While fans of Netflix’s new series The Get Down know the driving force behind the show is the incredible hip hop soundtrack, you might not know that the driving force behind the music is actually a classically-trained jazz composer from Sydney.
With an established career as a composer for Australian screen and TV commercials and two album releases under his belt, musician Elliott Wheeler was given the “amazing” role of Executive Music Producer for The Get Down – director Baz Luhrmann’s vibrant (and addictive) series about the birth of hip hop in the South Bronx in the late 1970s.
Although he was more used to creating dramatic classical film scores as opposed to hip hop or disco tunes, it didn’t stand in his way of jumping on board with the project.
“The job of executive music producer is to have an overarching view of all the music that comes into the show and make sure there is coherency and a purpose behind everything,” Elliott tells Collective Hub. “With music there is always an overlap and commonality.”
Writing and producing songs for The Get Down meant working with an extremely diverse set of musicians and actors, as well as collaborating with American rapper Nas, who is executive producer and narrator on the show. All this makes for a creative, collaborative environment where the upbeat results speak for themselves.
“The days on this show are pretty amazing,” Elliott confirms. “One day Grandmaster Flash will come in and mix a live DJ set in the studio, or Rahiem from the Furious Five will come in and write rhymes for the characters, or we’d record a song with Christina Aguilera.”
“There were moments when I was in the studio looking at my colleagues and saying what are we doing? This is insane!”
Having worked with fellow Australian Baz Luhrmann before on his film The Great Gatsby and the stage version of Strictly Ballroom gave Elliot and his director a good grounding for the 18-month long filming and production process.
“Baz and I have developed a great shorthand and musical simpatico,” Elliott explains. “The great thing about working with him is he doesn’t really distinguish between dance, music and scriptwriting and editing – it all serves the same story writing process.”
For Elliott, making sure to build those close and trusted relationships with directors is his key to success as a screen music producer.
“It’s a very special thing to be trusted to tell someone else’s story musically, and the bond you form working with directors, editors, writers, all the people involved in the creative process is a beautiful thing,” Elliott confirms. “If you’re interested in scoring for film, embrace it as the craft that it is and do the homework. Find the storytellers you love and then make those relationships happen.”