BUMA Composer Federico Solazzo on Building…

By Madeleine Collier

Hello and welcome to everyone following along virtually with the 50th edition of IFFR. My name is Madeleine Collier and I am a New York-based critic, translator, and researcher currently pursuing an MA in Film and Media Studies at Columbia University. Over my next week at IFFR, I look forward to connecting with other film critics and engaging with the fantastic lineup of woman-led and queer films on the February film programme. You can follow my coverage of IFFR here, on the festival website, and over at the Australia-based film journal Senses of Cinema.

Last Wednesday, I spoke with music producer and film composer Federico Solazzo, who is one of the six rising Dutch composers selected to participate in the IFFR Pro x Buma CineMart matching programme. We discussed his expectations for IFFR this year, his writing process, and his early inspirations.

How are you feeling about the online portion of IFFR? Is there anything you’re looking forward to about this format?

I’ve been to the festival many times. I always enjoy the vibe and the sharing between the filmmakers. The online part is a bit weird, but I already attended the animation festival Annecy online last June. I usually try to see as much as possible there, because I like the mood and I like animation. Of course, you’re missing out on all of the human energy in the room, but let’s hope we can return to in-person festivals soon.

You have a conservatory background in classical and jazz music. How did you first become attracted to composing for moving image?

I was inspired by movies that I saw as a boy, like theBack To The Future score by Alan Silvestri, some John Williams stuff, or other scores by Thomas Newman. With these composers, I could feel that there was a story within the story, or rather, the same story set in another way. I also always loved to improvise. There was an evening around the piano with friends in my first year in high school. A friend of mine started improvising the story while I improved the music and it was so fun and natural. Since then, I’ve just kept going. 

Over the span of your career, you’ve scored many different formats of visual media. What is your favourite kind of project to take on?

My favourite projects are animation projects. In animation you can have complete freedom with the music, because it’s the only kind of film that starts without any production sound; you have to build a new world completely. Even when they’re just recording dialogues with a boom mic [in a live action film], you have, for example, birds chirping that they’re going to have to take out later with noise reduction. But with animation you can really have control of the story.

In 2019, you contributed music to the Italian documentary Il cercatore d’infinitoabout the life and legacy of the alpinist Armando Aste. How did you find inspiration for this score?

That project was very close to me, because I was born very near the Alps. And the weird thing is that here [in the Netherlands] I’m living in the flattest land in the world [laughs]. It was nice to work again with Italy, to give something back to my country. I was able to connect these pieces of footage through music that was very much inspired by these beautiful mountain images that you see. 

Once you receive a commission to write a score, what does your writing process look like? 

I try to sketch things out either when I’m reading a script or right after meeting with the director. That could be me humming something into the phone – just to fix it in place. Then I begin analysing and thinking, okay, what now? My technical production background helps me quickly spit out something that is very convincing, but I always try to give it a human touch. When you have a live string section, you have the breathing of the players; they’re putting their emotion into the music that they are recording. I think that human element is necessary and I think it’s something that is here to stay.

Madeleine Collier
Written for the Young Film Critics 2021