Some meetings can completely change your professional career by opening new creative paths. Such was the case for Québec composer and musician Denis Sanacore who, in a strange twist of fate, was offered the opportunity to create the score for Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s movie The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet.
It all started in 2012, and turned out to be an extraordinary story that unfolded over a period of two years. Sanacore explains: “I came back from spending the weekend in Burlington with my wife, and Suzanne Girard had left a message on my voicemail. She was asking me to send some demos of my work for a possible movie project she was keeping confidential for the time being. I had three days. I was happy, but taken aback. I’d never done this before.
“The day after sending my demo in, I got another phone call inviting me to meet director Jean-Pierre Jeunet [director of Amélie]. I was floored. I showed up, my hands were frozen and my heart wanted to jump out of my chest. Jeunet told me he was charmed by my compositions on MySpace and by my demo, and that he was looking for a Québec-based composer for this co-production. He asked me to compose some music, no strings attached, and that if he liked it, he’d use it.”
“I’m doubly happy, because I created some of the music with my wife on the violin and my daughter Léa who sings on one of my favourite pieces.”
This proposal left the musician’s head reeling – he who, up to now, had earned a living running a music school in Saint-Hilaire, on top of performing in festivals, at weddings, and the like, alongside his wife Rachel Carreau.
Sanacore left the meeting with a copy of Jeunet’s storyboard, and melodies already swirling around in his mind. He rapidly realized the limitations of his 12-track home studio. He then headed out to Steve’s Music Store and bought a sound card and a copy of ProTools. He also signed up for a training session. “I had a lot to learn, but I was incredibly motivated,” says Sanacore.
He found inspiration directly in the characters and their emotional arcs. He created a theme for each of them, a musical signature that defined each one. And that’s when he faced his first challenges. “Transposing oneself emotionally into a character is a lot harder than you can imagine,” he says. “You must recall your own grieving. You must also be able to boil down your creative flights into very precise little chunks of time. You need to be able to stick to the core magic of a melody throughout the whole creative process.”
But Sanacore was on a roll, and he kept sending new music to the director. The two artists met again while Jeunet was in Montréal to shoot at Mel’s Sound Stages. Jeunet showed him one of the scenes to which he had attached one of his pieces. “I was blown away,” says Sanacore, wide-eyed. The pair finally reached an agreement. Jeunet confirmed to Sanacore that three of his themes will be used in the movie. But once the movie finally came out, all of the musical themes in The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet were his creations. “I’m doubly happy, because I created some of the music with my wife on the violin, and my daughter Léa, who sings on one of my favourite pieces,” says Sanacore.
What followed this wild adventure with Jeunet was just as brilliant. In 2014, Sanacore was nominated in the Best New Artist category at the World Soundtrack Awards in Belgium — one of the most prestigious awards in the field of film scoring – alongside Steven Price (Gravity) and Daniel Pemberton (Uncle). He also won the Best Film Music Award at the 2015 SOCAN Awards Gala in Montréal. And he released an instrumental record titled I Am out of the desire to re-focus himself around his own musical creations.
Creating music for a Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie does not the world change… “I’m still a music teacher,” says Sanacore. “And I still play with my wife at all kinds of events. The difference now is that I have an agent in L.A. and I’ve received offers.” However, those offers he’s gotten so far are quite different from his musical instincts, and they beg one question: Should he be versatile or stick to his personal songs? Sanacore hasn’t quite found the answer yet, but he dreams of diving right back into the movie world, composing “music that opens your heart.”