Exclusive Interview With Ian Hultquist On The Diabolical


What’s your process like for crafting the entire score for an hour and a half movie?

Hultquist: That was another thing about this film, it’s the most amount of music I’ve ever written. I think I ended up with 84 minutes of score, which for me, being my third feature ever, was quite an undertaking. A lot of it was me trying to have the sounds in my head of what I think would work. That’s why I spent almost a month just doing sound design, processing stuff, experimenting. During that time I did write one or two demos just to try stuff out. It wouldn’t really be to picture. I’d just have a scene in my mind and I’d think about that and try to achieve something in music that would remind me of it.

From there, a couple of them actually turned out to be some of the main themes of the film. There’s that mother son theme between Ali Larter and Max Rose’s characters that I actually didn’t write purposefully. I wrote it to fill one of the scenes. But then I realized that if I expanded it, it became a full theme for the rest of the film and turned into a giant hit home at the end of the movie.

It was an interesting way to work. I didn’t know exactly what I was writing. This happens a lot. I don’t sit down and be like, “I’m going to write this character’s theme right now.” I just kind of write music for scenes and from there I start to pick it apart and realize as I’m working, “Oh, this is that person’s theme,” or “this is that person’s theme. If we turn this around that could be that over there.” It’s a fun exploration process every time I start something new.

How late into the editing process are you still tweaking what you’ve written?

Hultquist: For The Diabolical, I was brought on when there was a fairly locked picture cut. None of the effects were done. I still got see cuts where there were strings moving things around with the practical effects and things like that, but as far as the majority of the picture, it was locked and the edit didn’t change too much from there. I got to work with something that wasn’t going to change too much. There were some edits towards the very end of it where FX shots were being sent in last minute and I would have to do little adjustments here and there.

I was lucky on this one that there wasn’t a lot of catching up to do. There’s other films I’ve worked on where it’s constantly changing. Especially on any documentary I do. That is a trial. Because they are constantly changing the cut until the last second. Ivory Tower, which was the first doc that I did, it was at Sundance last year. We were working on it until the week before. By the time it actually came out in theaters in the summer they had changed the cut again. It’s like a neverending thing.

Is horror something you want to keep doing? Any other specific genres you want to try?

Hultquist: I love horror. I had a really good time with it. It’s not the only thing I want to do but I definitely want to come back to it. I love all types of film. Each one I’ve done has been extremely different too. There’s been a lot of indie dramas but different sides of it. Animals, the film I was at South By last year with, that was this dark, heartfelt drama about two characters who are living in their car in Chicago and are heroin addicts. They’re just trying to get by day by day. It was hyper-realistic. Super gritty. There’s a film that I just finished right before I came here that’s super heartfelt but totally different thing. It deals with death and coming of age and trying to learn how to grow up and be a person. I have a really good time with all of these. I’m just happy to be doing it honestly.

What’re you working on right now?

Hultquist: The Diabolical was the third feature I did and just before I came to Austin I sent in my finals for my sixth film. So I’ll have a few things coming out in the next year. The next big thing that’s happening is I have a documentary called Thought Crimes that’s going to be premiering at Tribeca next month, in April. It’s a really cool documentary about the cannibal cop of New York. It’s directed by Erin Lee Carr.

That concludes the interview, but we’d like to thank Ian for taking the time to talk with us!