Making certain acquaintances can be life-changing, and the casual connections made with them can even turn into professional relationships. It’s thanks to a common friend that Eduardo Noya Schreus met star actor/director/screenwriter Xavier Dolan. Said friend had played a few tracks by NOIA, Schreus’ and Ashley Long’s electronic music project, to the young filmmaker. Less than 24 hours later, Dolan contacted Noya to set up a meeting. “We walked and talked a lot,” says Schreus. “Then we went to his place to listen to some music. Later, Xavier admitted he had no idea what kind of music he wanted for his movie until he heard my stuff. He’d found what he was looking for.” The Peruvian-born Canadian was quickly put in charge of the soundtrack for the movie Laurence Anyways.
The pair only met again a year-and-a-half later in a post-production studio. Still, Noya made sure he had access to Dolan during his creative process, through e-mails where rushes and song drafts were paired. Dolan is a filmmaker who doesn’t shy away from giving his opinion on the musical content of his movies. Hence the dialogue between himself and Schreus, the necessity for the creators to meet. Schreus see it as the very basis of his own creative process, even more so since he’s a self-taught musician.
“Movies often have ‘guide’ tracks, placeholders that the editor or the director chose that I use as a reference, a general idea of the atmosphere they’re looking for,” says Schreus. “Sometimes I follow their intention. Sometimes I create something based on the images I see. But most times, my creation is inspired by a meeting, an in-depth discussion with the director about his project and how it fits into our lives. I do sometimes read the script, but that’s never inspired me. Images, just as music, imprints on us immediately. And the link between them is essential.”
His work on Dolan’s Laurence Anyways won Schreus the Best Film Score Canadian Screen Award in 2013. But despite this positive experience, his participation in Dolan’s next movie, Mommy, wasn’t set in stone. In fact, he was urgently requested after the disappointing work of another composer. This situation embarrassed Schreus, but he couldn’t help feeling a tinge of pride. “I’m happy I was able to fix things,” he says. “The movie was edited very tightly to its reference music, which made it hard to switch them for new music. The biggest challenge was the final scene where Diane is alone, in tears. It took me quite a while to find the right music for that moment.” His work on Mommy wins Schreus the Achievement in Feature Film Music Award at the 2016 Montréal SOCAN Gala.
Strangely enough, this pinch-hitter situation will happen again a few months later for a France/Canada TV series titled Versailles, with a $33 million production budget. Again, Schreus was tapped after the production chose to change the composer.“The producers didn’t like the initial pairing between the images and the music, which they found too… classic,” he says. “Director Jalil Lespert decided to go in a completely different direction and use electronic music. And it worked. The biggest challenge for this series is its speed. It’s like composing music for several films all at once.” After penning about half the music for the first 10-episode season (the other half was composed by Michel Corriveau), Schreus was asked to do the same for the second season.
Although he works out of a tiny home studio a few doors down from his own apartment, the man still works on music when he gets home: His music. NOIA existed before he became a professional composer, and it still exists and nourishes him. NOIA live performances won the project the “best electronic act” title, according to Montréal magazine CULT. And NOIA is far from over, if you ask Schreus. “My personal music is my main project,” he says. “I’ll release a studio album this year and another next year. We’re getting back on stage as soon as we feel comfortable enough with the new material. My ultimate dream is to make music, non-stop, until my body gives up.”