Finneas talks scoring his first film at SXSW

Morgan-Taylor Thomas

Even while working on a documentary exploring life on tour with his sister (“Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry”), Finneas O'Connell still made time for his future and lifelong dream: composing a film score. 

At South by Southwest 2021 Finneas spoke with Andrew Hampp, founder of 1803 LLC, which is a media consultant agency. They spoke about Finneas’s desire to score films, how he got involved with his first film and more. 

Finneas wrote the score for Megan Park’s “The Fallout,” a drama following two friends who are surviving the aftermath of a shooting at their high school. Finneas said he was excited to be involved with the process, and the topic is near and dear to his heart. 

“I remember reading the script probably about a year ago,” Finneas said. “And to me, the gun violence epidemic in America, in contrast to a lot of the other plates of this country, seems very easily solvable, and I think there's something kind of infuriating about that. The idea that you'd be opposed to stricter gun laws is crazy. So it was already a subject that was important to me, and I thought about (it) a lot.”

The multiple Grammy award-winning singer, songwriter and producer said that thanks to his connections, Park and film music supervisor Peymon Maskan, he was able to take risks and try different musical combinations that other artists may not have been able to do while embarking on their first journey writing a film score.

However, his creativity stayed guided through regular meetings with the film staff.

“We'd done a spotting session where they'd sort of outline where they wanted a piece, but then I threw in a couple pieces,” Finneas said. 

Although his score is not full of elegant orchestral chords or entire jazz bands, Finneas said he felt that his minimalist approach fit better with the energy of the film. 

“It’s so intimate … so I couldn't really have done an orchestral arrangement,” Finneas said. “I would have had to have a lot of help on that, but I felt that that would have been out of place, even if it was something I was capable of. I thought, as sparse and intimate as I could make, this one would probably benefit the sort of emotional connectivity with the characters the best.”

In comparison to songwriting for an album, which Finneas described as task-oriented projects that can be liberating yet still provide a specific goal to accomplish, what he likes most about scoring is the fluidity and mobility that comes with it.

“I think the most exciting thing is the malleability,” Finneas said. “I think every film would call for a very different approach, and that's what's exciting to me about it. I think the idea of doing a film completely different than this film and making the soundtrack completely different is really thrilling and something I'm super excited to do.”

Because scoring is something he has aspired to do for quite some time, Finneas said he hopes to grow from this opportunity and find ways to continue to inspire himself to create art. Whether it be through sounds of nature or him warping the simple strum of a guitar on his computer, Finneas said he likes to keep things weird, as those weird productions are usually his best.

“Sometimes there's a great snare and a great kick but it's not weird enough,” Finneas said. “It's just like, oh, that sounds nice. The weirder I can get it to be, the more inspiring it is.” 

For the immediate future, Finneas said he only has one thing on his mind.

“Playing shows and never stopping again,” Finneas said.