Have you ever wondered who provides the creepy score for FOX’s The Following? That’d be John Frizzell, the same guy who’s responsible for the classic workplace comedy Office Space and the network’s animated series King of the Hill. While you wrap your brain around that, BFTV sat down with John recently to discuss what it takes to score a TV episode.
What brought John to The Following? “Kevin Williamson is the key,” he told us, referring to the show’s creator and executive producer. “I’ve worked with Kevin a lot over the years and Kevin told me about this show…He was listening to a lot of music I’d done while writing the pilot.” Their collaboration goes back more than a decade: John scored Williamson’s directorial debut, the 1999 black comedy Teaching Mrs. Tingle, the same year that he did Office Space.
Providing the score for a television episode is a lot more than just coming up with some background music. It really is an art form, as evidenced by the work of people like Bear McCreary, Sean Callery, and John. But what goes into that art form? For example, how much does John need to know about each episode in order to come up with the right score?
“A lot,” he said. “With that, I mean there’s a lot of conversations with [executive producer] Marcos Siega. Marcos has a really critical vision on the shape of where we’re going. In talking with Kevin and Marcos, I get an idea of sort of the arc of where we’re headed. And then I stay closely in touch with an episode. They send me a rough cut of an episode with no music, and [I] just start to shape it.”
With most TV shows shooting their episodes in just more than a week, there’s often not a lot of time for error. We asked John if his schedule is similarly rushed. “Because we only do 15 episodes a year, I get a little more time,” he told us. “I think you can feel that in every aspect of the show. It’s all made with an enormous amount of care and detail.
“I usually get about a week. Then the editors work with that score and trim the episode, and then I get another couple of days to clean it up, and then we mix it for a couple of days,” he continued. “But during that mixing time, I’m writing the next one.”
John is another one of the unsung heroes of the business, having provided the score for so many wonderful film and television projects over the years. Could he possibly pick any of them to call a favorite? He has a few. “Office Space is one of the best experiences I’ve ever gotten to have. I have one of the original staplers from the set,” he said.
“There’s a film that I did a few years ago, called The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. Wonderful film. It didn’t get seen a lot, but it’s a really charming film. And two of my friends from the band Nickel Creek, Sean and Sara Watkins, played all the solos on it. Another one would be James Dean, starring James Franco.”
Outside of the studio, John is passionate about music education. “I always think music education is a good thing. The more people that study music, the more music we have,” he told us.
When he’s composing, however, he’s dedicated to catching you by surprise and scaring the heck out of you. “I am very committed to having [the audience] very uncomfortable. On The Following, that’s what I’m there to do,” John reflected. “I do value the importance of storytelling, and I consider myself as a humble part of a storytelling team.”
Photo Credit: FOX Networks