Double Talk is a film about a prolific voice artist in Spain named Joan Pera. He’s dubbed movies in English to Spanish and Catalan throughout his career. As a master of his craft, Joan has dubbed a prodigious volume of films. Woody Allen is one of his most notable characters, and Joan’s performance of Woody is highlighted in this film.
The Director of the short film is Jessica Bernstein-Wax. She asked for jazz, in particular a sub-genre of jazz reminiscent of Django and stride piano, to use under the opening and end credits. She also needed a sultry ballad remindful of “Misty” to highlight the romance of Spanish city life featured in the film. I was brought in late during the production schedule and given about two weeks to write and record the music. Two weeks is plenty of time to write 3 tracks (the third track was actually a variation on the first). They only took a handful hours to write, but the real challenge was finding an available studio space and booking high caliber musicians within the allotted time. I’m fortunate to live in an area ripe with professional musicians and recording studios, but as a jazz musician myself, I know how busy our schedules can get. My strategy was to find the studio first and book a morning session in the first available slot. That made booking the musicians less of a challenge (most jazz players don’t gig or teach in the mornings). It also compelled the director and her small team to move fast and approve my compositions quickly.
We had about 4 hours to setup, record, and mix. Getting the drums loaded in and mic’d by the engineer usually takes at least an hour, and setting up the rest of the band and dialing in the sound would take at minimum another hour. So we were looking at less than two hours for recording and mixing. It turned out very well for such a short amount of time. There was something refreshing about limiting our mixing to that timeframe, and keeping the mix rough lent well to an “old time” jazz sound.
The most demanding part of this job was project management. Prep time is one of the things that is often skimped when budgeting for such a project. Like mentioned above, the compositions only took a few hours to write and edit but it required considerable time and effort to mockup the music, write and revise contracts, negotiate rates with the film director, musicians, and engineer, create lead sheets of the music, plan the recording, and practice for the performance. I believe our initial inclination as composers and humans is to gloss over less interesting and tedious details and focus on what we’re most interested: writing music. It’s crucial to our business, however, to devote as much brain power to project management as we use for music.
There was no rehearsal for these tunes. They were all done within two takes. I hope you enjoy them!