Composing duo Robl + Sutta score Chicago film Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers

The composing duo Robl + Sutta recently scored the original soundtrack for Grasshoppers, award-winning filmmaker Brad Bischoff’s directorial feature film debut.

The emotionally charged drama recently made its world premiere as an Official Selection of the 18th Annual Bend Film Festival.

The director, Brad Bischoff is a native of Chicago and the film was shot the in the Chicago suburbs. Grasshoppers script, one of ten selected by the prestigious Gotham (IFP) Narrative Labs, is the first feature-length screenplay penned by Bischoff, most recently recognized as one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film (Filmmaker Magazine). 

Bischoff called on Adam Robl and Shawn Sutta to compose a score with the depth and texture that enhances the story with a cinematic elegance. The talents of award-winning cinematographer Daphne Qin Wu (ASC’s Rising Stars of Cinematography 2021) were tapped to capture the dark, romantic, tumultuous look of the inner lives of a couple, while the music complements the film’s aesthetic with a range of styles, from European classical to modern ambient.

Grasshoppers is set in a Midwestern gated community all but deserted for the winter by its ‘snowbird’ residents.  The film opens as a couple, Nijm and Irina, hatch a plan to ditch work and visit every house in the neighborhood. With each visit, another drink is poured, and startling revelations of their relationship are revealed. 

“We began discussing the score with Brad long before shooting began on location in a suburb of Chicago,” says Sutta. “The director/writer had a very specific artistic vision of the world he wanted to create around his characters and how the music could be crafted to draw the audience into their story.”

“The opening music is a carefully calculated ‘theme.’ The cue echoes the couple’s mood as they start the day with unbridled exuberance about their future – with just the slightest foreshadowing hinting that things are not as they seem,” says Sutta.  “The soundtrack begins with the rich tones of a refined piano-driven, classically orchestral sound, blended with textures created by guitars and synthesizers adding a modern feel.”

Robl and Sutta, both multi-instrumentalists, composed parts for the piano, violin, viola, cello, and double bass that are the foundations of the score.  The sound of a woodwind section was created on a mellotron – a vintage instrument that plays recordings of flutes on mechanical tapes inside a keyboard. Played by Robl, the mellotron adds a quality reminiscent of film scores from another era to the traditional orchestral sound.

As the film progresses, the music subtly shifts, gradually becoming more emotionally intense with a foreboding underpinning as we are drawn deeper into the emerging drama. The tone of the score begins to unravel as the tension between the intoxicated couple escalates, revealing the realities of their melancholy lives.

“While Nijm and Irina’s fundamental views of their future put them at odds, their deep romantic bond is unwavering throughout the storyline – and the film’s score,” explains Sutta.  “We transitioned the music from classical to a modern ambient feel with a style and texture that builds on their deep emotional connection.”

All of the music for the score was performed by live musicians and recorded in Robl and Sutta’s studio. The mix of technology utilized includes Neumann CMV 563 microphones, Schoeps m221b microphones, Gordon Microphone Preamps, Nagra IV-s tape machine, recorded in Logic Pro. 

CREDITS:

TITLE: Grasshoppers
GENRE: Feature Film/Drama
Production Companies: Bad Taste Media Productions, Draw Me A Sheep Productions, Knight Shamrock Pictures, Paradise Electric
Director: Brad Bischoff
Writer: Brad Bischoff
Executive Producers: Gill Holland, Sherman Brown, Jared Smith
Producers: Brad Bischoff, Justin Nijm, Lisa Rudin
Cinematographer: Daphne Qin Wu 
Editor: Jack Bishop
Music / Original Score: Adam Robl & Shawn Sutta
Sound Designer:  Cindy Takehara
Starring: Saleh Bakri, Iva Gocheva


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