The meteoric success of Neill Blomkamp's District 9 (2009) makes it appear the career of Canadian Clinton Shorter began in 2009, but as the composer explains in our edited conversation, it all started more than 10 years ago, working hard in television before branching out into feature and short films, including Blomkamp's Alive in Joburg (2005), the striking short that inspired District 9.






Mark R. Hasan: How did you get into film scoring?

Clinton Shorter: Well, I was playing and writing for my instrumental rock group trio, and we used to jam all the time. A buddy of mine brought the film score to Never Cry Wolf (1983) by Mark Isham, and I’d never heard a film score like that before with a lot of synths, and was just floored by it – I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever heard.

That really set me down the path, and I went to this school where I took a digital music program, and I learned a lot about synthesis and MIDI and basically studio operations. I did some composition courses, and then I got a gig as an assistant to a local composer in Vancouver by the name of Terry Frewer. He was working all kinds of shows, like The Chris Isaak Show (2001-2004), Beggars and Choosers (1999-2001), and over five years we worked on about three hundred episodes of TV, and quite a few films, and it just went from there.


MRH: It's a good training background, because among the TV movies, TV episodes, short and feature films, you've scored a lot of genres.

CS: That was the one thing I learned working for Terry: you have to be able to write lots of different kinds of music and write it fast – very fast… I appreciate that work, and it is rewarding, but the whole time I was hoping to do features like District 9. I didn’t think I’d ever get an opportunity that would be this big (I hoped so) but it’s not too often you get to say ‘I’ve got the number one film in North America, opening weekend.’

That’s pretty exciting.


MRH: I noticed you also scored Neill Blomkamp’s Alive in Joburg (2005) which is the short film that inspired District 9.

CS: Yeah, that’s right. I met Neill back when he was working at a CG facility with a buddy of mine whom I met at school, and everybody in that facility thought that Neill was going to be something really special, because he was so young and so gifted, and had such a keen eye. I saw his stuff and was just blown away, and I started chit-chatting with Neill and working on a few of his little side projects, plus I did several commercials, and that short, Alive in Joburg. I guess I’ve known Neill for about 7 or 8 years.

The Chris Isaak Show DVD

Alive in Joburg short

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