Italian composer and music producer Fabrizio Mancinelli grew up within the medieval walls of L’Aquila, Italy, a lively town rich with cultural institutions. Surrounded by narrow streets lined with Baroque and Renaissance churches, Mancinelli was attracted at an early age to fine-arts, the opera and eventually, film scores.
Following the passionate advice of composer Gian Carlo Menotti (whom he later assisted in the staging of his operas at the Spoleto Festival in Italy), Mancinelli enrolled in the Music Composition Program at the Conservatory Alfredo Casella, L’Aquila, Italy where he graduated in 2006 with honors in both composition and conducting. Soon after he went on to study under the guidance of BAFTA and Academy Award Winning Composer Luis Bacalov (Il Postino). Pursuant to receiving a Fulbright Grant, Mancinelli studied Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television at the University of Southern California and graduated in 2009.
Since then, Mancinelli has composed music for multiple venues and media (including concerts, theater, film, television and the web) and has closely collaborated with many different directors and prestigious institutions.
His music for the Italian Rai 3 TV Talk Show “Agorà” has aired daily 2010/17 and his original score for the feature documentary “Growing Up with Nine Old Men” (Disney) by Theodore Thomas has been internationally released by Buena Vista. A short list of his clients includes The Walt Disney Studios, Feeln (Hallmark), Lionsgate, Rai, Mediaset (Taodue), Studio Bozzetto, Felix Film, NBC, Dick Clark Production Company, The Golden Globes and Warner Bros. Animation.
He has recently completed the original score and an original song for the animated feature “The Snow Queen 3” (Wizart Animation), the musical “Beauty” (Moolmore Productions – starring Sylvester McCoy) and the documentary “Barbiana ’65” (Special screening event at the Mostra Internazionale del Cinema di Venezia -Venice Film Festival 2017).
Future projects include the animated film “Mushka” by Andreas Deja (Aladdin, The Lion King), working alongside songwriter Richard M. Sherman (Academy Award – Mary Poppins).
As a film score collector and critic, it’s unusual for me to review a musical but I have done a few, When I heard The Land of Dreams, I knew straight away that this was something special, it just resonated with me immediately. I had obviously heard your film scores before, but was pleasantly surprised about the quality of the lyrics and the score for The Land of Dreams, how did you become involved on the project, or was it a case of you had the songs and the score and you went to the producers to convert it to the screen?
First off, thank you very much for your kind words.
I got involved in writing the songs for The Land of Dreams and in composing the score in 2018, when Nicola Abbatangelo with whom I had already collaborated a number of times (the highlight being the award winning short Musical ‘Beauty’ in 2017) asked me if I would want to be part of his feature debut. Of course, I said yes and with no hesitation I composed a demo called “Imagination”. This piece didn’t end up in the film, but a small musical fragment of it remained in the score. The songs are based on Nicola Abbatangelo and Davide Orsini’s story and script, and it has been a pleasure to work again with a team of friends whom I admire.
How long did it take to bring The Land of Dreams to fruition and how did this compare with your normal scoring schedule for a film?
It took quite a long time. With a pandemic jeopardizing the whole working process, everything slowed down and the movie that was supposed to be finished and released in 2020, just saw the light of day now, in 2022! We recorded the songs in September 2019 and the movie was filmed in Bulgaria in the fall of 2019. After the editing phase started, the uncertainty of the pandemic made us change the work plan.
Whenever I deliver a score, everything it’s usually set for release in a short time from that moment; it’s the case of my latest documentary on which dubbing was completed one week before the first screening took place (last week at the UN Climate Conference in Egypt). The dub of The Land of Dreams was completed in May 2021, but we had to wait for the right time and opening in the Italian theatrical schedule. Right now, it’s kind of relieving to see this film see the light of day, being seen by people, and the music being enjoyed.
What size orchestra did you have for The Land Of Dreams and where did you record the score and the songs?
The orchestra for “The Land of Dreams” consisted of around 75 musicians, plus pre-records, big band, choir, and band (guitars, bass, drums). I believe an overall number of 100 musicians were involved. The orchestra sections were recorded separately in Budapest, the guitars, and big band in Rome, drums, bass, pianos in Los Angeles as the choir and background vocals. Our main cast was recorded beforehand in Roma, at Stone Recording Studio – the studio that hosts the piano that belonged to my unforgettable mentor Luis Bacalov.
