Q&A with Jeff Rona and Jeffrey Morris, composers of ‘Parallel Man’ Soundtrack
Parallel Man: Infinite Pursuit, a 12-minute animated sci-fi film by FutureDude Entertainment, recently premiered on Gunpowder & Sky’s streaming channel DUST. As the short film’s accompanying soundtrack hits streaming services, composers Jeff Rona and Jeffrey Morris discuss how they captured this action-packed story through music.
Q: Let’s get started with some introductions – Jeff, can you provide a quick overview of your professional background and previous projects, and what initially brought you into film scoring?
JR: Sure. My name is Jeff Rona, and I’m a composer here in Los Angeles. I’ve been scoring film and TV for a very long time now, and more recently, I’ve gotten very involved in interactive entertainment with video games. In addition to scoring feature films and TV, I’ve done a number of documentaries and I’ve done some short films.
Q: Now to Jeffrey Morris – you wrote and directed the film, but you also contributed an original song, “MultiGroove” (Theme to Parallel Man) with your band Escape Tower. What’s your background with film scoring, and what was this process like for you?
JM: I’ve been a musician since childhood, and I was a keyboard player. I’ve dabbled in music projects off and on over the past 30 years or so. I did a full album around 1992, and one of the songs I put together was sort of stuck in my head – there was a hook, a rhythm to it. And I made the decision to bring it forward and update it for Parallel Man. I thought it had a good groove and vibe.
That was one of the songs I actually wrote entirely by myself, and I updated it with a gentleman I know here in the Twin Cities named Michael Nelson. Our collaboration is called Escape Tower – that’s the two of us. And it’s really taking songs by me and reworking them. We’re planning to do an Escape Tower album in the next 18 months.
JR: By the way – I auditioned for that band, but I did not get in [laughs].
Q: Back to Jeff Rona – you had numerous big projects under your belt before working with FutureDude – how did you get involved with composing the score for Parallel Man, and what drew you to the sci-fi genre?
JR: A couple years before Parallel Man, I had worked on another short film with Jeffrey. It was one of those rare cases where we were introduced by an agent. I’d like to say we connected on an artistic level, and we hit it off as friends.
I think Jeffrey and I had already developed a common music language – he could speak to me, and I could speak to him. It’s great that Jeffrey is a musician himself – it’s actually terrifying to composers, when you work with a director who actually knows how you do what you do. But Jeffrey’s incredible in how he gives you a lot of space to work and try things. He’s very open-minded, but at the same time he’s very precise.
Q: And Jeffrey, what did Jeff’s contribution to the project mean to you?
JM: First off, I wanted something that had depth and breadth. The thing I like about Jeff is that he’s a very smart guy – and he’s willing to try different instruments and think outside the box.
One of the problems, especially with science fiction, is I think there’s a lot of cookie cutter music. I don’t want any of my projects to be stereotypical. Sam Raimi said this: “Give the people what they want but not what they expect.” And one of the things Jeff really did a great job of was creating music that felt familiar yet pushed the audience to new places. This short was broken into four separate little movies, and Jeff got it. He really brought a different feel to all the four while still allowing them to feel unified.
Q: How does the story and pacing impact the direction you choose to go with the music?
JR: I think musically, it became about really being distinct. So the color of the music changes – the feeling of each of these worlds that [Commander Nick Morgan] has to face and be challenged by was quite different. Dinosaurs are different from spaceship fights and dystopian post-industrial landscapes and all that.
Q: How much experimentation did you have to do to get the right musical sound that you and Jeffrey wanted? Did the music change from your original concepts during the full scoring process?
JR: Originally, there were a couple things that were different between the beginning and the end of working on the project. Part of this was the role of experimentation between Jeffrey and I to find the tone that would fit – because it’s animation; it’s for a younger audience, but it’s also a very sophisticated story and makes some intellectual demands on the audience.
As we got further along, it became less important to try to unify the worlds as to differentiate them. So the Parallel Man – whatever theme there is for the character – it became more and more subtle. And I think it became less and less important.
What else changed was the role of science fiction. My first sketches were more electronic and more sci-fi – I don’t think I was being cliché about it, but I was trying to be realistic about it. Jeffrey pointed out that this isn’t about the future – and in fact, it’s not about time. We’re not traveling in time, and that’s really important.
Q: Did you have any particular sources of inspiration when composing the Parallel Man soundtrack?
JM: When it came to the Parallel Man Theme, I was trying to do an homage to two bands and update their sound. I took a bit of Andy Summers, the guitar player from The Police – he had a very signature approach to his guitar. Then there was another band popular in the ‘80s called The Fixx, which I looked at a lot. If people know the music of those two bands, there were some specific songs that influenced the main title track. But we added our own funky beat and updated that sound to bring it to the modern day. People like the end credits because it’s not what you would expect from this action movie – I like that it has this different groove.
JR: There’s tons of inspiration – I certainly know the kinds of films that Jeffrey loves – he’s been very vocal about what he loves and why – everything he talks about has a musical connotation. So of course, what Jeffrey envisions for his films draws from his inspirations. I know his tastes in film, TV and art and music. And all of that helps me start to build the initial ideas.
Q: Do you have a favorite song on the Parallel Man soundtrack?
JM: Now that I’m able to hear it isolated on the soundtrack, I love what Jeff did with Dino World. I think it’s awesome – it’s so big, and the song really carries it along. It increases the fear and increases the tension, and it’s perfect film music because it gives a dynamism to that portion of the movie that stands out from the rest of it.
JR: I don’t have a favorite. I love all of my children the same.
Q: Finally, do you have any upcoming projects we should be looking out for?
JM: Jeff and I are going to collaborate on the soundtrack for the upcoming feature film Persephone, as well as a feature film called Adrift: An Oceanus Adventure. Plus, we have the Parallel Man feature film that we’re in development on, and I can’t wait to unleash him on that.
One of the things I’m also excited about is bringing Jeff in early, like we did on this project, where we can start sketching ideas and music. We were able to hear themes and ideas as we were making the project. And I think that’s fantastic, when the music starts to inform the content as you’re making the content. It’s totally different from making the content first and then throwing the music on.
JR: Now that I think about it, I think I have sketches for your next four movies.
JM: I think you do!
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.