Composer Fil Eisler is one busy guy, especially with his duties on Fox’s breakout hit “Empire.” When reached by phone for an interview, Eisler said that the strong themes of the show make it easier to create the music.
“Any project that I go onto, if the material is that strong, it makes it exponentially easier to write for because you’re not trying to fix things,” he explained. “You’re just trying to take what’s there and, hopefully, elevate it to another level where the audience can get more involved in it. The trick is sort of not getting over-involved and stepping on it.”
Also known as iZLER, the composer said series creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong really put their stamp on the series, which focus on a hip-hop empire. When it came to musical themes, Daniels and Strong wanted the soundtrack to be like a movie score, not a TV score.
“Which is one of the reasons we are using a live orchestra. They wanted to deliberately juxtapose the score against all the hip-hop stuff. The emotional moments and dramatic moments weren’t being underscored with hip hop as well. Otherwise, it would sort of just feel like there’s a blanket of hip-hop all the way through the score. As it’s gone on, I’ve started to find more situations where they wanted to incorporate hip-hop beats into the orchestral score, which has been interesting as well,” Eisler said.
The composer also said working with a live orchestra is one of the most fun parts of his job. When asked about the cost to the production, he pointed out that the expense really isn’t that great: “In the scheme of things, if you think about how much a studio will routinely drop on a single song for one of these shows, that would pretty much cover your orchestral budget. So you are in a position where you can have one song or an entire score.”
Saying iZLER is one busy composer is an understatement. Among his other accomplishements, he created compositions for ABC’s “Revenge” and Showtime’s “Shameless.”
“I think any composer would love to be in the position of doing one project at a time. You can’t worry too much about schedules because things change, schedules push. Things never happen when they are supposed to happen. Sometimes it’s smooth going and sometimes it isn’t,” he explained.
Eisler is prepared for those times when time gets tight. He credits having a good infrastructure and a great team around him for getting things done.
“It helps get you through those sort of rough bottlenecks where you have several things happening at the same time. That being said, I probably haven’t slept in five years. We’ll see how the next five years unfold,” Eisler said, laughing.
As of this writing, Eisler finished composing for the first season of Lifetime’s “UnReal,” set to debut on June 1. The series focus on a reality dating show that manipulates relationships to get good footage.
“It’s going to be interesting seeing how that one does because it’s on Lifetime, but it’s not a typical Lifetime show, which is what attracted me to it,” Eisler said. “They are trying to break into some new areas, and I think it is very bold of them to do it. I guess it’s billed as a comedy, but I would hesitate to even call it a comedy because it’s so dark and funny.”