When scoring a movie I suppose that normally you watch the film and then discuss with the director what style of music is needed or where music should be placed etc, is the process very different with a musical, can you tell us how it works, and would you say that it is more difficult working on a musical than working on a movie as in creating symphonic pieces?
In the first meetings with the Director, we set the desired musical color to use in the songs and decided to go in a more “pop” direction in order to speak to a wider audience instead of pursuing a philological operation and writing in a 1920ies style.
With the director, we constantly discussed the intentions and purpose of the music in order to carry the audience by hand into the dreamy world that he had created.
Having the songs ready before they started filming, I basically had all the thematic materials handy for me to work through variations and adapt the themes to the various sequences in the feature.
The biggest challenge for me was to create a number of songs that could carry the story, seamlessly come out of the score and evolve into it. Being supportive of the action, but not on the nose. That was the real difficulty.
The soundtrack is out digitally via Plaza Mayor publishing, will there be a compact disc release, and did you have an input into how the soundtrack was compiled and is all the score on the recording?
Actually, there is a digipak physical release also on Plaza Mayor and I wish one day we could have a limited vinyl (I keep dreaming as you can see) for at least the songs.
I had a decisional input on the way the soundtrack has been compiled, taking care of the edits on the various cues. In fact the score is not presented in its entirety (even though all the themes are included) as I decided not to include parts that were more “incidental” and the source music I composed expressly for some scenes (in a 1920’s style).
Can you tell us something of your background, were you from a musical family, and what musical education did you receive, and was film music something you were always attracted to following as a career?
I didn’t grow up in a musical family, but always felt attracted to the World of Opera and Music. Another passion of mine was Cinema and Animation. What is a better combination of these artforms than Film Scoring?
My parents encouraged me to study to be an attorney, though.
But at the same time, they supported my passion and I was able to attend L’Aquila State Conservatory in Italy at the same time as Law School. I graduated in composition and conducting with honors (10-year program) and also had the fortune of assisting the 2-time Pulitzer Prize Winner Gian Carlo Menotti, staging his operas at the Spoleto Festival in Italy.
I specialized in film scoring under the guidance of Academy Award winning composer Luis Bacalov at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena – Italy and, pursuant to receiving a Fulbright Grant, I studied Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television at the University of Southern California and graduated in 2009.
And here I am now. But yes, I also passed the bar exam in Italy, so my parents could relax and be happy. Ahaha.
I think you began your film/TV music career when you composed the music for the TV series Mi Manda Raitre, how did this come about and was it difficult breaking into writing for film and TV?
I began my career on TV in 2009 for Mi Manda Rai Tre. I provided music for that show which already had a long airing history. I had just come back from the United States after studying there and that was my very first job on TV.
I’m grateful to a number of TV executives and Showrunners who gave me the opportunity. Still, I had to pay my dues and not every job I had was easy. But I feel lucky for all the gifts I got from life.
You have scored TV, film, and documentary, as well as working in the theatre what are the main differences between working in TV and scoring a feature film, and for you what is the purpose of music in film?
Well, I’ve got to say that my TV work has mostly been for talk shows for which I created libraries that had to be specifically used for their videos and during the show, and so it is a different kind of narrative form, not linked to strict timing and sync points as is in a feature film. In films my main goal is always trying to develop a narrative arc.
In my opinion, the purpose of music in film is to create that emotional path that can help us understand the story better. Our duty is to talk to the audience directly, but without being heard too loudly.
You scored The Snow Queen 3 and wrote an original song for the production, when you are asked to write a song for a movie or any production what normally comes first the music or the lyrics?
I usually write music and lyrics together. I conceive them as an indivisible unity in a song especially when, as in the musical, the song has to help the story progress.
For the songs I wrote for my animated features though I usually get the themes from the score I composed and add lyrics afterwards. It’s the case with my latest animated feature, Out of the Nest (due for release in 2023).
Do you conduct at all, or is it not always possible to direct the orchestra because you are monitoring the recording from the recording booth?
I conduct for myself when possible, especially since I know all the nuances I need to underline in the score, but sometimes I prefer to produce the session from the booth. I have had the honor of conducting for some colleagues and friends of mine and I need to highlight my collaboration as a conductor for the amazing Kris Bowers for whom I conducted the score for the Academy Award Winning Feature “Green Book” amongst others.
