Q&A with NH filmmaker Mark Battle, on the art of the movie soundtrack and next week’s DRAFT Fest

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NEC LOGO GSM“Music really does connect us to the emotional chords of a film…”

Wish I said those words. I didn’t. Mr. Mark Battle did. He’s an award-winning filmmaker from New Hampshire and he knows his stuff. Or at the very least, is filling in those creative edges mighty fine.

Every year I see one of Battle’s short films, THE JANITOR or THE CONVICT, at the SNOB Film Festival in Concord, I can’t help but say to myself, “Yup, this cat is on a whole other level. Wow.”

I’m betting 10 years down the road, I’ll be filling my face watching HBO or Cinemax or Showtime, and touch down on a Battle series, something spun out of these early years of Mark’s as a filmmaker in the Granite State.

And what is film without music? That’s what we at Soundcheck wanted to know. So we turned to Battle for his take on blending film with music as he promotes his new gem called HERE LIES JOE starting this weekend at the Derry Regional Ales & Films Together Festival (DRAFT) at the Rockingham Brewing Company in Derry (see schedule below).

You really should go.

NH Filmmaker Mark Battle.

Do you have a favorite music soundtrack? And why?

You know, I think like most people, my favorite soundtracks belong to some my favorite films and I often ask myself, is the score great because the film is great? — they become inseparable. What would “Star Wars” be without John Williams? It’s an interesting question. There are so many amazing scores but my favorite score would have to be James Horner’s “Braveheart” — music really does connect us to the emotional chords of a film, and “The Princess Pleads for Wallace’s Life” turns me into a weeping mess whenever I listen to it.

Tell us about HERE LIES JOE and how prominent does music play a role in the film?

I tend to use music in my films very judiciously, and for HERE LIES JOE, I chose the amazing and talented voice of Casey Sullivan from Boston’s Air Traffic Controller. I had filmed a couple of music videos for the band over the years, and Casey had recorded a solo album before joining the band and it blew me away. Her voice and inflections really brought a soulfulness to HERE LIES JOE and, you know, sometimes while editing you try out different flavors until you get goosebumps. I always trust me feelings in the editing room, and Casey hit all the right notes and it was just perfect. I am also very excited about working with local, indie artists — there is such a wealth of undiscovered talent out there and it’s such a joy bringing these new sounds to people.

When do you start thinking about music when you are working on a film?

I sometimes edit to music. Usually those end up being temp tracks in the end, but not always. Editing the beats of a film is like music, it’s essentially visual poetry, and often times music will help guide me through a scene in the editing room. After final cut, once the edits and beats are established, I’ll try out different pieces and see what works best. Sometimes it’s local indie artists, and sometimes its original music. My first short film, “Victim,” featured an original score from my sound engineer Robert Beal III. It depends on what type of film you’re making and what the film is asking for.

Have you ever considered using music from a local artist in your films?

Absolutely considered and have done so a couple of times. That’s really my favorite choice when the film is right for it. It’s criminal that many local artists have no yet been heard, but on the plus side, a lot of these special tunes end up feeling original to the film because of it. I love that.

Have you ever been inspired to write a movie simply based off a song you heard?

This is a great question and the answer is a resounding yes. For HERE LIES JOE, I listened to “Razor Love” from Neil Young over and over and over while going on my many long brainstorming walks. It’s not unusual for me to loop a track indefinitely in this sort of emotional, subconscious-marinade in hopes of manifesting its essence into visuals. It’s a special process and often a frustrating one. The other day, I told a good friend of mine to listen to a song I had been obsessing on and told her that this song is my next film. We’ll see …

Can you think of a musician that has done a stand out job acting in a motion picture?

I really enjoyed Tom Waits as the Devil in “Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” but then again, come on … it’s Tom Waits.

⇒Granite State of Mind archives

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Click above to go to the film schedule.


Click here for more on DRAFT Fest. And click here for the complete schedule of showings, including the red carpet event April 2 at Pipe Dream Brewing.

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Rob Azevedo from Manchester is the host of Granite State of Mind on 95.3 FM WMNH Fridays at 6 p.m. and Thursday at 7 p.m. on WKXL 103.9 FM.  He also hosts a monthly series at New England College in Concord which features live performances by artists from around New Hampshire.  cleardot.gif?zoom=0He can be reached at onemanmanch@gmail.com

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About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of ManchesterInkLink.com. Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!