Interviews & Profiles

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Interview with composer Jim Dooley

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events has stood out for being a children’s book series that didn’t believe in happy endings. The well-known story, which was first published in 1999, follows three young siblings (Klaus, Violet and Sunny Baudelaire) whose parents die in a fire and are placed in the care of one crazy guardian after another, all while being hunted by an evil distant relative (Count Olaf) who is only interested in their enormous fortune. The books spawned a 2004 feature film starring Jim Carrey and a Netflix series, now in its second season.

We decided to speak to one of the creatives of the hit Netflix show, Emmy winning composer Jim Dooley. In the below exclusive interview he talks about everything from what surprised him most in the second season to his influences for the score.

-What was your creative process like for A Series of Unfortunate Events?

It all begins with Barry Sonnenfeld. We had an initial creative meeting to discuss where the show was and where it was going. After that I started putting together a musical palette specific to the show by recording new custom instruments such as the Bass Flapamba, Stone Marimba, and Tuned Anvils. Then I sat down and wrote out new thematic material for the show before actually working to picture.

-Now that Season 2 has been streaming for a while we can ask, what was your biggest surprise with Season 2?

Both the deaths of Jaques and Olivia were a big surprise. I have not read the books and I don’t read the scripts too far ahead so that the score doesn’t give anything away due to the ‘omniscient composer effect.’ I tried to do something special for the demise of their characters.

-When you were first scoring ASOUE was there things musically you knew you wanted to avoid? Why?

I don’t know if I was necessarily trying to avoid anything in particular. My goal, however, was to create a musical world almost devoid of hope. The score is there to add a bit of whimsy in a dark world that is set against our heroic children.

-Did you draw from any influences to create the ASOUE score? If so, what were they?

I definitely took a bit from Bernard Herrmann’s score to Journey to the Center of the Earth. Whenever Lemony Snicket is narrating, I wanted to give him something that had a mood devoid of light and hope.

-Which episode from Season 2 was your favourite to score? Why?

‘Carnivorous Carnival Part 1’ is my favourite because it created one of the greatest challenges. It opens with a party and dancing. I had to score the action as well as a caper that is going on. It was very tricky but it turned out well I think.

-Imaginary wise, ASOUE is very similar to one of your previous shows, Pushing Daisies. When doing a show that is very over the top like this, is it harder or easier to score?

After scoring Pushing Daisies, ASOUE was like putting on a well-worn piece of clothing. It had all the marks of many years of use and fit like a glove. The sheer amount of music makes the show difficult to score, just like Pushing Daisies. I am fortunate to have a great team of people on the show that help me get to the finish line with great success. From the assistants to the editors and all over the show, it’s a great team.

-What Netflix shows are you currently watching? Musically which one stands out the most for you?

I just binge watched the second season of GLOW. That is fantastic! I can’t wait for season three! The score is great and the song placements were brilliant.

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