Music is so important when it comes to movies and TV shows. It can keep you in the world of the story, contribute emotions to you, and take you for a ride. You can always tell when a composer has added a personal touch to their work.
It transcends what's on screen and illuminates your soul as you watch the moving images, and great scores stick with you.
No Film School talked to the incredible composer EmmoLei Sankofa about her new project, Three Ways, and what the personal touch is that she brings to her work.
Check it out below.
'Three Ways' official posterCredit: Hulu
Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
NFS: What inspired you to work on this project?
EmmoLei Sankofa:Initially, the director, Jamal Dedeaux, reached out to me and said, “Yeah, so I have a feature that I'm excited about that needs a score. When you have time next week, let's chop it up, and I'll tell you all about this sex comedy that I wrote and directed starring Andrea Lewis and Brittany S. Hall called The Threesome. I'll tell you how it's super dope; it's our 'A24 black sex comedy.' And how Jackie Brown is one of my all-time favorite films, and even though that movie doesn't have a score, that is the vibe I envision for the film.”
After reading this, my instincts were screaming, my curiosity was through the roof, and I had pretty much decided that I was going to say yes to this before watching the cut. After seeing the rough cut, it was even easier to say yes because the story was hilarious and compelling. And, the storyline for Three Ways had themes that were sort of similar to the story I molded to create my Geometry EP. When I decide to work on certain projects, I always pay attention to how my previous work is in conversation with what’s in front of me.
NFS: How did you approach the creative process for this project?
Sankofa: The process for composing the score for Three Ways was very fluid. I was so inspired that ideas came quickly. Before writing anything, I’d decided that the score would be percussive. The score to Birdman was fresh on my mind, and I thought, “Why hadn’t anybody else attempted a score with the drumset being the dominant instrument?”
After that, I mapped out the three central motifs and worked with Nate Laguzza, who demoed them on the drumset so that I could map out the core elements for the score before fine-tuning and embellishing with other instrumentation. My music editor, Simon Poole, helped with that process, too. Once the flow was locked in, I composed the rest of the score primarily without looking at the picture. I memorized the timing and visual rhythm of the scenes to focus on the emotional elements the music needed to support the film. Oddly enough, whenever I do this, things just fall into place.
I improvised most of the vocals you hear throughout, which is always fun because everything is raw and organic. And, I can't forget my buddy Matthew Thompson who I brought on board to play guitar, keys, and bass for some of the more ethereal moments throughout the score. When I pick musicians, I leverage their unique playing styles and expression to elevate the score. So for this project, me, Matt, and Nate were the perfect blend.
Emmolei SankofaCredit: Courtesy of
NFS: Can you discuss any particularly memorable moments during the production of this project?
Sankofa: The entire process of creating this score was memorable, but my favorite moment was when Jamal first heard the score. He flipped out and couldn’t believe how everything came together. These are the moments I live for as a composer because Jamal trusted me and let me do my thing without interference.
NFS: How has your background and previous work influenced this project?
Sankofa: Every aspect of my life has contributed to the unique expression I bring to my work. Honestly, there isn't just one thing that directly influenced my work on this film. But I have to say, ever since I watched the rough cut, my EP, Geometry, keeps popping into my head. It's somewhat of a musical foreshadowing of what you'll experience story-wise in this film.
Pretty cool how things connect, right?