Zombie film songwriters set for big time after being signed up by top agency in Los Angeles
It started out as a knockabout project between two pals who shared a love of music.
Now, a set of tunes written as a one-off for a low-budget Scottish film have given Glasgow songwriters Tommy Reilly and Roddy Hart a profile alongside some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
The pair were asked by pals to write the music for a zombie musical project that few expected to see the light of day.
But the result, Anna And The Apocalypse, opened last week in cinemas around the UK featuring a soundtrack of knockout tunes penned by Tommy and Roddy.
Its standout soundtrack of brilliantly hooky tunes has caught the attention not only of cinema- goers but also agents in the world’s movie-making hub in Los Angeles. about zombies marauding through the streets of Inverclyde.
Roddy, 39, said: “There’s a sense of us coming into something that we couldn’t really dream of when we started writing the music for Anna And The Apocalypse.
“After the film had screened at some festivals, including Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, there came a point where people started getting in touch with us about the music.
“I think the fact that we were unknown, from Scotland and had written the music to Anna And The Apocalypse, which people were suddenly talking about, made it the perfect storm for us.”
Tommy said: “We just hung out. We didn’t want to overstate our position because, when we went to LA, it was just about enjoying it as much as anything else. We’re mates – we could laugh and enjoy it.”
But when bosses at the agency offered to represent them to the top- line in movie- makers, they were laughing harder than they ever expected.
Roddy said: “It’s a brilliant position to be in, beyond exciting, because we get to see all sorts of potential projects.”
The pair are better known at home for other work. Tommy, 29, won the Channel 4 songwriting talent show Orange Unsigned Act in 2009, landing a Top 20 hit single – Gimme A Call – and releasing two albums.
Roddy is frontman of indie band The Lonesome Fire and has released a clutch of solo albums, playing with the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Eddi Reader and The Trashcan Sinatras, as well as presenting on BBC Scotland.
And while they’ve both had their successes, neither man was expecting their music career to take this most unlikely of turns. No one associated with Anna And The Apocalypse was expecting things to have taken the turn they have either. Last year, it was signed by industry giant MGM’s recently revived subsidiary distributor Orion Pictures – famed for Silence Of The Lambs, Platoon and Dances With Wolves – for distribution in the US.
Its reach is al l the more remarkable, and poignant, given the death of its originator Ryan McHenry from cancer aged just 27.
Having initially put together a short f i lm simply named Zombie Musical, he suggested to his young f i lmmaking mates that he wanted to make a full-length feature.
Although he started the film, he didn’t get the chance to see it finished. After much deliberation, his pals set about finishing it in his memory.
Roddy said: “When they first decided to go ahead and make the film, I was asked to help with the music. It was such a weird mash-up of genres, I couldn’t ignore it. But I knew I couldn’t do it myself. Tommy was the first person I thought of that I could work well with on something like this.”
The pair set about writing tunes in 2013, three years before cameras finally rolled in the classrooms, corridors and canteens of the former St Stephen’s High in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde.
Tommy said: “I thought it sounded hilarious so I jumped at it right away. I’d reached the end of my tether with pop music. I was living in London, had run out of money and came home to do a course on sound for the moving image. When Roddy mentioned this, I was all over it.”
Such was the pair’s creative chemistry that some of the tunes made it to the final soundtrack practically unaltered.
Roddy said: “I always found co- writing difficult before because it can dilute ideas. But working with Tommy made things better. The main thing the songs need to have is hooks – and heart.” Tommy Hooks and Roddy Hart, perhaps? “That’s it,” said Roddy. “Hooks and Hart, at your service.”
Inspired by legendary US songwriter Randy Newman’s Oscar- winning approach to penning songs for films such as Toy Story and Monsters Inc, the pair’s tunes tell the story of a young girl’s desperation to flee a small town before finding herself at the centre of a love story threatened by flesh-hungry zombies.
Tommy said: “The songs had to be singable but they had to be about the story. So we kept saying to each other, ‘ This isnae Disney.’
“The crew for the film had T-shirts made up which had ‘ This isnae Disney’ written on them.”
Ironically, one of the tunes on the soundtrack, which is released independently of the film, is called Hollywood Ending. They had no idea it was their Hollywood beginning.
Tommy added: “Whatever we did in this film, people seem to have taken a shine to. It made us feel that maybe we might just be able to do this again.”
The pair are already working on the music for another Scottish film with Michael Caton Jones, the director of Memphis Belle, Basic Instinct 2 and Rob Roy.
Filming has begun in locations including Glasgow and Port Glasgow on the movie adaptation of Alan Warner’s novel The Sopranos, a raucous coming-of-age tale featuring a girls’ choir from the Highlands.