Runaway Hearts is a film about two kids on the run from a very scary present who come across two adults who can’t quite escape their past. They’re four people in need of a miracle, and sometimes the miracles in life are the very people whose paths you cross.

Directed by Keith Alan Morris and starring John Schnieder, Wendell Pierce and Ali Landry. Runaway Hearts

This is the production trailer, composed in December 2014. It is comprised of the video with rough dialogue and a music score built from themes presented in the film. As of this posting, the film is doing well in Pacific Northeast theaters and will be distributed soon.

Angel and Tevin's (main) Theme

Angel and Tevin’s (main) Theme

Runaway kids Angel (Carsen twins) and Tevin (Jace Delafosse) are children of different fathers, raised by their addicted mother who dies of an OD in the early scenes. To protects her little sister at any cost, Tevin steals money from Dill to survive. Tevin learns to trust (Gabe) through being trusted, and later, Gabe’s risking his life for them. The kids’ theme is a lyrically sweeping major key melody in 6/8 that begins high and falls to a cadence.

Here, the “Angel and Tevin’s Theme” opens with  “Morning” music, which begins each of the days the story unfolds. Symbolizing newness, it is represented with a solitary and hopeful line in the solo clarinet; an instrument which often represents the kids.

Here is the same theme, but presented as a solo acoustic guitar in a melancholy setting, as we see Angel, 5, uncared for and looking for food in her dilapidated trailer home.
  • “Angel and Tevin’s Theme excerpt 2: Melancholy”  


Here is the same theme in a similar setting as the first excerpt, but with trilling strings and an orchestral descrescendo for a happy scene – the first time we see our characters laughing together as a family.



Gabe's Theme

Gabe’s Theme

Gabe (Jay Kenneth Johnson) is a recovering alcoholic who has lost about everything. Forced to reside in his deceased parents’ home, he faces his failures, depressed. Gabe finds purpose and redemption in defending Angel and Tevin from Dill. With no drivers license Gabe is a central motivator of change and is required to get around on a bike, so his musical material is full of motion and energy, and his voice is the English Horn:
The English horn is resonant and warm, qualities we see develop in Gabe’s character. Here is a scene where he is wrestling over what to do about the young runaways. The tempo is slow and the articulated passage now slurred:
Gabe is a primary motivator of the action and change within the story, so his theme needed to be able to be heard with the other themes. Here’s an example of the Gabe’s Theme and the main theme at the same time, in this case, the guitar flows with Gabe’s Theme, while the oboe and clarinet, instruments associated with the Kids, imitate it, and morph melodic variations from their own thematic material.
Here, with the Kids as piano and clarinet, with Gabe as bassoons + cello.


Emma's Theme

Emma’s Theme

Emma is Gabe’s long lost high school sweetheart. She has not found a solid relationship since Gabe’s disappearance, years ago. She finds a special affinity with Angel – who represents a child she could never have. Along with Gabe, she fights for the orphaned runaways, risking her life for their well being. Emma’s theme is a melody heard in a solo flute, oboe, clarinet or piano that outlines a major triad. She owns the town diner, from where she first sees her old sweetheart after years of mysterious absence. Emma’s theme is bright and pure – here heard in the clarinet and flute. In this excerpt, her theme is joined with Gabe’s Theme in the english horn:
  • “Emma’s Theme excerpt 1: Emma and Gabe”  
In this later scene, Emma’s heart is warming to the possibility of marrying Gabe and adopting the children, thus satisfying her desire to love and be loved by Gabe and a family she had always wanted:
  • “Emma’s Theme excerpt 2: Slow, hopeful”

 (Nick Gomez) is a violent drug dealer and boyfriend of the runaways’ mother, who lets him live with them and do business from their home. The kids are only a headache to this man after their mother dies. His goal in the story is retrieving  the money that Tevin stole from him. He is willing to bully and threaten the children, Gabe and Emma with death in order to accomplish it.


Dill’s music is more about sound than a theme: that of the distorted electric or steel guitar.
In this scene, Dill has beat up Gabe who has tried to intervene and is moving back on Tevin. The sound of the clean fuzz distortion works well in tension string-pads like this one. The reverb helped provide an aura of anger that pervaded the character in the story:
  • “Dill’s  sound example 1: Slow, dark” 
In this first of two fight sequences between Dill and Gabe at the climax of the story, Gabe’s theme drives the middle and bottom instruments of the orchestra while the Kid’s theme is heard in the top instruments. Dill’s ‘sound’ is heard as a simple rising minor scale in the electric guitar amidst it all:
  • “Dill’s sound example 2: Fight 3 excerpt” 
Several other themes were developed to serve the story, but, will not be included here. I left the best out of these examples and hope you’ll watch the movie, “Runaway Hearts” when it is released!
My approach to the score:
Being a story about kids and family, Keith Alan Morris and I agreed that an orchestral sound was best suited for the wide range of emotions I needed to convey. I decided to use the leitmotiv approach of assigning melodies and instruments to each important character because each underwent a personal transformation during the course the story. These leitmotiv themes were created to both stand alone and accompany the other leitmotivs. The film needed a light approach to orchestration because the characters’  emotions were often solitary and intimate, rather than sweeping epic sized ones. I used the Vienna Symphonic Standard Edition Plus and Dimension Brass libraries, along with the Steinway piano and harp from the Native Instruments Kontakt 5 library.  Solo instruments rendered the solitary quality needed. After a first draft through the movie with only orchestra, I decided to add live steel guitar, electric guitar and alto saxophone to the sampled orchestra as well as acoustic guitar, performed by my brother, Kevin Lay. The acoustic guitar brought a comfortable familiarity to the score that could speak to audiences in a way that I could not achieve with a pure orchestra. The steel and electric guitars used typical distortion pedals to create a more edgy and bluesy sound representing southern outlaws, as the film was set in the bayous of Louisiana. The music was not needed through every moment of picture. Instead, many scenes required silence  to promote a feeling of poverty and colorlessness, especially in the first half of the film.
My approach to the production:
I created both stereo and 5.1 surround mixes of the music using Logic X for MIDI through Vienna Instrument Pro for playback realism and Vienna Ensemble Pro5 mixer. Since the score did not have the budget to include real orchestral instruments, I did not concern myself with notation and focused on rendering a realistic sound. Each of the virtual orchestral and most of the audio instruments were precisely placed on the soundstage with Vienna’s MIRPro. The brilliant MIRPro/MIRacle reverb software from Vienna Symphonic, which uses virtual ambisonics in their multi-input/impluse reverb, made mixing easy. No level automation, EQ, compression or extra reverb was needed for any virtual instruments. The saxophone was recorded into Logic with an M-Audio Sputnik through the Apogee Ensemble preamp. The electric guitar and steel were recorded direct into the Apogee into Logic, using stock guitar pedalboard plug-ins. The acoustic guitar tracks were recorded in a noisy New Mexico hotel with a pair of AKG 451B microphones by my twin brother Kevin. That noise was largely removed with Isotope RX in my studio.
I pulled 6dB out of the center channel to carve out room for the dialogue. This, I hoped, would give the music more room to be up in the mix without interfering.  I used Logic X’s 5.1 compressor for the final and Waves to provide a Stereo Downmix of the 5.1 final to create a Stereo version. The down mixing approach should supply surround decoders with enough information for them to imitate discrete surround with just two channels of information. The actual 5.1 music tracks at this juncture are not being used for the initial release.

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