Interview: Too Late composer Mikel Hurwitz on balancing giggles and gore

Too Late. Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures
Too Late. Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures /
1 of 3
Too Late. Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures
Too Late. Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures /

The decidedly non-monstrous Mikel Hurwitz composed the score for Too Late

I had the chance to talk to him about working with Danny Elfman, and what it’s like to write the music for a film that goes from silly comedy to full-out gore.

Horror/comedy film Too Late is set in the world of indie stand-up comedians in LA, and features some pretty good gore to go along with the laughs. What does it take to compose the musical score for a film like that? 1428 Elm interviewed composer Mikel Hurwitz to find out.

Too Late features the talents of comedians Alyssa Limperis, Fred Armisen and Ron Lynch (of Bob’s Burgers) among others, and tells the story of Violet (Limperis), assistant to a famous comedian named Bob (Lynch). Violet’s boss is a real monster, and not just figuratively.

1428 Elm: Hi, Mikel, it’s great to talk to you. I had the opportunity to watch a screener for Too Late, and I really like it. It’s fun, I appreciated that it was funny, but also had enough blood and gore to satisfy horror nerds like myself.

Mikel: It kind of sneaks up on you a little bit in terms of the ending. It’s really campy, but it found a cool little sweet spot between comedy and horror.

1428 Elm: Before we start talking about Too Late,  tell me a little about your prior film credits, and how you got into scoring films.

Mikel: Oh, sure. It’s sort of a long, winding story, but I was a keyboardist and bandleader and stuff for for a long time, and I actually got a degree ages ago in Political Geography. So, I was into political science and environmental science, I was an Earth science nerd, and that’s sort of my other love, and basically I realized that this was a cool way to combine the two things that I love to do. I could write music, and be around music, and documentary films, which is how the Earth science stuff gets out to the general population.

That started about 15 years ago, and it grew bit by bit. I did grassroots documentaries at first, and then worked my way up to shorts, and a couple of doc features, and moved to LA. And I landed this pretty cool job as Danny Elfman’s assistant.

1428 Elm: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that!

Mikel: That was in 2015, shortly after I got here. It was at that point that my world kind of opened up a little bit, just to see sort of how bigger orchestral sessions go, and bigger film productions happened, bigger scores happened. I got a chance to be really close to his music, and was doing all kinds of stuff on it, and through that, I realized that, you know what, I really do love to do this.

During the last couple of years, I got into the Hallmark Channel actually, and they’ve been keeping me insanely busy. I’m sure you saw that on my IMDb. It’s crazy, the scores happen in two weeks basically, from spotting them until final delivery of the mix. It’s nuts, there’s usually about 60 minutes of music per feature, and it’s all me. I don’t farm out any of the music to other people.

1428 Elm: I have heard that Hallmark puts their movies together rather quickly.

Mikel: Quite! And it’s funny, it’s not, like, the end all be all for the genre that I love to live in musically. But, the real challenge in them, to be honest, is the time frame. And it’s really fun to write these more melodic scores, because so much of what’s going on in film score land is almost like sound designing.

There’s tons of exceptions obviously, but it’s been sort of a trend for the last five or ten years or so, there’s a bit of an absence of melody, and that’s where these are really fun. You get to use themes for characters, and all the more traditional scoring.