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Flavorlab Composes Original Score for HBO’s “Wildcard”
“We wanted the score to illuminate the duality of his life. A big, boisterous personality on air, but off, sad and lonely, with a dark past.”
– Erik Blicker, composer
With the fall air settling in, the leaves changing, and sports headed back to broadcast, it’s not hard to imagine New York in a more normal time. On a typical morning, many of us would start our commute, coffee in hand and steeled for the city awaiting us. Not long ago, should we turn the radio dial to WFAN, the animated voices of Craig Carton & Boomer Esiason would seep out of our sound systems. For ten years, the Boomer & Carton Show reigned supreme on talk radio. That is, until, the fateful arrest of Carton. Wildcard: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth comes to HBO chronicaling the public fall of the morning show legend.
The documentary, created by Street Smart Video, shows us the man behind the voice. His radio fame, gambling addiction, Ponzi scheme, and, ultimately, his arrest. Directors Martin Dunn and Marie McGovern come to film making as veteran journalists with a nose for strong storytelling. The duo hired Flavorlab Score to compose the original soundtrack for the film.
Trailer for Wildcard: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth on HBO
The entire post team met in December 2019 to discuss character arc and story. After a pitch to the network, and references from the directors, the composers focused on a dark, cinematic feel for the score. Within this, they were to highlight the many sides of the film’s subject, and the contrast between his on and off air personality. With a direction and editing under way, a new challenge presented itself. The COVID-19 pandemic. Not skipping a beat, the project went remote.
Working closely with the film’s editor, Jason Schmidt, the team traded cuts back and forth. The overall theme followed two melodic principles. For his fun and outlandish side, an ascending chromatic line. For his scared and lonely side, a five note dorian melody. Much of the score features drums and piano. As the film takes us through his journey with gambling, the score follows each phase closely. From his introduction, to winning, addiction, to losing. Wanting the movement to track seamlessly and imperceptibly, the composers worked hard to get each drum tuned perfectly. Much of this “Gambling Suite” features through composed thematic ideas and malleted percussion, such as the floor toms.
“There were some twists and turns in his tale that took time to figure out how to structure just right, which is always a fun challenge for an editor.”
“Playing with ideas, Erik took pieces of Craig’s voice from interviews and stretched them out and tuned them to keys they were writing in, which created this eerie, haunting bed,” said composer Glenn Schloss. “I was determined to use it. It fit him so well, but in a much more restrained way than we’d been writing.” Trading cues back and forth, they found a spot for it at a particularly difficult moment in the story. “There were a number of super challenging scenes. How do you score someone talking about being abused? We saw him really vulnerable there and the sparing bed ended up being perfect,” added Blicker.
At the height of summer, the score was almost finished. To provide more emotional depth, the composers hired cellist Dave Eggar to play strings. Recording remotely from a church in Pittsburgh, Eggar’s playing gave the score the added intensity it needed. However, just about to cross the finish line, the project got a new twist. Craig Carton was being released from prison. With only a couple months until air, production was back on. Our composers wrote a redemption theme as quickly as they could. “We ended up scrapping several sections addressing what might happen to Carton with words from the man himself, which is always a better fit,” said Schmidt. The story ends with new hope for the future; Carton turning his life around with one last wildcard to play.
Wildcard: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth premiered October 7th, 2020.
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