The 2011 Ten to Watch: Jeff Toyne
The Vancouver-based composer is making the move from orchestration on such as Fast Five and Battle Los Angeles to writing his own music for upcoming film Dirty Girl.
Each year, Playback puts out a call for the industry to recommend its best and brightest
up-and-coming talent for our 10 to Watch list. With over 100 nominations this year, including only 10 seemed impossible — virtually every nominee deserved to be on the list. The selection represented here is the culmination of careful consideration by Playback’s editorial jury, in association with film, TV and interactive industry execs and organizations. Having already made a splash, these talented 10 are poised for great things.
Jeff Toyne / composer
Hometown: Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Agency: Claire Best and Associates in L.A. (worldwide)
Big break: Dirty Girl
The buzz: This Vancouver-based, classically trained composer did his post-grad at the University of Southern California studying film score composition. The majority of his career has seen him arranging orchestration for Hollywood blockbusters such as Fast Five, Battle Los Angeles and 2012, but he’s recently begun pursuing his true passion of writing music for the screen, landing his first feature composing gig on 2010’s independent film Dirty Girl, starring Milla Jovovich and William H. Macy.
Tell us about moving from orchestration into composition.
If you’re seen as an orchestrator, people will want to put you in that category and won’t consider you for writing original music. I’d probably be lying if I said I just did it for fun because it pays pretty well, but I’m consciously moving away from it. Now I’m excited to orchestrate my own projects. For the last 10 years, I’ve had a two-streamed career, working in supporting roles for movies you’ve heard of and wrote music for movies you probably haven’t heard of.
What were some of the challenges of working on Dirty Girl?
Indie films are always budget-challenged. We worked a little bit of magic to have a 35- to 40-piece orchestra play since live musicians add so much to the film. Luckily for me in this case, I didn’t have to convince the director [Abe Sylvia] — he wanted it right from the start. Directors generally know that an orchestra is a really effective way to tell the story. We [tend to] have resistance with producers, as they have a hard time seeing value for dollar spend.
Ever had any unusual requests?
I try to come up with those on my own, to be honest! Film composers work in clichés — the bad guy walks on and you hear low trombones. We have this bag of devices that audiences are subconsciously aware of, but it’s nice to create new ideas. On Dirty Girl, Abe wanted a pedal steel guitar because the film starts in Arkansas. It’s an amazingly complex and powerful instrument and not used in film enough because it really suffers from a country-western connotation. Any chance to bring an instrument out of its baggage is an exciting opportunity.