A sweeping score inspired by Britain’s pre-WWII landscape has signalled Stefan Gregory’s entry into feature films, with the composer making his debut as part of Simon Stone’s The Dig.
The Netflix drama about the 1939 Sutton Hoo treasure discovery stars Ralph Fiennes as real-life archaeologist Basil Brown and Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty, the landowner from whose estate the Anglo Saxon artefacts were uncovered.
The screenplay was written by Moira Buffini as an adaption of John Preston’s novel of the same name.
Carolyn Marks Blackwood, Murray Ferguson, Gabrielle Tana, and Ellie Wood produced the film.
The accompanying music includes intimate piano and chamber pieces, as well as grandiose strings to enhance the discoveries within the story.
Gregory said trial and error was used to compose music that reflected the tone of the film.
“So much of it was inspired by the landscape and the beautiful shots of the film,” he said.
“We began our journey in orchestral music from the early 20th century but it didn’t seem quite right; what we really needed was something that captured the anxiety of the time and set the tone for the story.
“The music had to come from the earth but I also had to communicate this bigger philosophical theme.”
Gregory’s journey to features has encompassed more than one direction.
After studying mathematics at the University of Sydney, his passion for music led him into the world of composing.
A stint with platinum-selling rock band Faker was followed by a moved into theatre, where he composed for companies in Australia and Europe.
It was during this time that he met Stone, with whom he would collaborate on more than 30 productions, including Yerma, from Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca.
Gregory said while there was plenty of common ground between theatre and film from a composing perspective, making the leap to the latter was not always easy.
“From my point of view, 95 per cent of it is the same job but there is a little bit of it that is actually quite different,” he said.
“It comes from the truthfulness of film and how we believe it’s reality because sound and image are synched.
“As a result some of the music you would use for a film would sound cheesy if you were to put it in a theatre production.
“There is a certain amount of nervousness in the film industry about using people who have never done it before, so you’ve got to get your break to show people that you can actually do it.”
Looking ahead, Gregory said he was hoping to work on more feature films, citing their longevity as part of what makes them appealing.
“What’s great about composing for film is that you are left with this permanent relic, which is a refreshing change,” he said.
“In theatre, you can do the most fantastic score for the best show in the world but a year later, it’s gone.
“Since the film came out I have been quite busy and I’ve just been trying to sort out what the next step in that world may be.”