Angela Little might not be a name you instantly recognise, but the Aussie composer has actually been behind the scenes of a number of massive projects.
With Little nabbing herself a 2019 Screen Music Award nomination for her work on the short film For the Girl in the Coffee Shop, we could see no better time to pick her brain on all things music.
Speaking of For the Girl in the Coffee Shop, it turns out that Little actually knew the film’s writer and director, Rebekah Jackson, and had always spoken about working together on the project.
“It was so great that the relationship of trust and friendship we had informed the process from the very beginning, because she was familiar with my music and was able to point to some references in my work that inspired her and that she felt were relevant to this story,” Little explains.
“So, we already had a common musical and thematic language to draw upon when we started to discuss the story arc and the way that individual music cues should express nuances of story and character.
Watch For the Girl in the Coffee Shop’s trailer
“For example, I’ve always loved music that explores the fantastical, fairytale and otherworldly. It was this idea that informed the pivotal music cue of the film, where we discover one of the two main characters of the film may not be quite who we thought they were.
“So overall I approached the music like a sort of modern fairytale or fable; and when we discussed references for that pivotal cue in dramatic terms – like a fairytale gone wrong – it became a really fun creative adventure to explore what that would sound like in the context of this story.”
But the local composer’s first big break was actually working on the score for Baz Luhrmann’s epic Australia. This begged the question, do you enter a whole different mindset when working on a big budget project compared to a dramatically smaller one?
“The fundamental at the heart of film composing is to be a storyteller through music, and this doesn’t change whether the project is a huge epic or a short film,” Little replies easily.
“On every project I’m asking myself how the music I’m writing contributes to the development of character, how it helps shape the events and relationships portrayed in the film, and how it helps the audience react on an emotional level to what’s happening onscreen.
“Music is an incredibly powerful tool not only in terms of its emotional impact, but also in terms of its ability to create repeated ideas and patterns which subconsciously link and highlight important nuances that may not be communicated in other ways.
“Music is often concerned with bringing out the big themes and relationships underlying the drama.”
More recently, many gamers can hear Little’s work in Honor of Kings, a multiplayer online battle arena which grossed nearly $2 billion in 2018, making it the highest grossing mobile game of the year.
That’s a lot of listening ears, and her work for the game has been enjoyed so much, in fact, that it has earned a nomination for a Hollywood Music in Media Award. But how on earth did she get involved in the seemingly left-field project?
“I was brought onto composing for Honor of Kings through an LA-based game music and audio company I’ve been working with, Hexany Audio,” Little recalls.
“When I got the opportunity to work on the game, I was immediately drawn to the mythological storyline and characters – for example, one of the themes I composed was for a character called XiShi, who in Chinese mythology is one of the four beauties of ancient China.
“I’ve always really enjoyed exploring myths and tales from all different corners of the globe, and I loved the opportunity to immerse myself in this piece and the story of XiShi.”
Angela Little talks ‘Honor of Kings’
When it comes to the future, the now LA-based star is currently composing for Swimming for Gold – the Steve Jaggi Company’s latest film starring Disney actress Peyton List. She has also just recently completed work for Mark Lamprell’s new feature film Never Too Late, which is yet to be released.
But who would she want to work in the future? “One director whose work I have always admired from afar is [Pan director] Joe Wright,” Little answers.
“I absolutely love historical films and his entire oeuvre seems to represent the desire to take the types of stories that we might have a tendency to view as ‘historical’ (such as Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, Atonement) and to realise them in very powerful and interesting ways that speak to a contemporary audience.”
But what about for all those that could only dream of achieving Little’s story of success? What words of inspiration did she have for budding composers out there?
“I think there are two things that are vital to remember at any stage of one’s career; firstly to keep learning and to continue evolving your craft no matter where you are on your trajectory. The thing that keeps me going is the desire to keep opening new creative and professional doors that will lead me on to create something I never even knew was inside me waiting to come out!
“That sense of adventure and the importance of going beyond my comfort zone is one of the most important things I try to remind myself of every day.
“The other vital thing, which ties into this, is to seek out stories and collaborators that you really connect with; these are the projects that will bring out the best in you because the genuine passion and connection enables the creation of something really special.”