Tony Neiman is an Italian composer & a classical and jazz pianist. After a successful career in Italy and touring worldwide, he settled in Los Angeles in 2015. Since then he has composed music for several documentaries, TV shows and movies. In 2018 Tony Neiman composed music for a thriller ‘Midnight Climax’ directed by Joseph Sorrentino. He has collaborated also with a renowned composer John Ottman on a Fox Tv series ‘The Gifted’ and has been a part of the postproduction music team on “Georgetown” by Christoph Waltz. The composer performer has also worked with Victor Vanacore (arranger and orchestra conductor of Ray Charles) for his project “La Sorgente”. In 2016 Tony shared the stage with Abraham Laboriel for his Jazz Clinic in Los Angeles as a pianist.
You were born in Italy, were any of your family musical and did Italian film music play a part in you wanting to become a composer?
Yes, I was born in Rome, Italy. My father is an amateur pianist, and he instilled his passion in me at an early age. I started to play the piano when I was 3 years old.
You did your musical studies in Italy at the Alfredo Casella Conservatory of Aquila. I understand you studied jazz and composition. Did you focus upon any instrument as well as piano whilst studying?
Piano has always been my main instrument. I completed my classical piano degree at the Conservatory L.Perosi in 2004. Then, in 2012 I received a jazz Master degree at the A. Casella. Another instrument I was always interested in was a cello. I believe it’s never too late to start learning, thus few years ago I decided to start studying acoustic and electric cello.
What would you say are your earliest recollections of any type of music?
Besides Italian pop songwriters I have always listened to Classical music. Then at around the age of 15/16 I discovered Jazz. But Bach has always been a big part of me.
Being Italian, you were obviously aware of the great movie music composers such as Morricone, Trovajoli, Rota, Cipriani etc, did you ever get to meet any of them?
I have a great respect for these masters. I have studied and analysed all their scores but I never met them in person. Interestingly, Morricone called me once because he heard a composition I wrote. He was very complimentary, and I will never forget that.
How did you become involved on Cosmoball and at what stage of production do you normally prefer to start to see the rushes or speak to the director and producer?
The Russian Director Dzhanik Fayziev was looking for a Hollywood composer and I scored a demo for him. He really liked my vision and style for the movie and chose me to collaborate with him.
I like to speak with the directors early on so I can understand what they have in mind. I am very intuitive and love the creative process. I come up with themes and ideas early on but prefer to start scoring when the editing is locked. Cosmoball was my biggest production so far and I have to say I am very proud of the soundtrack and my team.
The score for Cosmoball runs for about an hour on the soundtrack release, how much music did you write for the movie, and when spotting it did the director have any specific ideas or requests as to what style of music they wanted for the picture? Was there a temp track on the movie and did you find having this tool useful or distracting?
The total music we scored for the two-hour movie was about an hour and fifty minutes. We used basically all of it. Some parts are missing on the soundtrack release because it was just underscore so it wasn’t necessary to put it into the soundtrack release. The director perfectly knew what he wanted, and he chose a great temp track so that I could understand easily what mood he wanted in the scenes.
What composer’s artists or performers would you say have influenced you in the way you write, perform or approach say a movie score?
Besides all my classical background that obviously helps my music, Bernard Hermann is the number one for me. I always liked his music. He is the first teacher of all music composer.
Hans Zimmer completely changed the sound and score of the movies. Everybody now is scoring with the kind of sounds he “invented”. Coming to LA I met a lot of top musicians and everybody has something to teach you. That is the beauty of living in the most artistic and musical city of the world.
You worked with composer John Ottman on the TV series The Gifted, did you collaborate as in write cues with him, or did you provide compositions that you had written yourself?
John Ottman is an incredible person and an amazing composer not to mention he is an Academy Winner as an editor. I had the privilege to work with him on “The Gifted”, where I was given cues and scored them having John supervising me. It was a fantastic opportunity and a great experience. I am definitely interested in expanding my career into the tv world.
For you what is the purpose of music in a film or a TV series?
Music is emotions. It is the capacity to enhance a visual emotion with hearing perception through the music.
Do you buy recordings by other composers or artists, and what do you listen to if you manage to get some r and r.?
To be honest, I used to buy a lot of music from various artists in all the styles. Lately, I like to hear some of the ultimate soundtracks of composer I love like Beltrami, Desplat, Zimmer, Newton Howard and many others.
How many times do you like to watch a project you have been asked to score before deciding where music should be placed or what style of music should be utilised?
I watch the footage a few times and then I just wait for the music to come to me. There is a moment where I usually start to hear some notes in my mind and that means I’m ready to start!
Do you work on your own orchestrations when composing for film and television, and do you conduct at all?
I do everything by myself. I score, I orchestrate and conduct if I have enough time. With bigger projects and tighter deadlines, I have a team of musicians I collaborate with. For Cosmoball Daniel Alcheh helped me as an orchestrator and Gigi Meroni was in charge of the final music production.
You have worked on a number of TV projects for RAI, what would you say are the main differences between scoring TV and writing for motion picture?
Firstly, there is a substantial difference in scoring for Italian and for American productions. Italian scores are more based on the melody and the American productions are more based on the orchestration.
There is no big difference in scoring for TV or for movies these days. I always enjoy the process no matter what I am doing. Making music is my true passion and I feel lucky to make a career out of it.
How much time were you given to score Cosmoball from start to finish?
Three months including the final mix.
Do you have a preferred recording studio when you score a movie?
I have great relationships with the studios in LA and Italy but I am also open to foreign locations which often can offer great deals.
The soundtrack for Cosmoball is already on digital platforms, some collectors are already asking will there be a CD release, and do you have any input into what tracks from your scores are included on any release?
I haven’t thought of it yet but can certainly consider!
When you write music for a short or a commercial, is it more difficult to establish a thematic foundation, given the time you have?
Indeed, when writing for a short or a commercial the thematic foundation is everything. Especially with the commercials I am often pressed with time, but luckily, I have always come up with ideas right away.
You also recently worked on MK Ultra, will there be a score release for this?
MK Ultra should be released later this year. As soon as it is out we will release the score as well.
What is next for you?
I have a few exciting projects brewing. You will hear about them soon!