NewAgePsychedelicSpaceFunk - Collin Davis

I like this certain type of music. 


Brian Bennett - Ocean Glide

Alan Hawkshaw - Saturn's Rings

Well, more of a "feel" of music, if you can say that. A tone? A vibe. It's notoriously difficult to describe, this music. Loosely, my infatuation is "space funk" together with "new age psychedelic," but also contains elements of soul, electronic, ambient and other things in between. Immediately identifiable as "that sound" to an ear attuned to their particular elements, these tunes are dripping with cinematic potential, mystery, clarity. Above all, they are smooth. The category, as it exists my head, spans a wide breadth of real genres but taken all together, they hit a singular sweet spot.


 Croms - Invisible Cities

Micahel Bundt - Neon

Airliner - Illuminism

 I've shared the passion for the music with our writer/producer Eric since the beginning, and co-director Matt has brought his own twist to the musical vocabulary while joining us as appreciators. Using shared audio language we found ourselves empowered to access Telescope in a different way. Expressing the "feel" of moments was a principle goal for the short. Music, this music in particular, our inspirational means to that end.

Brian Eno - Apollo (full album)

Really, it's just that this music that we love is super great. It was often easier to communicate a narrative moment or visual element through a particular track than to try and talk around a broader, more difficult concept. Communication through music enabled discussion and collaboration with composers Zach Robinson and Doug Kaplan that yielded a soundtrack for Telescope rivaling the best of what we were inspired by. 


Vangelis - Tears in Rain

Walt Rockman - Dangerous Deep Sea

Ginji Ito -  Konuka Ame

Michael Stearns - Planetary Unfolding (album)

Instra:mental - Photograph

It's difficult to write about music, so I'll defer to Elvis Costello, who really nailed it when he said, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." Instead, I've linked some examples.

 Have a listen on this page to some of my top picks and follow the playlist below for a massive selection of favorites from Eric, Matt, Travis and I. They range in style and age but all played an important role while making Telescope.


Production Design - Molly Burgess

Production designer and great friend Molly Burgess worked with us for many months to perfect our physical look and style. She's written a great piece about that process, check it out below.

For production design, we wanted to go with a retro, 70's and 80's sci-fi feel rather than a shiny and polished modern one. With references such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon, and Solaris, the vision for the design was ambitious. However, one of my favorite parts was how serendipitously the largest challenges resolved themselves. For instance, our original sketches for how we envisioned the consoles, loosely inspired by the octagonal designs in 2001, looked like this:


Since the shape was so unique and the consoles so large, our initial impulse was to figure out how to construct them ourselves and fill them with salvaged electronics that (ideally) still worked. We had begun the search for the necessary pieces and were in the process of making blueprints for construction when a chance conversation on a flight (apparently Solaris is not your typical in-flight entertainment), led to a big turning point.  My seat mate encouraged me to check out Modern Props, an LA prop house devoted to items in the retro/sci-fi/space age genre (though you wouldn't immediately discern that from their descriptive motto "where things are"). It was there we met these guys:


All the monitors and lights were functioning, the shape exactly matched our sketches, I had chills. Suddenly, the most stressful problem of that moment had been resolved with a tiny paper hold tag. Before that, I had been faced with the decision of whether or not to sacrifice the angles in our design for ease of construction which would have resulted in a much different interior. By using the angled consoles as planned, the entire interior space serves to direct the focus to the lens, the piece of the spaceship of primary importance. Here they are in the film, looking at home in the rest of the set we constructed, bracketing our main character and his mission:


While it would have been awesome to watch the final film and say that we multi-handedly built everything ourselves, there's been something really nice about physically borrowing from the visual language of what had been done before us, just as we were doing theoretically anyway.  Plus, it's really fun to keep the Telescope email thread going as we continue to report prop sightings in other films. So far our favorite has been Terminator 3.  Now, we get to add Telescope to that same visual history, in whatever small way linked to "HAL" and Kubrick, astronauts and Arnold. 


Concept Boards - Courtland Lomax

These early concept boards became a guiding light for our visual direction. Many became shots in the finished film. Big thanks to artist Courtland Lomax for the help with these.


Credits Theme - Ken Ross, "Home I've Never Known"

Ken is a good bud from our Chicago days. We asked if he would help us out with music to run under the credits. Fantastic collaborator that he is, Ken went to work on "Home I've Never Known," the full version of which you can listen to and download below.


