A recent participant in the Los Angeles Film Conducting Intensive with David Newman, Arhynn is a French/South African composer and pianist. Having obtained a degree in music and two diplomas in classical piano, she moved to London where she earned her Master’s in Composition for Film and TV at the London College of Music, winning a composition competition just before graduation.
Her credits include feature films, short films, documentaries and a stage production of Chekov's The Cherry Orchard. In 2016 Arhynn (in conjunction with Women In Film) organized a 'live-score to film' concert in LA to promote women composers in film, TV and games.
1. When did your dream of becoming a filmmaker begin?
My dream of film-making grew very slowly over the years. I started out as a pianist and piano teacher. I had been learning since I was a child and my love of music led me to the performing and teaching side of it. Gradually, though, I started finding myself writing more and more of my own music and I began to realise that at heart I was a story-teller and that's what I really wanted to be involved in.
2. Why have you chosen the medium of composing?
Music and story have been the two strands running through my life. I have always been an avid reader and once I discovered film (and TV) I became equally excited by that. But for me composing music is the thing that gives me the most joy and fulfilment. I feel I can express myself more deeply through music. It is exciting, it challenges me, it allows me to explore the deepest parts of myself in a way that nothing else does. As a composer for film you have the opportunity to be part of the fabric of the film, the emotional centre and that's extraordinarily fulfilling.
3. What has been your greatest achievement as a composer?
Each project brings with it its own difficulties and issues that take you completely out of your comfort zone and makes you learn new things or face the challenge of not knowing how you're going to achieve what you need to achieve. But I think the biggest step I've taken so far was when I realized the only way I was going to attract bigger projects was to show that I could actually write that kind of music. Till then I had only had the opportunities to score short films, usually low budget and therefore without live musicians or if lucky, possibly one or two. I decided to go big and create a show-reel of live orchestral music showcasing what I could do. To this end I wrote nine pieces of music for full orchestra and then went out and hired an orchestra to record them. It was immensely empowering, not only in seeing a massive project through to the end, but also in giving me a glimpse of what it would be like to score something big like a feature film.
4. Tell us a little about the process for making the short film, Tis the Season.
The short film Tis the Season was the first professional film I worked on, although I had, of course, worked on a couple of student shorts while at University. In retrospect it was a really good first film for me to do. It was a silent film, so I could experiment with music without worrying about issues with dialogue. The sound designer and I worked very closely together, creating the sound-world of the film, which was a wonderful learning experience for me. The director was very hands on - he initially sent us off to create material that we were inspired to write and using that as a starting point he steered us carefully in the direction he wanted. The three of us had regular working meetings to discuss issues and make sure the music and sound design was working in tandem. There was no rush, so it gave us time to experiment and for me it gave me time to figure out what I was doing - I was still learning how to use the computer programs and other basics that a composer needs.
5. Tell us a little about the process of making the documentary Forging the Dream.
The documentary Forging the Dream was released in episodes, one per week. It was actually the first project I worked on that had that kind of deadline, with a certain number of minutes to be done each week. It's very intense and an absolutely essential skill for a film/TV/game composer to have. Unusually for a documentary, the director wanted it scored like fiction, so instead of supplying him with mood tracks to place where needed I was scoring to picture. I approached it all in the same way I would any other fiction piece; understanding the main character's inner world and motivations and then creating music to support that or highlight that and allow the viewer to follow along with him on his journey. The director did have some of it temped with music, so I had a starting point in terms of style and 'feel'.
6. What are you currently working on?
I am currently scoring a spy action feature film called Eye for an Eye. It's very exciting because I have been obsessed with spy stories ever since I could read them and this is really a dream come true for me.
7. Where do you hope to see yourself in five years’ time?
I hope to be continuing to get interesting and varied films and TV projects to score, with plenty of scope for creativity and experimentation. That's what makes this work so fascinating - you never know what kind of project you'll be working on next. Anything is possible!
8. What has been the greatest lesson you've learned during this journey?
The greatest lesson I've learned is to cultivate a certain kind of patience. It's not about sitting around waiting for something to happen, on the contrary, it's being okay with working very hard and not seeing any results for a good long while. What I have discovered is you can set goals, big and small and set them into motion and do the work you need to do. And that's it. After that it's really important to let go and see what happens. Stuff happens in its own time and in its own way and you can't push it or force it. You can't have your own agenda. So you have to be patient, grab opportunities when they arrive and just see what path you're going to be sent down. When you get to a place and realize you've achieved one of your goals, it is usually really surprising how you got there and how it happened. So the patience is about being okay with things unfolding in their own time and being able to believe in yourself through it all.
9. Finally, if you could share some words of wisdom for a young composer just starting out, what would you say?
Following on from what I said above I'd say don't stress the details or direction. You can't predict or plan where opportunities will come from. Rather, spend time doing the things you do have control over - gaining knowledge or experience, learning new skills, practising, going out and experiencing all sorts of new things - not just related to your art, but anything that moves you. Get out and meet people. You never know what or who will be useful, what will inspire you or where it will take you. For example, I went out and got my private pilot's license in my spare time and it had the most unexpected effect on my music, my life and how I approached my goals. But most importantly take time to develop your own authentic voice. That is what people are drawn to, what people will hire you for, what makes you unique, what you have to offer to the world. All the great artists in whatever field have that in common - they have developed their own unique voice.