Carly Paradis is a London-based composer and pianist known for creating the music for series Line of Duty, Sick Note and Netflix's new romantic-drama The Innocents. Here Carly – originally from Ontario, Canada – shares how she started out in the industry, what music programmes she uses to score shows and what aspiring composers can do to succeed.
Carly, can you first introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your journey into music and then how that took you into the film and television world?
I’m a film and television composer, and piano’s my main instrument.
I worked on the BBC’s Line of Duty, Netflix’s The Innocents – which came out a week ago – and a bunch of other shows and movies.
I started playing piano really young – at about four - and started writing music at about nine. Then, I went the classical piano route. I did music and multimedia at university to study more about music technology.
I was in an Indy band for six years in Canada, while being a substitute teacher so I could pay all the music bills.
Then, in 2006, I reached out to Clint Mansell - because he was one of my favourite composers of all time. I got in touch and he actually replied; we exchanged music and the next time I was in LA, in 2007, we met up for a coffee. Then, a few months later he needed a pianist for the Gent Film Festival.
I played there with him, his music, and then he got the band to play on the soundtrack for Duncan Jones’ Moon, in 2009.
Then, from there I always knew I wanted to do film and TV stuff. So, I started doing short films, writing trailer music and did some documentaries. And that continued to grow into film and television.
And you said you started composing your own music at the age of nine?
Yeah, I mean they were just piano pieces.
I always loved exploring and just meditating at the piano; just sitting there for hours improvising.
Yeah, that was a really fun thing to do as a nine-year-old!
Even if it’s just piano pieces, a lot of people don’t even come to the thought of composing their own work at that age – was it something you fell into or did something push you towards it?
At that age, it was just a natural thing. I started playing the keyboard by ear, just by hearing pop songs on the radio, so my parents thought – “okay, she’s got something here” – and then put me into lessons.
Then, it was just a natural step for me. I guess it was an easier way to communicate thoughts and feelings.
I don’t know how to explain it; it’s just something that came very natural to me and something that I felt really deeply about and connected to.
You have a studio in East London – what was it that brought you over to London?
I was on tour with Clint Mansell and we played a gig here in 2009, and I ended up meeting a boy at the afterparty. So, that’s how I ended up in London – I’ve been here for almost nine years now.
Have you always been over in East London? Also, do you normally work from your own studio and can you tell us a little about it?
I started working at The Laundry Building in London Fields in early 2017. Before that, I was out in the suburbs of London working from home.
The reason I’m here is because I met Martin Phipps – the amazing composer, who did War and Peace and Victoria. He showed me his studio and I absolutely fell in love with the place, so I kept in touch with the building and they had a unit become available. I invested in building my own studio, because it was just an empty shell before.
I just love it; it’s got huge windows and I got to create my own space. I spend most my time in here, so it’s really comfy.
Can you run through some of your favourite programmes and tools you use to help you compose?
I love my Focal studio monitors – they’re great. I use Logic 10 and, for in the box, I’ve got a ton of favourites. I’m a big fan of Spitfire Audio, because they’ve got a wide range of really high quality stuff and they’re very inventive.
I love the London Contemporary Orchestra (LCO) Strings, because they go very left-field and I’ve worked with them before. I’ve just worked with them on The Innocents. I recorded LCO live at Air Studios. So, that was really good to use as samplers, as a base, and then we workshopped and developed and were able to take it further.
I use Ivory Piano. I really like Lexicon reverbs, but there’s so much great stuff out there.
How did you get involved with The Innocents?
It was really funny; I was asked to come in to interview with the producer and an exec. They really loved my music to the BBC’s Line of Duty.
I read the first script and absolutely fell in love with it. I just felt a really deep connection with the theme of it. I’m also a huge fan of sci-fi, so for me it was just a dream project.
They didn’t realise actually that I’ve known the cowriter, Hania, for about seven years or so. I worked on a short film way back and she was working on the script. They didn’t realise that I actually knew her, which was very funny and cool. It was very organic.
