Welcome to Sonic Stories With Our Trailer Music Composers

Published August 1, 2023

Our team of trailer music composers is filled with unparalleled talent. In that talent lies an endless amount of wisdom and inspiration. Getting to know the creative process and lessons from artists in the composer universe should be a never-ending pursuit. In our newest blog series, Sonic Stories, we unveil the insights, stories, and personalities of our SAS artists. Starting with the one and only Daniel Ciurlizza (pronounced “Chur-Leet-Zuh”)!

Sonic Stories From Our Trailer Music Composers: Featuring Daniel Ciurlizza

Daniel Ciurlizza in his home studio
Daniel Ciurlizza at his home studio

What drew you to becoming a composer? 

I've always loved films and the post-production process. I used to shoot and edit video projects in high school, and some of the most satisfying moments came from picking music and placing it at exactly the right moment. So satisfying! 

What is your creative process like when composing music for trailers?

Day 1: Receive the brief and freak out about not knowing what to write!

Day 2: Compose, arrange, and produce everything!

Day 3: Mix, master, and deliver!

Day 4: Recovery.

Weeks 2 to 8: Intermittent revisions!

Are there any new trends or techniques that you are loving right now?

Using pop music techniques is one of my go-to things. I love going to Spotify's "Pop Rising" or "Top Hits" playlists and being inspired by chord progressions, rhythms, and instruments.

What is your favorite piece of gear in your studio and what is your latest gear purchase?

Favorite: My fully calibrated 5.1 monitoring system! I use it for film scores but never for trailers, unfortunately. It's a ton of fun to compose with.

Latest: My latest gear purchase is a Yamaha MT4X Multitrack Cassette Recorder from the '80s/'90s. I've been using it to record half of the instruments I use in compositions.

How long have you been working as one of SAS's trailer music composers? How did you discover us?

I've been working as one of SAS's trailer music composers since 2013. A friend from high school introduced me to Score a Score composer Max Farrar, who introduced me to Jordan Passman. It's the most career-changing thing that has happened to me in the last 13 years. My partnership with the Score a Score team is one of the most fruitful I've ever had. You're really great people.

Can you recall your most challenging project for Score a Score?

I was asked to deliver a custom-to-picture trailer score for Inheritance within 5 hours. I scored the entire thing and delivered in 4 hours. It was exhilarating. It's great having a team of musicians and sound designers a call away at a moment's notice.

What are your top three spots/placements that you did for Score a Score that you are most proud of?

  1. Won't You Be My Neighbor (my childhood!)

  2. Murder On The Orient Express (my first big placement!)

  3. The Handmaid's Tale (one of my favorite shows!)

What have you learned about yourself as a composer since creating trailer music with Score a Score?

Trailer music made me a discerning music producer. It's the "pop music" of the film world because the production demands are similarly sky-high. It's impossible not to improve very quickly.

Composing music for trailers also made me less precious about the music I was writing. Yet, I still find myself putting everything I have into each note. I'm always trying to create the best thing I've ever done, but I also realize that whatever I make is a small snapshot in an infinite carousel of images.

What is your favorite emotion to stir up in viewers with your compositions?

I'm looking for tears! I need tears from excitement, inspiration, happiness, and sadness. There's that specific feeling you get when you listen to new music that you connect with. You feel a tickle in the back of your brain, which then travels down your spine and into the heart. Suddenly, you feel pressure in your throat and jaw, and tears start to well up. That's my favorite emotion to stir up.

Can you remember the moment when you learned to not take the client's critiques personally? What are your tips for learning this skill?

Writing a lot of music as often as possible really helps with that. Having a large body of work and consistently adding to it helps you realize that we have access to an infinite source of ideas. It's hard to be offended by anything if you're confident in the vastness of your foundation.

What lesson took you the longest to learn in your career?

Figuring out what drives me took a long time. I've always known where I wanted to go, but I never put my guiding principles into words until a couple of years ago. My values are basically to be:

  1. Overwhelmingly kind and generous

  2. Mind-blowingly creative with my work

  3. Tenacious with both my largest and smallest goals

If you could talk to your younger self when you first started composing, what would you say?

The three most important things you can do for your art and career are:

  1. To become an excellent composer, commit to fully recreating all of your favorite songs as soon as possible for the next 10 years. By the time you're through, you'll be standing on the shoulders of giants. The accumulation of these learned techniques and styles is how you'll find your own style.

  2. If you want other people to enjoy your music, you have to write for them. Give them 80% of something they've heard before and 20% of something they've never heard. Give them 20% of something that you feel is truly you. They'll be pleasantly surprised.

  3. Give as much effort and time as you can to the people you want to work with. That includes clients and collaborators that you hire (or hire you). You need to do everything you can to help them succeed with the skills that you have. Their success is your success. Be as generous and kind as possible, and you'll eventually be surrounded by people who will help you win too. Don't tally up your favors. Just pick the right people to help and karma will do the rest.

When was the last time you surprised yourself both personally and professionally?

I'm a very intentional person, so not a lot surprises me. If I aim to do a certain thing, that thing will happen in the way that I had planned. It's often the trajectory that surprises me the most.

If you were only allowed to use one instrument to create music for the rest of your career, what would it be?

The human voice! I'm obsessed with its versatility and the uniqueness of each one.

That's a Wrap!

Daniel in the studio working on the score for Cinnamon
Daniel in the studio working on the score for Cinnamon

Daniel's talent and hard work expand beyond trailer music. In addition to being one of our top trailer music composers, he is the owner of Outlier Studios. He has also had his fair share of film scores. He recently wrote the entire score for Tubi's latest original film, Cinnamon! We are beyond grateful for all of Daniel's hard work and creativity over the past decade. Cheers to another 10 years!

If you want to join the SAS roster and become one of our trailer music composers, contact us here