 Ken says: 

"Home I've Never Known" is a track that was created in a goal to compliment the Telescope film both in terms of the song's content as well as the recording techniques used in its production. After seeing the initial cuts of the film, I was impressed with how well it accomplished a contemporary feel using a significant amount of retro, 1970's and 80's set design. I looked to incorporate this approach to creating music that would parallel the film.

I used the scores of preeminent British film and television composer Alan Hawkshaw as a sonic jumping point. His innovative compositions during the 1960's and 70's seamlessly blended analog synthesizers with traditional instrumentation to create ambient, yet soulful waves of sound, which I along with the rest of the Telescope film crew found to be exceptionally inspirational to the project. Blending my contemporary hip-hop and neo-soul tendencies along with Hawkshaw's concepts created a palette for the track which looked to span multiple genres and decades, similar to the goals of the film.

I was hearing female vocals working well over the instrumental, so I asked my friend Kate Quinby to collaborate. We spent a night watching and discussing the film, and selected some themes which we found to be ideal songwriting material. Our society constantly focuses on an individual's origins as a means to understand their identity. But really, we are critically shaped by the journeys each of us take from our "homes". We found this concept to be a prominent theme within the film and used it as a thesis to the song." 

Big thanks to Ken for throwing down as hard as he does. If you're in Chicago, do yourself a favor and catch up with him live on the jazz guitar and don't miss him on his site

Collin liked the song so much he couldn't resist doing a remix. It's included in the download link above and you can listen below. Look for more posts about musical inspirations, the original Telescope soundtrack with Zach Robinson and Doug Kaplan + lots more soon.

Vibes - Matt Litwiller

Collin Davis and I had synced up towards the end of college in Chicago and did a few small spec ads with our buddy Travis Labella.  By chance we both ended up with jobs in LA (Travis headed to the jungle but he can write more about that).  We decided to take an epic road trip through the northwest and down the coast with each of us splintering off at different points.  We spent much of that trip driving through gorgeous mountain ranges and national parks, discussing what was next and how we could start doing work we believed in.

After getting our feet on the ground and into the flow of our new jobs, we circled the wagons.  We wanted to do a project that was achievable, something we really believed in.  Collin immediately brought in Eric Bodge, another college buddy of ours who Collin had collaborated with.  I hadn't had the chance to work with Eric yet, but I couldn't be happier to have had the opportunity.  Eric brought Telescope to the table (check out his blog post on where the idea came from).

I loved it.  I knew right away it was a project I had to get involved in.   They started listing off reference films and I got more and more excited as they named some of my favorite films. It had a crazy premise with a lot of built in metaphor and of course some really exciting visual elements.  We called up Travis and told him he needed to move to LA immediately, that we had a project worth moving for (he was crazy enough to do it).  


We got started on pre-production and it was fun times.   We would meet two to three times a week talking about how we would build lights and who are character was and how we were going to do cloud tank stuff.  But Collin and Eric still had this ability to speak to the tone in a vocabulary I didn't have.  The reason... the music.  

Collin and Eric had a strong shared taste in the music they had always paired with Telescope.  We decided the way for me to get on their page was through that music.  They sent me multiple playlists and dozens of artists.  I was hesitant at first.  I like a lot of stuff, metal, rap, indie, electronic, but new age psychedelia was uncharted territory for me.  However, digging in and discussing what each of us liked and didn't like about each given artist is what really helped us discover what Telescope was all about.

Through sharing artists and long listening sessions I think we really were able to find the tone, the story, and even the look of Telescope.  It helped us capture the feeling, the vibe.  There were many many long nights of writing, shot listing, editing, vfx, all full of music.  

Don't get me wrong, we watched a lot of movies.  We had a lot of discussions about the visuals and the the films we wanted to reference, but looking back, I think it'll be the music that will always stick with me.  Anytime I put Croms back on or Alan Hawkshaw, I link it not only to Telescope, but to the experience of leaving college and chasing dreams.  Luckily I had friends and artists who I really believe in to do it with.  

There's much more to the story of how Telescope came to be, the many many people who got involved and made it an amazing experience, and the risks that ended up really paying off.  But we'll save that for later posts.

 Footnote: Doug Kaplan and Zach Robinson put together a killer score which in a lot of ways was a realization of the music we had been consuming.  Kudos to them for capture our crazy ideas in a bottle.  The score might be my favorite part of the movie.