At what stage did you get involved in the production and what was the process?
They were still shooting when I came on, but I think it was the latter half of the shoot.
When I came on, there was a loose edit of episode one and we had all the scripts to read. We got to discuss more in detail with the team about the tone and what we were aiming for.
From then, I just started sketching ideas – I like to sketch ideas from reading the script and then also from any visuals that I can get my hands on.
Once they locked up one, we started spotting episode one and started on the post production schedule.
There was a bit more time on the first four, than episodes five to eight – episodes five to eight were on quite a tight schedule.
You mentioned that you were first and foremost a piano player – is that how you tend to approach sketches when you first start?
Yeah, I always tend to start at the piano – I’ve got a grand and upright at my studio.
It’s like a natural extension for me, for music. So, that’s where I feel I can get my heart and my emotions out in the best way.
From there, once I tap into something I’m happy with, I’ll take that to my computer setup here and use my tools and MIDI keyboard to start inputting those themes and rhythms or whatever was inspiring.
Then, I start experimenting with various sounds – from electronic sounds to orchestral sounds, voice or whatever it needs.
After you’ve finished working on those, do you usually send the demos through to the show’s producers prior to recording the instruments live at Air Studios?
Yeah, I actually had Robert Ames from LCO come in and do a little viola workshop with me, so I could explore some ideas I had. I got those recorded as early ideas and also recorded myself a bit on the piano.
Once I was happy in Logic, with ideas and themes, I would show them and get the feedback – and then rework it or explore further.
For strings, I would write that with samples and, once that was approved by everyone, I would be able to go into Air to record.
It was a co-production between Netflix and New Pictures in the UK. We had some time zone differences to deal with, but that’s totally normal.
Do you have a favourite part of the process?
I love going into the studio to hear the music come to life with live players – I think that’s just one of the most beautiful moments.
Listening to LCO play these themes – Harry and June’s love themes – is such a magical moment and I just feel “wow, all the hard work is really paying off”.
Are you working on anything else at the moment and what else do you have in the pipeline?
I’ve got some solo tracks that I’ve been working on, which I’m going to release on another solo album.
One of the tracks on that will be The Innocents end credits song – because I wrote a song for the end credits theme, sung by Norwegian singer called EERA (Anna Lena Bruland).
Then, I’ve got Line of Duty 5 filming now, so I’ll be working on that, and then Line of Duty 6 will be next year.
Who knows after that – I see a lot of people asking for a second series of The Innocents, so crossing fingers.
What advice do you have for composers and young musicians wanting to become involved with film and television?
If you want to be a composer for picture, I think it’s important to write as much music as you can and hone in on your own sound. There are a lot of talented artists that can write in a certain style, which is great, but what stands you apart is having your own voice.
I think that attracts the right projects to you. So, it’s really about putting your head down and spending more time writing, and not worrying too much about social media – I know that’s a trap we can all get stuck in.
And then, making friends with directors and editors, and maybe working on some short films and exploring the art of writing to picture. With those relationships, you never know what can happen – someone might pass your name on or go on to do a bigger project and ask you to come on board. That’s how it happens sometimes.
You mentioned earlier that you reached out to one of your peers, someone you really respected in the industry. Is that something you’d recommend too?
Yeah, totally - the worst answer you can get is a “no” or not hear anything back.
I’ve been doing this for many years now and I realise that when you’re on projects, you’re so consumed that it’s hard to even have a personal life sometimes. Being able to keep on top of other emails like that is tricky. You have to be very patient.
I would definitely reach out to people who you feel you have a connection with – you never know.
That one message to Clint Mansell pretty much changed my life – I tour with him worldwide as his pianist and we’ve become very good friends. It’s just amazing how life can unfold in ways you’d never expect.
There’s no rulebook and I think, with technology and the world changing, everyone’s journeys will take on even more interesting routes.
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