Edmonton native Darren Fung didn’t need to take home the 2021 Canadian Screen Award for which he was nominated (in the Best Non-Fiction Music category) to feel like he’s won.
“It sounds so cliché,” he says, “but it’s really such an honour to be nominated and, in my mind, the nomination means more than the actual award. The nomination is from a jury of your peers; they’ve taken the time to watch it and say, ‘Hey, this stands out from the rest.’ I mean, we can get into the politics of voting and all of that stuff, but for me, the nomination is really the big thing. I’m obviously very proud, very humbled by it.” The awards will be presented on May 20, 2021.
Fung, a McGill graduate, has more than 100 TV and film scoring credits to his name, including his re-imagining of the nationally treasured “Hockey Theme” for CTV and TSN. While all three of the aforementioned documentaries have been nature-oriented, Fung applies the same exacting criteria for his work on more conventional commissions.
“In my mind, [they’re] not different,” he says, on the phone from his home in Los Angeles. “At the end of the day, you’re telling a story; it’s all about storytelling through music. The tools are the same, whether you’re doing a fiction film, or a documentary, or, quite frankly, a commercial. You’re calling upon that same palette… I’ve always said that I don’t treat the genre of film any different than any other. It’s always a question of, how do we tell the story, and how can my music complement that?”
Writing music to order for someone else’s project is vastly different from writing for yourself. “The screen composer’s job isn’t to write the music that they want for it, it’s to write the music that’s right for the film and for what the filmmakers want,” says Fung.
“That’s one of the big challenges for young screen composers. Everyone has some sort of romantic vision of what a screen composer is, but the reality is that you have to accept the fact that someone else is calling the shots. There’s a lot of people who go into this profession not realizing that, and they get really disenchanted. They don’t get to write what they want to write. You [might] write an amazing piece of music, but it just doesn’t work, and it can be really disheartening at times.”
On the other hand, when you get it right, you might be taking home an award for it.