A Q&A with Multi-Genre/Multi-Media Composer Brittany Dunton

  1. Thank you for being with us, Brittany! I’d love to start with the foundational question of- who is Brittany Dunton? And how did your musical life begin?

    Thanks so much for having me! I’m someone that can’t ignore when life gives me an itch for something, and my music journey is a perfect example of that. My musical life began thanks to a documentary on Beethoven I watched in second grade music class. When I heard the song “Fur Elise”, a button was pressed. I went home, told my mom I wanted to learn how to play that song, and asked if she could help me out. That summer I got signed up for piano lessons and music has been a huge part of my life ever since!

  2. You recently spoke on an AWFC Inside Session about composing for animation. You’ve worked on a lot of animation scores including “Itsy Mitsy”, “Do, Re & Mi”, and “Dinotrux”. What is your animation scoring process like? What do you like about animation versus live action?

    First, animation is just so fun. It’s bright, always changing and switching on a dime, and usually has a really wholesome message (children’s animation, anyways.. but I guess something like Futurama could redefine “wholesome” in its own ways). Because there is always so much going on visually and emotionally, there’s a lot to creatively inspire you.

    My process starts like most do: I read an episode’s script and have a spotting session with the team, but with children’s animation especially we really focus on the core message; the life lesson or teaching moment that is the purpose of the episode. There’s so much to visually distract from the creative process, but it’s so important to always follow the emotional journey while also hitting every physical jump and twirl.

    Because the overall message is so important AND the visuals are so involved, it’s easy for ME to get distracted (more so than in a live action). To help keep my brain focused on the message, I like to really take the time to ask myself if I’m following the characters or the actions. If I answer actions, chances are I’ve missed something and I need to reconnect with the characters.

  3. You’ve written music for many live action projects as well, can you tell us about your recent TV Series “Surfside Girls”? What is the score like for folks who haven’t watched? What was the process like for this particular show?

    Surfside Girls was a blast! As a millennial, I describe the show as a blend between Pirates of the Caribbean and Johnny Tsunami. The team wanted to embrace the “surf rock” vibes when we are with our main characters (Sam and Jade) living normal life in their small beachside town, but when the magical and mystical elements come into play the score turns big and orchestral. It was really fun to play and explore such a large toolbox. Without giving away any of the major plot points, the story twists and turns and gets pretty epic, so getting to flex musical muscles to accompany those moments was a real thrill.

    As for the process, I spent a lot of time working on themes pre-scoring to picture. With such a wide array of musical genres, this really helped get the team on board before music ever hit picture. It also gave me a jump start on material during a tight schedule. This is a tip I learned from my incredible mentor Jake Monaco and it has yet to fail me!

  4. I particularly love the Americana-leaning score you and Jake Monaco did for “A Cinderella Story: Starstruck”, can you talk about how you came to the style for the film, and can you tell us more about your work on this project?

    I’d love to! This film follows a small town girl who has big dreams of stardom, gets cast in a big movie filming in her small town, and familiar Cinderella tropes ensue. Calling back to following the character and not always the action, we really wanted the score to always stay true to our small town girl even when she embarked on her big Hollywood dreams. That’s where the idea of Americana came into play. It just worked so well with her arc and story while also keeping the energy up and exciting. Americana can be Hollywood, too! We tracked most of our guitars (shout out to Bryan Winslow for his fantastic playing) and that really brought a lot of authenticity to the score.

    I’m from North Carolina, so country/folk/americana music has always been around. As my first feature, it felt very serendipitous to not only represent our main character in the style, but also my own roots too!

  5. You have a huge range of versatility, musically, and it seems you can really do (and have done) all genres. I’m curious if there is a genre you most like working in, or a genre you haven’t worked in that you’d like to?

    That’s really kind, thank you! I love music, but at my core I really just love people. For me it’s not about the genre but the people I get to work with and the characters I get to explore. I’ve been so lucky to work with so many kind, talented, and collaborative people and that has really made every project feel like I won the lottery.

    Speaking of people, I love a complicated character. I have yet to do a psychological thriller/drama and I think that could be a really fun and creatively consuming process (in a good way!)

  6. Do you have any advice for composers who are hoping to get into writing for networks or different studios?

    Yes! It’s all about dropping seeds. Some sprout quickly, some sprout years down the line. Some need a lot of water, some you can drop and let nature do the rest. It’s really all about keeping your options and mind open to new places to drop these metaphorical seeds.

    My first gig in LA was interning at a talent agency. I wasn’t looking to get represented, I was looking to be around the gigs and the people getting them. I learned so much and it’s how I met a budding composer looking for his first assistant: Jake Monaco. From there it was all about keeping one foot in front of the other. The ladder can sometimes move slowly in this career, but if you continue to drop seeds and keep climbing, eventually you’ll move higher and higher and get that “big gig”!

    It’s also really easy to become jaded in this industry. It’s really tough when you see people around you getting breaks but things don’t seem to be working out the same for you. No two careers are linear or paced the same. Remember that ladder metaphor? It’s a long ladder and everyone’s steps are spaced differently. Trust your journey, invest in your work, and focus on the things within your control rather than the things that are not. It’s easier said than done, but it will make the journey to the bigger gigs a little bit easier. (Plus, your attitude sells your business before your music does, and people love working with positive people!)

  7. We’d love to hear if you have any projects recently out, or if there is anything you’ve got coming out soon that we can check out!

    I had the pleasure of writing songs for Netflix’s Cocomelon Lane, which came out November 17th! It’s heartwarming, sensitive, and highlights the real and complex emotional hurdles every toddler eventually faces for the first time.

    Love you, AWFC!

    Check out the AWFC Directory for Brittany Dunton.

    Interview by Connor Cook

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