He is the Composer of Adam VillaSenor’s All That You Love Dollar Baby film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Brenton Costa: My name is Brenton Costa. I am a film composer and I absolutely love what I do. I started playing piano at the age of 3 when my parents saw me learning TV jingles on one of those plastic guitars with the buttons for keys. I had a love for film and film soundtracks so it was only a matter of time until those two mixed. I grew up in Connecticut and moved out to California after college to be closer to the industry and I’ve been learning, working and growing ever since. I also teach classes on making art with technology part time.
SKSM: How did you become involved with All That You Love?
Brenton Costa: I met Adam through a coworker at my day job. He told me Adam was working on a Sirius Black short film from Harry Potter and needed music. Orchestral music is what I love to write the most and Adam wanted a score that blended that with darker, atmospheric elements. So we scheduled a meeting and I got a great feeling about him right away. Adam is a true collaborator. He knows what he wants but he’s also very open to new ideas. The score to that short was quite successful, and soon after he asked me about ‘All That You Love’. It was a no-brainer to get involved with this one too!
SKSM: How did you get started as a composer and what do you do on production?
Brenton Costa: Becoming a film composer felt inevitable for me. I started playing piano very young, my father is an engineer and used to make commercials for Coca Cola so we had all the gear. My mother used to write children’s books and my brother was an artist and screenwriter who loved film soundtracks and passed that love on to me. I took piano lessons all the way up until college, and then got a degree in music theory and composition. I used to make my own short films just so I would have something to score. After college I was awarded the Pete Carpenter Fellowship from BMI where I was able to come out to California and write music for Law and Order: SVU with legendary TV composer Mike Post. He connected me with so many people out here and almost single-handedly started my professional career. I owe so much to him and the Pete Carpenter Fellowship.
SKSM: How did you get started to wrote the Soundtrack for All That You Love?
Brenton Costa: Every film score starts the same way for me. Music is often one of the last parts of a film because everything has to be shot and edited before I can start writing something in sync with the picture. So we begin with a spotting session where I sit down with the director and watch the film and we decide where we want music to start and stop, and what its purpose is in that scene. This film was a little different because there is music throughout so we didn’t need to do ins and outs but Adam did have specific moments he wanted punctuated or highlighted. He also was adamant that there be a musical ‘theme’ to this short. I appreciated that so much because there are many horror/thriller soundtracks that are all sound effects. While I have so much respect for that style, it’s not the kind of music I gravitate toward writing. Once we had that all nailed down, I was able to start my process.
SKSM: Is this your most challenging audio so far?
Brenton Costa: This really wasn’t! And I mean that in the best way. Every project has it challenging moments. There will be parts you’re not satisfied with as a composer. There will be parts where you and the director have different views on where the music should go and then find a diplomatic solution that pleases everyone, or you may simply get writers block. It’s common during production for the team to do what’s called ‘temping’. Before a composer gets involved, the post production team will sometimes use music from other films to create a temporary score for the film so they can figure out where they want music and what kind of feeling they want from it. My most challenging projects are when the director gets so used to the temp music that they want you to pretty much copy it. That’s a very small box to work from and not very creative. Adam and I did not have that problem at all. He’s so open to new ideas and respected me as a creator so this project was a breeze. From a pure complexity standpoint, I think my most challenging project was writing a parade for the Disney theme parks. Those are such big productions with so many moving parts, it’s a real test of your abilities to put something like that together. But it was a dream project for me and one of the most fulfilling moments of my career so far.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the music that you would like to tell me about?
Brenton Costa: My favorite moment to score was when the girl slips her head underwater in the bathtub. We had an atmospheric musical moment playing while her head is above water. But what happens to us when we dive underwater? The sound get muffled, we feel this pressure in our ears and a lot of us can hear our heartbeat. I wanted to capture that, so when she dips under the water, I change the sound and add a faint heartbeat into the mix. I love any opportunity to put those kinds of moments into my scores.
SKSM: After All That You Love did you write more music? If so what?
Brenton Costa: That same year I scored a feature romantic comedy called ‘Inlawfully Yours’ that may still be on Netflix. After that, I did a couple more features, and some TV work for Disney and Amazon.
SKSM: What are you working nowadays?
Brenton Costa: The pandemic has had quite an impact on the industry so there’s been less work to go around. I’m happy to see the animation industry making up for the fact that not as much live action has been able to be completed. Animation is something I’m so passionate about; both the art itself and the wonderful music that can be paired with it. I’m working now to dig into more animated films while at the same time using this quieter time to focus on my own projects I haven’t had time for until now. Currently I’m writing music for an animated short musical I created. I also used the pandemic to connect with new artists. I spent a good deal of time watching artists livestream on Reddit, connected with a few and have some collaborations with them coming out.
SKSM: Are you a fan of Stephen King’s work?
Brenton Costa: To be honest, I haven’t read much of his work. I’m such a lightweight when it comes to horror, I’ve been intimidated to read a lot of Stephen King, though I have have read all of the Dark Tower and really enjoyed it. I have a lot of commuting to do these days; maybe I can get some more of his work on audiobook and dive in deeper!
SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Brenton Costa: Being such a fan of animation, in 2019 I partnered with another incredibly talented artist and we created our own stop motion animation studio called Liralon. We’ve already been able to make a stop motion ad for a solar energy company and are hard at work creating our first short film about a young refrigerator girl with a big heart called ‘Julienne’. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to go back and forth between the worlds of film scoring and stop motion and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
SKSM: What advice would you give to those people who want to be musicians?
Brenton Costa: Just start. It’s that simple. I feel that it’s so easy to get discouraged or intimated to start something new. Maybe we’re comparing ourselves to our favorite artist and saying “how will I ever get that good?” Or maybe we’re just now wanting to start learning an instrument thinking “I’m too old. Why should I bother?” Do it because you love it; because you want to. There are no rules when it comes to art of any kind. No timeline you need to follow. If you start today, you’ll be better than you were yesterday and you keep going. There’s no wrong way to write music. Danny Elfman wanted to go into the medical field, then took a trip around the world and decided he would write music instead, knowing nothing about how to do it, and having no musical education, and because of that he came up with such a unique sound, he’s scoring the biggest movies. As long as you love what you’re doing, you’re doing it right. Just start.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything else you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Brenton Costa: Thank you so much for the chance to talk a little about what I do. It’s a part of me that I love to share. Let’s keep telling stories!