'Criminal Minds' Composers Raise Profile With Blog, Spinoff And Soundtrack Plans
Working as a trio in the TV scoring business is rare enough. Yet Steffan Fantini, Marc Fantini and Scott Gordon-the three composers for CBS' hit drama "Criminal Minds"-are also distinguishing themselves in other surprising ways.
They're blogging about their work, providing a rare glimpse into the creative process of scoring a dramatic series. They're betting that the avid "Criminal Minds" fan base will spring for a forthcoming soundtrack album. And they're composing the music for a spinoff show, "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior," which debuted Feb. 16.
Fantini, Fantini and Gordon launched their CBS.com blog in October, a month into the current season, and update it after every episode. In one recent post, they revealed how they created an eerie vibe in a scene by playing the strings of the piano with a violin bow. In another post, they explained how they sought to convey uncertainty about a convicted murderer up for parole by building "a sense of sympathy in the audience, while not necessarily convincing them whether this man was innocent or guilty."
"It's because of the way they work that makes the blog a success," says Dawn Soler, senior VP for TV music at ABC Studios, which produces the show for CBS. "The Flying Fantinis, as we call them, are so good with the suspense while developing the characters without hitting you over the head."
The Fantini brothers, both instrumentalists, played in bands prior to entering the scoring field, most prominently in Ringo Starr's band. Gordon put in a decade of studio work as an engineer and producer for such artists as Starr and Alanis Morissette before joining the Fantinis to score "Criminal Minds" and then Lifetime's "Army Wives."
Each 42-minute episode of "Criminal Minds" has a 30- to 34-minute score, the composers say, which they divide evenly down to the minute. After viewing a rough cut, the three divvy up the cues and go to their respective corners, re-emerging five or six days later with a completed score.
"There's no rhyme or reason as to why we do it that way," Steffan Fantini says. Marc Fantini adds that the three maintain a friendly rivalry. "What winds up happening is we work to impress each other," he says. "There is not a week in which there is not that competition. It's very healthy."
Their music for "Criminal Minds" is co-published by Touchstone Pictures Music and Songs and Addax Music. (Sony/ATV is the administrator of the latter.)
Out of a desire to expand the audience for their "Criminal Minds" music, Fantini, Fantini and Gordon asked ABC Studios to strike a deal for a score album, knowing full well that "Battlestar Galactica" is about the only TV score album in recent years to post significant sales.
The debut "Criminal Minds" soundtrack album will be released by La-La Land Records, a Burbank, Calif., label that specializes in film and TV soundtracks. ABC's Soler is optimistic that the album will find buyers. "Physical soundtracks have taken a big hit," she says, "but 'Criminal Minds' will have its market."
Meanwhile, the trio has been busy scoring "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior." The spinoff's music will reflect the style of the show's investigative team, which is less by-the-book than the FBI profilers on the original "Criminal Minds." "It will be a little more street, a little less slick, much like the way it's shot," Gordon says.
"The mandate on 'Criminal Minds' was to recognize musically every event on the screen, from an arm waving to a [suspect] walking," Marc Fantini says. "It's not as much like that on 'Suspect Behavior.' It's less sound effect-y-cool music influenced by the original but not hitting every moment."
While scoring the shows, they'll continue to blog about their musical motivation for the original "Criminal Minds." The hope is that their work leads to film scoring jobs and more TV projects. "We want to branch out and do film work but not as individuals," Gordon says. "We all come from backgrounds in making records, so we tend to write scores as if they're songs."