31 July 2021 The Irish Film & Television Network
“Connecting to projects on an emotional level is what intrigues me the most about film music” - Irish Talent Emer Kinsella of ‘Sense8’ & ‘Jungle’
02 Jun 2017 : Katie McNeice
The Los Angeles based composer touches base with IFTN before coming home for the Scoring for Film Programme run by IMRO, Screen Training Ireland and Filmbase, which will see the RTÉ Concert Orchestra recording and performing her original score.

Looking through Kinsella’s credits, we see a solo violinist and composer moving from short form projects to the latest feature for ‘Harry Potter’ star Daniel Radcliffe, ‘Jungle’, and stepping to massive Netflix series ‘Sense8’ with music and arrangements.

She talks us through her influences, the honing of her musical voice, the complexities and supports of living abroad as an Irish composer and what she has coming up next.

IFTN: Talk me through your education, which has taken you from London to Vienna, Chicago to LA, and now back to Ireland for this program.
“I started playing the violin at the age of two and a half in Dublin, and then went onto the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and later to the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna for violin performance. Once I set my sights on pursuing film music, I moved to Chicago to study on an MFA in Film Composition at Columbia College Chicago after receiving a full tuition scholarship. The program ended in Los Angeles, and I've been working actively as a composer here ever since.”

IFTN: Was there any one person or piece of music which defined how you developed your talents along the way?
“Philip Glass has always been an idol of mine, I was especially inspired by his score for the film 'The Hours'. I admire him as someone who has had a successful career both as a composer and performer and has written for film as well as alternative performance projects. One of my favorite films ‘Run Lola Run’, which ignited my love for the German language, has an incredible score which I listened to non-stop as a teenager. Now, years later, I have had the pleasure of working with one of the film's composers Johnny Klimek, on the film ‘Jungle’ and the Netflix show ‘Sense8.”

IFTN: Tell us a little about the first projects you worked on? Were they all film-based or do you work for other formats too?
“I first worked on the documentary film 'Real World' by director Alex Falk who I met and worked with in Berlin. I have also been involved with alternative performance projects. I was artistic director of Artistmotion which aimed at creating new alternative spaces outside of the concert hall to experience classical music in new and exciting ways. This led me to creating and designing the site-specific performance project 'Soundproof'.

“This performance took place in Vienna and explored the concept of bringing music together with architecture, as I wrote the music and shaped the choreography to interact with the architecture of the building it was set in, and the architecture was perceived differently by the audience through music. I also wrote the music to the Radio play 'Prinzessin Vukobrankovics' which was produced by ORF Austria and DLF Germany radio. The radio play was written by writer and director Susanne Ayoub who has been a long time collaborator of mine.”

IFTN: Your credits include, as you’ve said, working alongside Johnny Klimek on the Netflix series ‘Sense8’ and the upcoming film ‘Jungle’, starring Daniel Radcliffe. What was it like as a musician working on such high-profile projects?
“I've been working with Golden Globe and Emmy nominated composer Johnny Klimek, (also known for his work on ‘Cloud Atlas’ and ‘Perfume’) on these exciting projects since coming to LA. I was able to use my skills as a composer and violinist by creating and manipulating violin layers, textures and effects into the score and illuminating themes with my solo violin performances.

“Film music is all about finding the right sounds to match the tone of the film and I enjoy using instruments in new ways to find the right texture and tone to match a cohesive score. I was able to use my violin skills in a multitude of ways, from enhancing intimate melodies to creating ambient and mysterious effects, and I think my adaptability made me a real asset to these projects. It's exciting to work on projects with such well known actors and to have an impact on the overall experience of the film or show through my musical contributions.”

IFTN: Was there anything in particular which attracted you back to Ireland, aside from the program offered by IMRO, RTÉ and Filmbase?
“It will be great to see my family, who I've been away from for a long time and to spend time at my favorite hangout spots like Grafton Street and Malahide Beach, which I grew up beside.”

IFTN: What are you most looking forward to about the Scoring for Film Program?
“I'm looking forward to hearing my score recorded by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and to have the experience of working with one of Ireland's top orchestras, as well as the chance to be inside RTÉ studios. Also it's exciting to hear how the film 'A Return to War' for which I've written the score to comes together with the live orchestra.

“It's always a nice surprise to hear how a great body of musicians can amplify the score you've written and bring it to a whole new level. Being present in the recording booth and hearing it all come together with orchestra is a rare opportunity which I am very excited to be apart of.”

IFTN: What's it like for you as an Irish composer in Hollywood?
“There's a strong Irish community here which I originally connected with through Irish Screen America LA. I also watched the Oscars this year at an Irish viewing party in LA which brought Irish filmmakers and artists together. These connections led to me writing the score to the Irish film 'Whadd'ya Say, which was made in LA by Irish director Karl Harpur, starring Caroline Morahan and Damian O'Hare, from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. It's nice to have a network of Irish people to connect with here, especially within the industry.”

IFTN: How do you balance life as a composer and violinist and how does your background as a violinist lend to your individual style?
“As well as composing for media projects, I also perform as a violinist with ensembles and DJs and write my own songs which I perform live with electronics and effects. I think my compositional voice dictates which projects I create involving myself as a violinist and my voice as a violinist lends to the ambient worlds I create as a composer, depending on the project I'm writing for. I enjoy pushing boundaries and combining different genres together to create something new using my own voice. “I incorporate my violin playing into my own compositions as much as possible. I think my voice comes out through experimenting with playing or singing into my scores, recording sounds in my environment and then creating new sounds out of this through audio manipulation and audio processing. I enjoy blending this with electronics and other instruments and creating original, innovative qualities to the sound.”

IFTN: What is your process like when working on a score?
“I begin with watching the film and then explore the various themes and emotions that come up in the story and apply that to the musical dialogue which I create to match the tone of the film and use to enhance the emotions on the screen. I find that tapping into central themes or subject matters of the projects I work on, inspires the music which I write based on the emotions which it invokes in me. I explore the textures and tones which fit the picture and vary themes and sounds to apply to different sections of the film. Connecting to projects on an emotional level is what intrigues me the most about film music as connecting with a storyline is the basis of everything I do.”

IFTN: What do you have coming up next?
“I'm finishing up the score to a documentary feature film called 'Faith' which features an LGBT based storyline that follows the relationship of two women across New York and Kenya. After that I'm moving onto a Virtual Reality Site-Specific Opera which will be developed over the next couple of months and a feature film which is currently in production.”

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