Summer’s hottest composer shares his love of Los Angeles musicians, balancing work and family, and how he maintained his sanity scoring three summer blockbusters back to back (to back)
From film and TV to video games, composer Michael Giacchino’s colorful and energetic music can be heard nearly everywhere. This is especially true this summer; in just a few short weeks, he scored three of the summer’s widest box-office releases — “Jurassic World,” “Inside Out” and “Tomorrowland” — without so much as a break. But hard work doesn’t seem to faze the prolific composer, whose obsession with music and movies began early. At 10, Giacchino would sneak tape recorders into movie theaters so he could listen to them each night as he fell asleep, and it wasn’t long before he started making stop-motion animation with homemade soundtracks in his parents’ basement.
He studied film at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and music at Juilliard. He then moved to Los Angeles, launching his career at Universal and later Disney. In 1997 he composed some temp music for a PlayStation video game based on Steven Spielberg’s box-office hit, “Jurassic Park: The Lost World.” Spielberg loved the music so much he asked to meet Giacchino, and excitedly inquired whether it would be recorded with a live orchestra rather than synthesized — to which Giacchino replied a resounding “Yes!”… despite not having yet discussed that bit with the producer. All ended up working out, and after its release, television producer J.J. Abrams was so taken with Giacchino’s video game work that he tapped him for ABC dramas “Alias” and “Lost.” His film-scoring career took flight in 2004 when director Brad Bird tapped him for Pixar’s highly successful “The Incredibles,” establishing him as one of the most sought-after composers in Hollywood.
A longtime fan of the Los Angeles musicians he’d obsessively listened to on movie soundtracks during his formative years, Giacchino — himself a member of the musicians union — has since become one of the leading advocates for AFM Local 47 musicians. After he discovered that the studios had been screening films for everyone who worked on the project except the orchestra, he began co-hosting orchestra screenings to thank the musicians for their contributions. Giacchino generously took time out of a well-earned vacation to share his process for creating the scores to three of this summer’s biggest films, balancing work with family life, and what it’s like to work in Los Angeles with whom he calls “the best musicians in the world.”