With the upcoming release of Bezos:The Beginning, Professional composer, Colin Bell, shared his creative process on scoring his first major film and his love of music.
The Early Days
It would be an understatement to say that Bell’s life was influenced by rhythm. As a child, his musical talent first emerged behind the drums. Surrounded by Scottish and Celtic musicians, Bell not only developed an interest in his heritage, but in creating new sounds.
His curiosity led him to study music education at Kean University. But it was his skillset that landed him on Echo Movement, a professional band that would produce three albums with Bell as the drummer.
After the group disbanded in 2012, Bell’s career shifted towards composing. By 2015, he found himself involved in a large-scale project, which involved actress and musician, Janina Gavankar. The collaboration allowed him to cross paths with household names that included musician Questlove.
Following years of travel and several health concerns, Bell ultimately decided to settle in Matawan, Monmouth County, with his wife, Glaucia and his two sons, Lachlan and Logan.
He also returned to the Old Bridge Township Public Schools to teach music, where he still teaches today. Despite these changes, his passion for composing grew as he would enroll in Berklee’s College of Music to pursue a Master’s of Music in Film Scoring.
In 2023, Bell has achieved another career milestone.
On Jan. 24, the music he composed for the upcoming film – Bezos: The Beginning, will be heard by audiences worldwide. The film chronicles the early career of billionaire Jeffrey Bezos and the start of Amazon.
In retrospect, each of Bell’s experiences led him to this moment. Although true, he also credited his decision to network as the reason for the unexpected opportunity. He recalled meeting the film’s director, Khoa Le, at an event. After a conversation about film and music, they exchanged information and a few months later, Bell was asked to score the film.
“Khoa Le remembered me, checked out my music on my website, and wanted me on board. I met with the production company and was hired to score the film. This is a classic case of putting yourself out there, meeting people, being yourself, engaging in interesting and meaningful conversation, and getting a call,” he said.
For Bell, the film presented a chance to put years of experience and education to use. He explained that the film presented unique challenges, but that the end-goal was the same – to produce high-quality music.
“I have to be careful to keep things simple and clear. Additionally, film music is meant to fit with the picture, the dialogue and the sound effects. I can’t flex my ‘composer muscle’; this is not the place for that. I have to write what enhances what’s already happening on the screen. In short, it’s not about me.
“You were hired by someone who needs music that is going to enhance their production. That music has to meet certain requirements they need, and it has to be submitted on time. You have to be open to feedback, and make requested changes, even if it’s something you don’t agree with,” Bell said.
Bell compared the process of selecting sounds to choosing colors from a crayon box. He stated that the “big picture” determines what instruments will be chosen.
“It’s like having the giant Crayola box of crayons with every color available. You chose the specific colors you want out of that limitless collection and set them aside for the film. Once the correct ‘crayons’ (instruments and sounds) are selected, you start writing music for any characters or ideas that have themes,” he said.
Bell explained that the sound design was crucial in capturing the technology of the time period, and most importantly, the emotions and humanity of the story.
“We wanted the score to bring back the memories and sounds of that era of technology, so I used a combination of retro synthesizer sounds, with basic subtractive synthesis sounds like square and sawtooth waves,” he said. “I found a way to incorporate the sounds of a dot matrix printer. We wanted the ‘bleeps and bloops’ reminiscent of that era. There were many moments of quirkiness and humor that lent itself to these sounds. There were also some darker moments where we see a different side of Bezos. The sounds changed to represent the darker tone of his personality in those moments.
“There are moments in the film where Bezos lets his guard down and shows his vulnerability. In those key moments, I wanted the music to get away from the tech, and represent his humanity, so I composed his theme on a classical guitar. This juxtaposition, against the sounds of synths and tech, provided a contrast to show the person underneath all the ambition,” Bell said.
Although Bell wouldn’t compare his humble beginnings and career trajectory to Bezos, he did share his aspirations to accomplish more. He expressed that the film isn’t the culmination of his career, but the continuation of it.
“I had a lot of fun composing this style of score, it brought back fond memories of 1990’s tech and internet, which was my childhood, and where I learned everything about computers.
“I am certainly inspired to do more. This film was a great opportunity and I’m proud of how it came out. I was thrust suddenly into this moment, and I was able to rise to it and execute. I’ve never been inspired more than right now. I have more films I am working on for 2023, and I can’t wait to work with more filmmakers. I am not one to do a single type of thing, and I have a few irons in different fires right now,” he said.
For an inside look at Bell’s music, visit https://www.instagram.com/njcolin/