Exclusive Interview – Composer Timothy Stuart Jones on Saban Films’ Hide and Seek and NBC’s Chuck

Saban Films psychological thriller / horror Hide and seek is now available in select theaters and VOD / digital platforms. Based on the 2013 Korean film by writer / director Huh Jung, it was written and directed by Joel David Moore (Hatchet) and stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jacinda Barrett, Sue Jean Kim, Mustafa Shakir and Joe Pantoliano. The official synopsis reads: “After the death of his wealthy father, Noah [Rhys Meyers] seeks his outcast brother to make amends and share the family fortune. But the family holds a dark secret, and a series of cryptic clues will lead Noah on a terrifying trail to the truth that threatens to separate him from those he loves most. The score by composer Timothy Stuart Jones, which he describes as downright vicious at times, adds to the intensity of the film. In the exclusive interview below, we spoke to Timothy about everything from the specifics Hide and seek character themes to his days on Mandrel.

What initially attracted you to the Hide and Seek script?

I loved the Korean movie it was based on. Joel David Moore, the director, made some interesting updates on the script and set it up in New York today. It had a very gritty urban feel and evoked the effects of gentrification that had been happening in New York for some time.

How would you describe the Cache-cache score?

It’s pretty vicious in places. The director really wanted hard edges and a sense of impending doom as Jonathan Rhys Meyers descends deeper into the rabbit hole in search of his brother. I used a lot of bowed instruments and musical sound design to match the David Fincheresque ‘Se7envisuals of the time. The downtown building looked like it had just about ALL the illnesses you could want. Hep AZ. It was fun to find a musical equivalent to that.

What was pre-production like for you on this movie? Did you start scoring once it was already completely finished?

The film was 85% done when I started. I took the time to write a delicate lullaby melody that kicks off the film and returns to key moments in the story. There was kind of a scary doll or clown vibe. Definitely a little slanted.


Have you created specific themes for the different characters? If so, can you talk about it a bit?

This lullaby I just mentioned was written on this kind of slightly out of tune piano / heavenly sound. I programmed the sound so that I could detune the elements of the piano more or less as needed. It plays as a theme for a mother and her young daughter who live in the building. It goes through different iterations and ends with key moments. I also got that dropping brass / synth sound for the antagonist who spends most of the movie in a black motorcycle helmet and black riding clothes. We called it Moto. I wanted the sound to feel like your stomach is falling on a roller coaster. You hear the sound and you know it is hiding. Jaws is probably the best technical example I can think of. It is a standard tool in the scoring toolkit. It can be very effective. The composer gives screen time to a character who is not even on the screen. Having said that, this is not a slasher movie. The score really needed to help with the atmosphere and the motivations of the characters. And jump scared. I’m always up for a good, unintentional onlooker popcorn.

Some composers are known to use found objects to create unique sounds for their sheet music. Did you do something like this for Hide and Seek?

I used an instrument called a hammered dulcimer. It’s not a found thing, but I used it in a different way. I put contact microphones on the wooden body. I then passed that signal through a looper that turns the sound into a repeating drone that lets you stack layers of sound. Using a small violin bow, I was able to tilt the strings while bending them with my other hand to create some interesting textures. I was able to use them in various places in the film. This acoustic element cannot be overstated. It has so much life compared to a sample. It’s alive and completely unique because I couldn’t play it the same way if I tried. I consider them to be paintings of sand. Once I save them, they can never be repeated exactly. It’s the nature of working this way and I love it. I have also used a few French ribbon synths called Persephone. You run your finger left and right over a capacitive strip to get the pitch. I love using them because the notes are always “in the cracks”. By that I mean they fall between the keys of a piano and are generally slightly off the mark. Because I have two that use things like an Eventide pedal and real tape delay, you can get some really unsettling stuff. By using two fingers on the same ribbon, you can also achieve beautiful things. Intervals which agree with themselves on the basis of the harmonic series. You don’t get those kinds of intervals on a standard piano and it’s very pleasing to the ear when you hear them.

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You’ve also tagged NBC’s hit series Chuck. Thinking back to that show, what did you like the most about your job?

I appreciated the referential nature of the show. It was so much fun to incorporate different elements of pop culture into the score. A good example was the series finale. I was able to re-record / arrange A-ha’s Take On Me. It was fun in and of itself, but then I scored above all else while dramatically hitting all the things the scene needed. It was a big musical puzzle and a blast to make.

Musically, do you have a favorite Chuck episode?

I think I accidentally answered this in the last question! There were so many episodes… I enjoyed the one where Sarah went to Thailand and ended up in a fight pit. Yvonne Strahovski is so amazing. The fun part was the music in the bar that Chuck walks into when he searches for Sarah. The producers requested a Thai version of the Cantina Band. I mean come on. Whether or not you thought I was successful, it was a lot of fun. Jeffster does CCR’s Fortunate Sound. My friend Johnny Lee Schell was playing with John Fogarty. A recording on that guitar part and we got it. And, it was awesome. I could do this all day. Haha!

There have been reboots of so many shows these days, if they reboot Chuck or just do another season, would you be interested in scoring?

I have exactly two questions. When do we start? And can you tell me temporally when we could start. The show and the people were amazing. I would be there in the blink of an eye.


IIs there a director or showrunner that you haven’t had the opportunity to work with yet that you would like to do?

On the TV side, I would love to work with Greg Daniels. His shows are so smart and have an emotional core that I love. I think Bryce Dallas Howard would be great to work with. She does a great job. Besides being a high-flying actress, she is equally gifted as a director. It would be super cool.

What are you going to work on next?

I just finished a movie called Boatman hitting theaters in the spring. At present, there is only Hawaii and California. I know this will eventually result in a large streaming version. It’s such a good movie, and so fitting for the times we live in right now. The world needs more Aloha. Then I make a movie with Mel Gibson directed by a friend of mine, James Cullen Bressack. I look forward to it.

Thanks to Timothy Stuart James for taking the time for this interview. Learn more about him on his site, and preview two tracks of Hide and Seek here …


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