Every project that film and television composers Amin Bhatia and Ari Posner take on presents an opportunity for them to learn from each other, and face new challenges that add to the set of tools the pair bring to their work, both collectively and individually.
“I love that, even after 15 years, we’re constantly trying to better ourselves and trying to surprise each other,” says Bhatia. “It’s very healthy to have a longtime partner you trust come up with things that challenge you. In fact, the best compliment we give to the other when we hear a piece of music,” he continues, as Posner laughs in the background, clearly knowing what’s coming: “The best compliment is, ‘I hate you.’ When one of us is working on something we’ll send it to the other and say, ‘Do you hate me?’ And they’ll respond by saying, ‘Congratulations. I hate you.’”
“I love that, even after 15 years, we’re constantly trying to better ourselves and trying to surprise each other.” – Amin Bhatia
Their latest project, the CBC Television series X Company, is no exception. The series follows a fictional group of operatives trained in a true-to-life, Ontario-based facility, Camp X, who undertake missions in Europe to undermine the Nazis during World War Two. While both Posner and Bhatia are familiar with broader details of the war, neither knew much about the existence of the Canadian training camp previously. “That aspect of it was really cool,” Bhatia says, “and when [the series creators] asked us to keep our schedules clear, we were like, ‘Yes, we’ll see what we can do.’ But we were jumping up and down with joy.”
X Company was created by Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern, the same team that produced the internationally successful TV series Flashpoint , which Bhatia and Posner also scored, and for which they’re best known and celebrated. The duo received three SOCAN Film & TV Awards during its five-year run, as well as a Canadian Screen Award for Best Music in a Series. But they started collaborating frequently long before that, since meeting in 1999, on a variety of projects – including Disney’s animated series Get Ed, for which they share an Emmy nomination.
Over time, they’ve also worked on a wide array of projects individually. Posner’s credits include films like All the Wrong Reasons and My Awkward Sexual Adventure and television series such as 24 Hour Rental. And Bhatia’s credits range from albums like his 1987 debut, The Interstellar Suite and its follow up, Virtuality (2008), to features like John Woo’s Once a Thief and Iron Eagle II, and series including Kung Fu and Queer as Folk, among many others.
While the pair have no formal business arrangement, Bhatia says, “Now and then something comes along we both feel would be great to team up on, and we’re always thrilled to have an opportunity to work together.”
Given their existing relationship with Ellis and Morgenstern, X Company was a perfect opportunity to do so. “Mark and Stephanie said, ‘We couldn’t imagine doing this without you guys,” Posner says, but adds that it was essential to prove to everyone involved that X Company’s score would differ substantially from their work on Flashpoint. There’s always a possibility of being associated with your previous work so closely that potential clients can’t see past it. “But we have to be chameleons as composers, and it was great to have Mark and Stephanie rooting for us.”
Filmed in Hungary and produced by Temple Street Productions for CBC-TV, X Company debuted in February 2015 and will begin filming its second season in July 2015. But even before the series began shooting, Posner and Bhatia started creating music for the project. “That’s a new trend,” Bhatia explains. “It’s a way of helping a show find its signature sound. That’s generally more common in feature films than television.”
Ultimately, the result was a library of ideas and melodies that helped nail down a musical approach and overall sound for the show. “Stephanie and Mark were very articulate in helping us find a direction that worked for everybody,” Bhatia continues. “And with the help of our editors Lisa Grootenboer and Teresa Deluca, and the entire sound edit and mix team at Technicolor Toronto, we came up with musical and sonic ideas that changed how the show was edited and put together.”
Although X Company is a period piece, the score is quite modern, and intentionally so, Posner says. “Right from the get-go, they said, ‘It’s set in World War Two, but it has to feel like now’ – in order to make younger viewers see themselves in the characters. There are times when the score needs to be a bit more traditional to put you in that era, and sometimes we erred on going a little too modern, but that’s really how it found its legs.”
“And, in the end, we created a sound everybody’s happy with,” Bhatia adds.