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Kieran Kiely's Immortal Composition

Film Composer Kieran Kiely

The film Immortal boasts some very recognizable talent onscreen. One of the most impressive talents you won’t see in this film which recently premiered at Screamfest in Hollywood is the film’s music composer Kieran Kiely. While Kiely spent a large amount of time on the world’s biggest rock stages as Musical Director and band member for Grammy award-winning artist Sinead O’Connor or performing/recording with legendary musician/guitarist/producer/Dave Stewart, these days he’s more content to compose film scores from the tranquility of the studio. Trading screaming fans for transfixed filmgoers has proven a comforting bargain for this musical talent, as it has for the film industry professionals he collaborates with. Immortal’s four directors (yes, four!): Rob Margolies, Jon Dabach, Tom Colley, and Danny Issac, chose Kieran to score the film due to his ability to nail an initial “trial” scene as well as communicate the tone of the entire movie in that singular scene. As with music, film often requires an intuitive nature for what the creator wants; something Kiely possess in regards to both mediums. Immortal is a quartet of stories about different people with a central premise of immortality. Each tale offers its own presentation of the idea with a perfectly complemented musical partner that magnifies its message.

The feel of Immortal might be described as Black Mirror with more of a focus on humanity than on its integration with technology; yet there is still a supernatural element to these tales. In each part of this anthology, someone discovers they cannot die and confronts what this means for them. In one story, Ted (Tony Todd of Candyman and The Crow) and Mary (Robin Bartlett of Sophie’s Choice, the Martin Scorsese directed Shutter Island and Oscar nominated Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis) are a married couple considering assisted suicide due to a terminal cancer diagnosis. Another tale depicts track & field star Chelsea (played by Lindsay Mushett) and the opportunistic leanings of her teacher Mr. Shagis (portrayed by Thrice Primetime Emmy nominated Dylan Baker known for Oscar-winning film Selma and Oscar nominated Revolutionary Road). Samm Levine (of Oscar-winning film Inglorious Bastards and Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later) as Warren, survives what should be a fatal impact from a car and sets out to deliver vigilante justice in another part of the film. Each of these stories contains the frailty of loss with a questioning, perhaps even frightening subtext.

The Four Directors of Immortal

Kieran points to his years as a supportive instrumentalist in band scenarios as a strength when it comes to composing music for this film. By watching the film as an audience member, experiencing the emotional performances of the actors and feeling the rhythm of the edits, Kiely tailored the musical personality of the film as a creative dance. He’s careful to point out that sometimes it’s unison and sometimes counterpoint. He relates, “There are several factors that help navigate scenes when it comes to writing music to picture. The cuts tend to have a rhythm to them. Any movement on screen influences music. The cinematography and set location are also influential. Of course, one can always choose to ignore these things and go against the visuals ,which can sometimes work. However, one element which cannot be ignored is Dialogue; it’s definitely king and one has to work around that. I tend to watch a movie I am scoring as many times as possible or as many times as I can afford given time limitations so that it really seeps in. From that process, I begin to know the characters and story intimately and discover what should be said musically.” The three-note motif which Kieran constructed becomes a unifying thread throughout the different parts of the film. This invisible yet very often present audio character in the film possesses a sense of intrigue and suspense with a hint of sci-fi that amplifies the action onscreen. The ticking clock rhythm incorporated by the composer not only reinforces the idea that time is ongoing and constant for these immortal characters but balances the audible space when dialogue is not present. Kiely utilizes the same sound pallet throughout the four sections of the film to further manifest a cohesion among them.

So much of communicating the filmmaker’s vision in any production is about shared vision. DP Tom Colley and composer Kieran Kiely shared surmountable challenges in arriving at creations that were in unison with the four different directors of this film. Proving more than capable of the task, Immortal is a film that simultaneously frightens and endears us concerning our own mortality...with great thanks to the psycho-emotional effects of Kieran Kiely’s expressive score. Immortal director Jon Daback professes, “I've had the pleasure of working with many composers in my career and Kieran is among the very best. The way he composes elevates every scene. His sense of timing and tone are impeccable. Any filmmaker would be lucky to have him as a collaborator. Music accounts for as much as 50% of the emotional impact your film has on an audience and when I hire Kieran I know I'm in good hands.” New York filmgoers will have the chance to experience this firsthand when Immortal premiers at the NYC HorrorFest on December 7th at the Cinepolis Chelsea, NYC (10:30 PM-12:15 AM).

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