The New Establishment third reveal: Trevor Morris

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Earlier this summer, Playbackonline.ca put out a call to the Canadian screen industry to hear who amongst your peers may be the emerging game-changers and innovators. Leading candidates were selected to be profiled online, the third of which appears here. The ultimate New Establishment pick will be revealed in the fall issue of Playback, which will be arriving in subscribers’ mailboxes starting Sept. 4 and also available in the TIFF industry office.

TREVOR MORRIS, COMPOSER

The Buzz: Since kickstarting his TV scoring career in 1999 with Amin Bhatia on Codename: Eternity, the Toronto-born, Emmy award-winning composer has gone on to work with industry icons, including Hans Zimmer, and scoring productions such as The Borgias, The Tudors and Pirates of the Caribbean. He’s also worked on video games.

How did you get your start as a composer in the entertainment industry?

My TV career, to give credit where it’s due, started thanks to a fellow composer named Amin Bhatia who asked me to co-compose a TV show for him in Canada called Codename: Eternity. That was my first real point of entry into TV scoring, and that sort of got my appetite going.

What are some challenges you’ve faced in building your career?

Any young composer faces the same challenge, which is trying to break into the industry on some level.  Then, once you do… finding your own voice, listening to it and letting it emerge through your music is definitely your biggest challenge. It’s something I continually work on and I’m conscious of.

Do you have a signature musical style?

I have an affinity for cinematic and grand scale images and music. I like small music too, I write a lot of both. But I have a great affinity for a grand image and it immediately conjures up music in my head. I enjoy the broad landscapes of big movies and shows like The Tudors and The Borgias.

What is the process of scoring a TV show/film like?

It starts with the script. I read my scripts in advance so I know not only the given episode, but also where [the show's] going. Then they finish the show, they’ve shot and edited it, so it’s pretty much completed. Then I sit down with a combination of the director and the producers and we spot the show. We basically decide where music is going to come in and where it’ll go out, which is a very important process, and what its goal is in a scene by scene way.

Is there any difference between the platforms?

Games are a completely unique beast, but for me TV and film aren’t that different. I don’t know how to write ‘TV music.’ I just write the best music for the story.

How did your opportunities in the U.S. come about?

I moved to the U.S. around 2000 with no job to come to. My first gig was assisting one of my musical heroes, James Newton Howard. Working with him was an amazing highlight to start my career, and in turn led to me working with Hans Zimmer for awhile.

Do you feel, like many of your Canadian peers, that it’s necessary to travel stateside to be successful?

When I tried to break into the industry, there wasn’t a lot of room for another composer. I had a lot of trouble finding my way into the TV and film business. My choice to go to the U.S. was to follow the work.

What challenges face Canadian screen composers?

The opportunities are opening up, in a sense that Canada’s very smart in leading the world in co-production financing. We have amazing crews [across Canada]. Canada is continually stepping up to meet all the challenges and, in a way, I think we’re leaving the U.S. in our dust. The U.S. is scrambling to catch up with what I think is very progressive thinking for the way the Canadian film and TV business does what it does.

On the other hand, competition is stiffer. More people want to be a composer than ever before.

Why did you choose to open your own scoring studio, in 2011?

Like most composers, I spent a lot of years working out of a spare bedroom or garage. When I turned 40 and had kids, I realized I wanted to build my dream studio space. It was about not only creating an environment that makes me feel creative, but also work flow.

I also keep a studio in Toronto with a company called The Egg Plant. That allows me the freedom to come back to Toronto to embrace the needs of a client, but also to work in and enjoy the city I grew up in.

What’s coming up next for you?

The Borgias is coming back for season three, which I’m very excited about. They’re shooting now and I’m assuming I’ll be starting on that very shortly.

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NFB75Anniversary - Claude Joli-Coeur (NFB Acting Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson) presents a gift to the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario David Onley, a still from his favourite NFB film, Cosmic Zoom