http://twitter.com/keegandewitt
For pictures from Sundance and beyond: http://instagram.com/keegandewitt