Interview with Aldo Shllaku – Composer of The Doorman

Justin Feldman, who co-supervised The Doorman with Supe Troop’s Laura Katz, spoke with composer Aldo Shllaku about his work on the upcoming film and film scoring in general.

Supe Troop (ST): How did you get into film scoring?

Aldo Shllaku (AS): I come from a family of actors. Both my parents were theater actors. My older brother is an artist, specializing in theater scenography. Therefore, my childhood evenings were spent at the theater, watching my mother’s stage performances in Moliere, Balzac, Arthur Miller, and many others. There was always music accompanying these plays. I started my formal music education as a young child, and watching in awe the stage performances underscored for me the power music held when married to other art forms.

In my early twenties, when I studied composition at Université de Montréal, I had the opportunity to write my first feature score. I then moved to Los Angeles and completed the ‘Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television’ program at USC, where I also worked for some well-established film and TV composers. Since then, I’ve branched out on my own and I’ve been writing music for film and TV from my own studio. 

ST: What was your favorite scene in The Doorman to score?

AS: One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Ali is going through a PTSD episode [and] is at her lowest point. This is then beautifully juxtaposed to Max, who comes up with the idea of sending her a message through Morse code via the intercom to shut-off the water valve. It’s a pivotal moment in the development of these two characters in the storyline.   Ali is at her worst moment and overcome by her mental state; Max, on the other hand, has decided to make a stand and takes the lead in confronting a very bad situation. By doing so, he brings Ali back to the fight, giving the viewer renewed hope.

ST: When scenes give you trouble, what are some of the things you do to make them work?

AS: In every score, or any other music form for that matter, there are scenes or passages that are more demanding than others. It becomes a question of re-focusing and re-thinking why things are not working in a satisfying manner. Taking time and distance from the dramatic content does often result in coming up with new ideas that eventually become the solution. I like to write a scene on the piano first, especially scenes that need to be re-visited. It helps me keep the creative focus in finding that something special that otherwise would have been lost if I was dealing with everything else at the same time, such as orchestration, production, etc.  

ST: What is an example of where you think another composer nailed a project or particular scene?

AS: There are so many…

Cinema ParadisoMalena, Once Upon a Time in America, to name a few by Ennio Morricone, are simply beautiful and timeless scores. Papillon, Chinatown, Planet of the Apes, The Omen, Alien, Total Recall, Star Trek, and so many other scores by Jerry Goldsmith are inspiring scores and full of originality. The score for Titus by Elliot Goldenthal is amazing.  

The opening titles for the The Hateful Eight, by Ennio Morricone is a masterpiece on its own.  

And when it comes to a particular scene, I can mention one from The Last Samurai, with a score by Hans Zimmer. In the scene, Algren is being dressed in the samurai battle armor by Taka, the wife of the warrior whom Algren had killed. Algren and Taka are going through this intimate moment underscored by an emotional theme played on the cello. Suddenly, Algren and Taka stop the ritual and look at each other. The theme suddenly stops, too, and remains suspended on a held note on the strings. As the two characters resume the ritual dressing the theme starts again where it left off. It is so subtle and simple, but, yet, such a beautiful and effective musical gesture.

ST: What non-score music are you listening to right now?

AS: I’ve been listening to requiems by Fauré, Verdi, Schnittke, Duruflé, Ligeti, Pärt, and Britten. These works are simply magnificent and hold so much inspiration and artistry in them.

ST: What would be your dream project to score?  

 AS: I would love to one day score a Bond or a Star Trek film.

ST: What projects do you have in the future that you are excited about?  

AS: I just completed the score for the George Gallo-directed comedy/action The Comeback Trail, starring Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, and Morgan Freeman. I’m excited about the release of this film because I had the opportunity to write and record a great orchestra at Teldex studio in Berlin. My next project is an action / thriller titled The Longest Night. I am looking forward to departing from the orchestral score I just completed and write a score based on experimentation with electronics and analog synths.

ST: What is your favorite kind of soup?

AS: My mother’s chicken-lemon soup!

Ah, mother’s soup. Can’t deny that! Check out the tag below for more info on Doorman and catch the film on October 9th!