The year 2020 was rough for everyone, but maybe a little less so for young screen composer Maxime Fortin. So, just how many awards did you win last year, Maxime? “I think I won two, maybe three, I don’t quite remember because of all the festivals that have been postponed,” he says. Best Original Score for Eva Kabuya’s web series Amours d’occasion at the Marseille Web Fest, Best Original Score for Mara Joly’s La Maison des folles at the Melbourne WebFest, and we’ll maintain the surprise of Fortin’s third award. Clearly, his career is in full bloom.
At 28, his mastery of timbre contrasts and sonic textures is impressive. “It’s what I like to put at the forefront of my music,” says Fortin. “The way I see music for film and television, we’ve maybe forgotten a bit about very clear themes or melodic motifs, so I’ve made the bet of working on less thematic and more textured [musical] signatures.”
Born in Amos, Québec, Fortin graduated from Cégep Sainte-Foy in classical piano, then from Université de Sherbrooke – where he first enrolled in Classical Interpretation, before switching to the newly-created Screen Composing program, run by Professor André Cayer. The curriculum, he says, is “starting to establish itself as a major program,” where he sometimes hosts workshops.
The composer moved to Montréal in 2015 after graduating, in the hope of making it in the screen composing trade: “I’ve always been a big movie buff and I consider myself a film music specialist more than a musician who decided to write film music,” says Fortin..” What got me into screen composing, I think, is the fact that I love movies so much.” He also loves some of the prominent composers. like Hans Zimmer, Trent Reznor, and (in a different register) the famous Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, all of whose whose work seems to resonate particularly with filmmakers.
After his graduation,Fortin benefited from the advice of composer Samuel Laflamme, who works in television, advertising, and videogames: “I’d reached out to get some advice and learn how to launch my career, but in the end, while I was looking for an apartment, he offered to share a space” in Tone Studio, owned by composer and sound engineer James Duhamel.
“It allowed me to learn the ropes, and also to learn about the world of videogames, which I might not have been able to do on my own right out of university,” says Maxime. “Those two years were incredibly formative for me, and I really encourage young screen composers to seek mentors, people with a lot of experience and tons of projects, who’ll agree to help them.”
“With the silver screen on pause because of the pandemic, people are discovering new formats from the comfort of their living rooms.”
Fortin’s early years were rich in experiences and various projects, but the last few months have been particularly busy for the composer, whose phone has been ringing off the hook for a year. “I believe each film, each work, is an undertaking in which we try to bring together the best elements,” he says, meaning screenwriters, actors, directors, producers, etc. “When I choose my projects, I try to see if all the right elements come together, and if I can become an element that will contribute to the success of the work,” says the composer. He also explores the realm of pop as a composer, producer, and arranger “with musicians who don’t have a lot of notoriety yet. But it allows me to make my mark and understand how the [pop] scene works. Writing songs and writing film music are two completely different universes.”
His judgment has served him well, and the works with which his name is associated have attracted attention, both at home and abroad. He’s already penned the music for seven web series, including Col Bleu (2017, on tv5unis.ca), and Nomades (two seasons on ici.tou.tv), two projects that have earned him nice rewards.
“The web is the new commodity,” says the composer, now mainly associated with that format. “I’m gaining experience [through these web series opportunities]. With the silver screen on pause because of the pandemic, people are discovering new formats from the comfort of their living rooms. These are projects that are very similar to a feature film, in terms of total length, but also to a TV series, in terms of broadcasting and segmentation. It’s a nice hybrid that works well during a pandemic – you can binge-watch a whole web series in an hour-and-a-half to two hours.”
“Being an associated with this type of format can’t hurt,” believes Fortin, currently working on several new projects: new compositions for a TV adaptation of La Maison des folles are in the works, and he’s hoping for good news from a new Québec feature film project for Netflix. “I have a few other projects for the web and TRV, but the pandemic means we have to be patient,” he says. “I stay in touch with my collaborators and the production companies, I do some advance work; I hope everything won’t be greenlighted at the same time… but that would be a nice problem to have, if it happens!”