Do you have any preferences as to where you record your film scores as in any studios in particular?
I really enjoy recording in Los Angeles and I have a profound attachment to the Eastwood Scoring Stage (at Warner Brothers) since my USC days. But really enjoyed recording in Budapest as well with Budapest Scoring and lately at the Synchron Stage in Vienna (remotely) – great studio, great team!
I have got to say that whenever I get to have an orchestra play my music it is a true privilege!
Is there a set routine that you apply to scoring a movie, as in starting with a core theme and building the remainder of the score around this or does your working schedule differ on each project?
I approach every project from a different point of view as a good tailor needing to size a suit or a dress. No project is like another one, every genre needs to be approached in a different way. In animation, for example, I prefer to write the themes beforehand and then to approach the film and adapt those throughout the score, whereas on my latest thriller I tried to create ambiences and harmonic languages and colors in order for me to choose the right color palette. Every project is special.
You have also worked on a handful of shorts, is it sometimes difficult to establish a musical identity for a character or a situation when the movie can have a very short duration?
The biggest difficulty in working on shorts is that you have a limited time to develop the whole arc of storytelling in a proper way, in order not to seem rushed. It is often a challenge but a fun one.
Another similar example is when I get to compose music for a 30 second commercial. I have to tell a story in such a short time, but the story needs to be consistent. I always build an arc, big or small. And when it works, I feel fulfilled and satisfied.
In my opinion, storytelling is more important, in this craft, than music itself.
You scored the comedy Scappo a Casa in 2019, which had some Italian western style references that I loved, was this something that the director specified when you were asked to score the movie and as a composer are you familiar with the scores of some of the Italian western movies?
Of course, being Italian, I am very familiar with the scores of the Italian westerns and yes, that was a reference that I got straight from the Director, Enrico Lando.
It was a traveling movie in which we passed from the lush atmospheres of the beginning (Swing/Big Band) to this trip of a group of friends which reminded us of the images of the old westerns (open spaces etc.), thus we decided to use those influences from the great language of the older Italian western films.
Is there any genre of film that you think is harder to score than others?
Although I really love scoring animation, I firmly believe that to write music for this kind of medium, in the most proper and fulfilling way, is a different art form than any other kind of scoring.
We need to be able to follow the action, balancing all the ingredients with extreme attention (not too much mickey-mousing, nor too little emotional scoring plus always the right dosage of good thematic materials). It’s fun, but it’s a high mental energy activity.
Your scores for film and TV have a rich thematic quality, is it important to have themes within film scores, and individual themes or phrases to accompany certain characters?
I strongly believe that thematic ability can define a composer from another, even more than the harmonic language they use. I come in from Italy, a country where, since a young age, everybody’s used to singing under the shower. I feel melody is an integral part of my soul. I like to mess around with my themes and their variations and enjoy playing tricks on the subconscious of my audience, through thematic development.
I think thematic material can help the story progress in the right way and give the audience even more a sense of fulfillment after leaving the movie theater.
What composers or artists would you say have influenced you in the way that you write music or in the way that you approach scoring a picture and do you listen to or buy soundtrack recordings?
I would have to mention too many composers from the past and the present as I think we all metabolize what we like and listen/study.
Amongst my favorites I can certainly mention Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone, Alan Menken Alexandre Desplat, my mentor Luis Bacalov, Carlo Siliotto and of course John Williams. And a note of admiration (in the newer generation) for my dear friend Kris Bowers.
What is next for you?
I just finished a number of projects that I’m looking forward to seeing on the screen.
I would like to mention the featurette Mushka , directed by Disney Legend Andreas Deja for which I composed the score and I got the chance to collaborate with Disney legend and friend Richard Sherman (Mary Poppins).
This was the chance of a lifetime working with the people who defined my childhood through animation and music.
I am fortunate to be involved in international projects and I’m looking forward to the release of the animated feature Out of the nest next year.
On the documentary side, a beautiful work called Food 2050 has been recently screened at the UN food conference in Egypt, produced by the Rockefeller foundation. And talking about Europe I am honored to have my music in the film Jailbird that’s debuting soon at the Tallin Film Festival and then at the Turin Film Festival. So much to say! But I already spoke a lot…as usual (my friends would say! Hey, but I am an enthusiast!!!)
As I always say I’m living in my Land of Dreams and I hope not to wake up.