‘Fatal Affair’: Composer Matthew Janszen Discusses His Score to Netflix’s New Thriller

Review Ethan / 2023-03-23 19:20:58

Netflix's latest movie, Fatal Affair is adding some spice to the month. Below, we’ll get to talk to the composer behind the new Netflix thriller, Matthew Janszen.

Fatal Affair is a similar title to The Intruder and Obsessed. Matthew Janszen's original music adds to the drama. Janszen’s main goal for the film’s score was to create a sound that captures the unraveling of David’s character.

This is exactly what Janszen does, adding drama and suspense to the story. We spoke with Janszen more in depth about his work on Fatal Affair, as well as his other Netflix project, Archibald’s Next Big Thing.

Matthew Janszen Headshot

How did Fatal Affair first come to your attention? Would you describe the original appeal of Fatal Affair to you?

Peter Sullivan (director) reached out during filming and asked me if I wanted to participate in this project.  Peter and I have worked on over 20 films together and it’s always an enjoyable collaborative experience, so I, of course, jumped on board!  The development of Ellie (Nia Lang) and David (Omar Epps), was what attracted me to this project.  It slowly turned from something harmless to unsettling to potentially dangerous.  It was clear that I had to be careful not to score too many points too quickly.

How would you sum up your Fatal Affair score?

The score begins with the opening sequence. It then builds slowly into two sound worlds.  This first world represents Ellie's relationship with her current family.  This world, which is mostly acoustic in nature, has some melancholy at the beginning.  The other world of sound is made up of synths, mallet-like instruments and Ellie. She's dipping her toes into something that might unravel her life after she forms a romantic relationship with David.

–Fatal Affair is a horror/thriller. Because of the need for tension and jump scares, these genres tend to be music-heavy. This information may have put you under additional pressure.

There is always some initial pressure involved in any project.  That comes from having to create something completely new and trying to score a good result.  Instead of thinking about the needs of the genre, I prefer to be focused on the story.  The story will reveal what it needs and once I’ve “unlocked” that, the process begins to flow.

-You worked alongside Peter Sullivan (director of Fatal Affair) on several films, including The Sandman, Cucuy: The Boogeyman, and Cucuy: The Boogeyman. Do you feel more free to choose the music, etc.?

He does.  You can build trust after watching 20 films.  I get to hear his thoughts and ideas, and then he allows me to explore the world and discover what happens.  Even with a certain amount of freedom to explore, it’s still always my goal to deliver the tone that the director wants.

fatal affair netflix july 2020

What is the process of making a film?

Peter often contacts me while filming or editing the film to have a conversation about it.  Peter is fond to point out famous music that has influenced him in the direction of the film.  Now that we’ve done so many films, we also talk about how we can make this upcoming score different than past scores of similar genre.  Both of us are constantly looking for new ways to make ideas interesting and fresh.

-You are also the composer of a project that is completely different from Fatal Affair, Netflix’s animated series Archibald’s Next Big Thing. What is it like to score an animated film similar in style and execution to a live-action movie?

No matter the genre, telling or supporting stories with music is the same process.  The biggest difference between animation and live action is logistical.  Animation has more moments or hit points that can be addressed with music than live action.  Also, an animated show like Archibald’s Next Big Thing is 11 minutes long, so the speed at which the story moves is extremely fast.  The musical ideas change and are therefore short.

-Do you have a favorite episode, musically, of Archibald’s Next Big Thing? It resonates with you.

One of my favorite episodes is “The Baritone Tea” which is in season 2.  After having written some songs in season 1 for this show, they asked me to create 6 songs for their second-part episode.  Writing a mini-musical was a lot of fun, and I had the opportunity to work with some amazing singers.  Taylor Trensch rocked Archibald’s singing voice, Ana Gasteyer was incredible as Mimsy, and throughout the series it’s always a joy to work with Jordan Fisher who plays Finly.

How long do you take to complete each episode?

Each episode of this series is unique.  One episode I’m writing full orchestral sci-fi music, the next I’m doing an 80s synth score, and then on to a full-blown musical.  Each episode takes different amounts of time depending on what task it is.  It takes approximately 1-2 weeks for two episodes of 11 minutes to complete the first pass.

What are you working on right now?

Archibald’s Next Big Thing is still ongoing and I’m looking forward to sharing more!

Matthew Janszen's portfolio website contains more information.


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