Aram quit law career to be film composer

In 2022, Aram was nominated for the News and Documentary Emmy Awards

In Summary
  • Despite being interested in music from the age of nine, Aram studied law as it was his dad's wish. 
  • Aram has worked on big projects such as the TV series El Chapo (Netflix), The Mosquito Coast (Apple TV), Blood on the Wall (Nat Geo), Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty (HBO)
Eduardo Aram in studio
Eduardo Aram in studio

Eduardo Aram, an Emmy-nominated film composer, has mastered the art of bringing to life and adding emotion and actions to characters to convey a certain message and set the tone while dictating the pace, mood and tension for a specific scene in a film.

Watching a film, a documentary, or a movie would have a different feel if it didn't have a film score.

A film score is a musical piece that accompanies a scene or a moment in a film. This is what many refer to as the background music, soundtrack, film music, or screen music.

In 2022, Aram was nominated for the News and Documentary Emmy Awards for outstanding music composition for the short film Camp Confidential: America's Secret Nazis.

In 2021 he was nominated at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards for best original score for the same film, and in 2020 at the HMMA for outstanding score in the documentary TV series The Devil Next Door.

Aram's interest in music started at an early age, when he was nine years old, while living in Brazil. That was when he started studying music. When the time came to pick a career, his father, a lawyer, convinced him to study law.

"My father was of the opinion that music wasn't the best way to make a living and become successful," Aram said. He joined the university and studied law for five years.

He worked for two years after, until he made a decision that music was his calling and jumped into it.

At that point, he had no idea how to make a living just from music. He juggled between teaching music, being a DJ, which he had an idea of since he was 16, and doing advertisements for TV.

In 2007–2008, he met Antonio Pinto, a Brazilian film score composer, who introduced him to film scoring and became his mentor.

He started working on American and European films in 2011 before moving to the United States in 2015 as there were more opportunities in Hollywood.

As a film scorer, he follows the storytelling of the film in such a way that the music doesn't exceed the picture but supports what the viewers will feel. Sometimes he has to balance not to make a scene overwhelming.

"If it's a sad scene and you go too sad with the music, it can be devastating," he said.

"In a nutshell, I can say music is also storytelling. We use music to make certain elements stronger, like an important character or the best moment of the film, and I come up with the musical language to bring that out." 

Aram was commissioned to compose the score for Free Money, a documentary based in Kenya. As he does in most of his projects, he usually familiarises himself with the location where the film is being shot and studies the music of the locals.

Due to Covid restrictions, he had to work remotely and connect with the producers of the film to come up with a good original score.

"I knew nothing about the music from Western Kenya, and I wanted to learn. The producers and sound director made contact with Eric Wainaina who took me through some lessons. He explained the instrumentation, how they're played, how many people play it, and how they sing. It was amazing," Aram said.

In the end, they could not use the music they had recorded, as the concept of the music for the film had changed completely. Instead, he suggested they use the material for another project because it was great.

Aram has worked on big projects such as the TV series El Chapo (Netflix), The Mosquito Coast (Apple TV), Blood on the Wall (Nat Geo), Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty (HBO), The Gymnastics (Paramount), The Sun Queen, Cocaine Godmother, Runner, and he had the honour of composing for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Opening ceremony.

Eduardo Aram in studio
Eduardo Aram in studio

Aram spoke to the Star about his career and journey as a film composer in the industry.

What is the most important thing one must have to be successful in this field?

Being able to understand what the movie and the director need. You're there to make it happen. It's a collaborative project, and I'm there to serve that purpose, not to do what I personally think or feel. I help the filmmakers achieve their vision.

Which are the important parts of a film that require a score?

It usually depends on the story, but the introduction of characters is very important and any kind of breakpoint or turning point in the story related to the character or a place.

A character from the beginning of the film might be a good person and later on join a gang. The music in both instances will be different, so you'll have to find the turning point.

Before composing a score for a film, do you prefer reading the script first or going over the raw footage?

Both cases depend on the time or stage of the project when I am contacted. But I like reading the script to develop the idea before they shoot the movie and have time to compose the music.

Everything makes a big difference. I can read the script, but there's a piece of editing, the colours, the cinematography, and when I talk with the director, they make a reference to other ideas they have.

Probably 90 per cent or more of the music I write works when you put in the pictures and that is great.

How critical is the relationship between a composer and the director or producer, and how do you resolve conflicts?

The relationship is very important; just like the editor and producer, everyone brings something to the table, and of course the director is the person in charge. Understanding each other is essential.

Disagreements are there. Sometimes the producer and director can disagree on the type of score they want, and they throw that at me. In this situation, I answer to who has more power and makes the decision.

I wouldn't want to fight for something too much. If the director has a vision, that will work. I try to understand what I believe is best sometimes because in the end, they hire a composer knowing they are able to achieve that.

How do you handle setbacks, like when you've made a score for a film and the director prefers a different style?

I don't get too personal, and that would be my advice to anyone. I do so much music, and if you create something and feel like it's a masterpiece, you don't need to feel like it should be used right away. If it doesn't work, I understand that.

The music can be great, but the director can have some reasons why it's not working, and I try to get a sense of what they need. If I also disagree on something, I let them know by explaining.

Most of your work is Narcos-related; are you biased towards such kinds of films?

The thing about the industry here in Hollywood is that when you do something and it goes well, you're going to get hired by others to do the same kind of work for a long time. It is the same with actors.

When I moved to the US, it was during the period of the Narcos TV series.

Netflix hired me to do El Chapo, and it became a very popular show. Everyone was asking, who is this composer? He knows what he's doing. Later on, there were documentaries and movies I did on the same theme for like five to six years.

Different projects came on later about war and post-war, and then a documentary on athletes, which was interesting. There is a lot one can explore from all these characters as a music creator, like in cartel movies, where they're all kind of similar. A person rises from poverty to become the evil boss; in war movies, it can get very emotional.

What would be your advice to anyone interested in this career path?

I would say that studying music theory is very important. I have seen many people become very good in theory but don't make music. One needs to go out and make a lot of music for any medium or purpose.

In this age of AI, it has changed the technology space, unlike before, when one would struggle to get some things done. Now you just have to type some prompts, and the software can analyse them and give you some ideas. I think in a few years there's going to be a gigantic change.

Eduardo Aram plays a piano
Eduardo Aram plays a piano

What do you consider the most difficult part of your work?

The process of creating the initial sound, characteristics and texture of the score. You'll have to include different instruments, spend time recording musicians, mixing, and editing, and one concept can take up to several days or weeks.

The other part is presenting the music for the film to the producer or director; there's always that feeling of whether they are really enjoying it or not. It creates a certain anxiety.

Which project can you say is your favourite?

I don't have a specific one because all projects come with something new I have not done before, and they present a new challenge and a different idea to develop.

You got nominated for the Emmys. Do you think awards are important?

My first nomination was kind of interesting. I felt honoured. Everything was new to me. I didn't know how to behave on the red carpet or where I should go next.

I don't think someone can be amazing just because of awards, but they help push us further in the industry. It's also key, as it can introduce your work to people.

How crucial is it to have a mentor?

It's very important. I have had very good mentors in my life, not only in the film industry. I think the best way for me to learn was to do things rather than study in school. Having a mentor helped me get into big studios and be in meetings; if I were a beginner, I'd have never gotten those opportunities.


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