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An Interview with Alex Lecce, Director of Zeitgeist Maschine

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background. Who or what inspired you to become a film composer, and how did you become interested in making music videos for your works? I was born in Milan and spent my childhood with my maternal grandmother in my hometown as well as with my mother in Bari, which is located in southern Italy. At the age of 13, I moved permanently to Milan. My mother has been a successful painter in the past but during our time in Bari we lived in poverty - nevertheless, I was fully immersed in the world of art. My passion for film music started when I saw the movie “Star Wars” together with my grandmother in Bari and that experience thrilled me tremendously. In the spirit of this experience I started creating music videos to produce something that would have an affinity with the world of cinema - but actually starting from the music rather than the picture as it usually so happens. I took the freedom to compose exactly as I wished to, offering something very personal because the composer's role was decidedly different from the usual, more intimate, and perhaps even more interesting.

How many projects did you work on before making Zeitgeist Maschine? Tell us about your own projects and the films for which you composed film scores. Before creating Zeitgeist Maschine I have produced many other and entirely different videos. For example motivational videos with positive affirmations or videos of my own songs in Italian. In the past, I have not composed entire soundtracks but rather concentrated on compositions of music that does not refer to extra-musical content. However, this music has been and still is used for many film scenes such as “What we do in the shadow” by the director Taika Waititi. But right now things are changing and I've started working on entire soundtracks.

Zeitgeist Maschineis quite experimental and, even, surrealistic. Tell us about what you were going for. What were the themes you wanted to reflect in the music video? Through ZeitgeistMaschine I have tried to express various themes but the fundamental aspect of my music video is time. It is gonna take a lot of work to repair the damage that humans have inflicted on this planet but the time available is short. By adding my music to the images I wanted to convey this sense of urgency. The story I told contains elements that have an enormous impact on the life of human beings without them even being aware of it.

What were the challenges that you faced when making this music video? Tell us about the production and your experiences of making it.

I remember working on ZeitgeistMaschine for two weeks straight, throughout day and night. I absolutely wanted to create something unusual and it certainly was a challenge for me. Usually, I’m focussing on composing and not work as a director, so I have fewer resources in the process of creating a video. That is why it was difficult to express myself not only through music but through images as well. I worked a lot on every single sequence, heavily modifying and customizing it. The most exciting aspect was the opportunity to create a story with a soul, that of Zeitgeist Maschine, and also to evolve from black and white to colors in the end. It felt as if everything had been waiting somewhere and it was my job to discover it and put it together in order to make it audible and visible to the audience! What is your process when composing music for films, do you work closely with the director and the producer(s) or do you prefer working solo while getting inspired by the film and then you complete it before presenting it to them? My creative process depends on many factors, so I do not stick to a specific formula. For example, one of these factors is the quality of communication with the director. In any case, I love working together as close as possible to make the best decisions together. I want the director to be as satisfied as I am myself with the final result. Sometimes I use a method of mine (probably that method already exists for a long time) which I call scoreboard. Thanks to this procedure I can compose without actually seeing the movie. Instead, I rely on a detailed description of what happens in every single scene, how it further develops, and what emotions the director wants his audience to feel. Furthermore, I need to know the exact amount of seconds and have an indicative and summary image for each step. I often have little time and use this method to start composing right away.

What instruments do you typically use for your film scores? What about new technology that is now used more frequently by composers? I am deeply in love with the symphony orchestra and the choir. Although I’m fascinated by the universe of sounds of any kind. That is why I’m constantly looking for new tools. In the past, for example, I have often used the solo trumpet or a soprano but currently, I am expanding my options a lot! Like many other composers nowadays,I mainly use new technologies because unfortunately, it is not a given to have a good symphony orchestra with choir right at hand. Even if today the quality of virtual instruments is incredibly realistic for me there is nothing that can replace a real orchestra, made up of excellent musicians playing live in a good concert hall. My dream for the future is that there will be at least one movie theater in the world that presents all its films but listening accompanied by a real and live orchestra. And if such a cinema already exists then I would like there to be one of it in at least every major city. This would certainly have a huge impact on the way films are created… Why do you think film scores are essential in making films a whole? In other words, why are film scores important? The experience of seeing a film is obviously not the same as that of living a real experience because many fundamental elements are missing. For instance, the feeling of warmth in the heart when we receive a hug from our loved ones or have the tangible perception of danger coming from someone who is hostile to us and walks down an alley behind us. Music has the power to heal and elevate the spirit! Thanks to music we can experience emotions, feelings and sensations that images alone rarely manage to convey. Of course, there are many paintings, photographs and other works by great artists that let us experience intense emotions anyway. But let's not forget that music is sound and therefore music is a frequency, a wave that has an actual physical impact on our bodies and not only on them. However my words seem insignificant compared to the experience of seeing a film from start to finish – but with the music of it missing.

Tell us about your festival run. Have festivals provided you with the experience and exposure you needed? On a similar note, what is your opinion on the fact that most festivals have become online? My festival run started pretty much by chance: without realizing it I found myself participating in a Romanian festival near Dracula's castle. My first award as best composer I got at a later festival with another job. So with with these experiences I’m pleasantly surprised and satisfied. Zeitgeist Maschine has received12 awards so far. And thanks to this more directors and producers are taking interest in my film music. Of course, online screenings cannot replace the experience of seeing the film in a movie theater without distractions and interruptions. But on the other hand, online screenings give the opportunity for many more viewers to see the film - regardless of distances. Nevertheless, I hope that soon it will be possible to resume living as before, indeed ... much better than before! What was the reaction of those who watched your work? Was the feedback what you hoped for? I’m really happy with the feedback I have received. Honestly, I must admit that it is even better than I had imagined. Many artists of different nature have been positively impressed by Zeitgeist Maschine and, therefore, I can say that I feel fully satisfied even though we obviously know well that it is never possible to please everyone's taste. But overall many people have really enjoyed my music and recognized the artistic value I wanted to create.

Please tell us about your future project(s). What are you working on?

For the future I have planned various projects such as the soundtrack of a thriller. Then there is another project that I will complete entirely by myself, just as I did with Zeitgeist Maschine. It will be a new, longer and more intense music video. Furthermore, this summer 2021, I will finish composing the soundtrack of a short film that in my opinion will be really appreciated by the public! I believe that thanks to the talent of the young Finnish director Kalle Saarinen and also to the skills of the actor Teppo Kauppi we will offer something that will have some artistic value.

The title of this short film is “Perspective” and the trailers already available on YouTube.


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