Christy Carew composed the score for the docuseries Looking for Leia. She answered a few questions for 365 Star Wars Women for this interview.
What was your introduction to Star Wars?
My introduction to Star Wars came at age 6 in 1988. I was playing on my front lawn and suddenly heard the main theme fanfare blasting out of my neighbor’s house, where he was watching the VHS tape of Episode IV. Totally hypnotized by what I was hearing, I dashed over to their house and through the open door, where I sat down and watched all of A New Hope with my neighbors. When I ran back to my house, I emphatically told my parents I wanted to do that – what, they asked? Be a Princess, a Senator, an actress? “No, I want to make music like that!” Shortly after they put me in piano lessons, I started composing and the rest is history – it kicked off not just my career path, but a 30+ year fandom that I’ve been immensely enjoying ever since.
Do you have favorite films, characters, or Star Wars books and if so why are they your favorites and have those favorites changed over time?
It’s really interesting; I grew up with the Original Trilogy during my childhood, the Prequel Trilogy during my young adulthood and now the Sequel Trilogy in my adult life as a professional, mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend. Han and Leia were always my favorite characters – I admired Han’s resilience, character arc, loyalty, bravery (“Never tell me the odds!”) and overall swaggery confidence. I adored Leia for her strength, her ability to rescue herself, the commitment to the cause and her ideals of justice and freedom.
But their son Ben Solo will forever be my all-time favorite – his journey means the world to me and I think he’s the most well-written, deep, complex and fascinating character to ever come out of Star Wars. I also think Adam Driver has far and away given the best performance of the saga. The Last Jedi is my favorite film, and the non-canon Extended Universe novel The Courtship of Princess Leia is my favorite book. I also absolutely loved how Lucasfilm followed up Leia’s amazing journey with that of Rey – I loved getting to see a Heroine’s Journey and a woman’s internal journey be portrayed in Star Wars with such depth and nuance as TFA and TLJ explored.
How did you become interested in composing and how did you break into the industry?
I became interested in composing because of John Williams and Star Wars, as well as the other film and TV scores I adored; it wasn’t until I was a teenager and watching the Oscars when I saw Rachel Portman win an Oscar for film composing and realized – hey, women can do this too!
I’ve simply always wanted to tell stories through music – to uplift and transport people, to communicate what words and images can’t. I studied piano performance and music business for my undergrad, but then went to NYU for my masters studying film scoring. I moved to LA shortly after graduating. My first film that I scored was by a very talented UCLA film student who I ended up working with a few times – she took a chance on me, and gave me my first experience professionally scoring music to picture. I was hooked and it’s been 13 years of happiness pursuing this craft! I’m so lucky to get to work over and over again with the same talented directors who then recommend me to others – it’s all growth, all learning, all exploring.
Your Twitter photo is a picture of you and John Williams. I’m assuming there is an interesting story about how that photo came to be?
Yes! I have a dear friend and mentor who is also friends with John Williams and arranged for me to meet him one day in 2016 when The Maestro had some downtime. It was while he was in the middle of working on The Force Awakens – we had a wonderful conversation, though I was having a very difficult time keeping it together and not absolutely freaking out. He is warm, funny, sparkly and kind. I am so grateful that I got a chance to shake his hand, tell him how much he means to me, and snap a picture!
What are some of your favorite projects you have scored over the years?
It was such a joy last year to score Virtually, a short sci-fi romantic comedy – my score for that film received numerous nominations and awards, including being nominated at Fimucite which was a huge deal for me! I really adored scoring the short The Long Goodbye, also in 2018, and this summer I was brought back on to a feature post-apocalyptic drama film with a director I work with often. It’s called Givers of Death and will be hitting the festival circuit soon – I got to explore and try some new things with that one! Looking for Leia really has been one of the biggest highlights of my career, bringing together two of the largest parts/passions of my life!
How did you get involved with the Looking for Leia production and why did you want to be a part of the crew for this project?
I originally heard of the project through a post in the fantastic Facebook group, Galactic Fempire. I followed the link to the fundraising page, found Annalise’s information and wrote to her asking if she already had music or a composer lined up. I expressed to her how much I would love to be involved in that regard, and lucky for me, she hadn’t hired a composer at that time! After a few discussions, I got the gig and it was such a huge moment – I really wanted to be a part of telling the stories of the people who came before us in the fandom, and really pioneered so much of the way we currently enjoy and express our fandom.
Is it correct that you created some original music for LFL and also re-arranged some classic Star Wars themes for the production? Can you explain the challenges of working with music that is so beloved by so many and share best parts of working on this production?
Yes, I created a brand new custom original score, but was also given the chance to re-arrange some of John Williams’ classic Star Wars themes. What an honor! Annalise and I basically went through each scene determining what the emotional needs were and what would serve best – the original score or some of Williams’ iconic themes reimagined for our story. The best part was absolutely working closely with Annalise in this way – I learned so much from her about timing, spotting, and choosing wisely.
Do you have a favorite episode of Looking for Leia?
My absolute favorite episode is the one where we explore the legacy of Leia and Carrie Fisher herself – “How We Carrie On”. This is one where I got to do both my original score and some adapting of John Williams, and I think it came together in a really satisfying and cohesive manner. Every single episode brings a new, compelling story to the forefront, told in the words of the creators and fans themselves – I learned new things with each episode. I’m just so incredibly proud of the whole thing!
You are the first composer to be a part of 365 Star Wars Women. If there are previous composers on Star Wars projects I have not been able to find them (if you know of any I have missed please let me know!) I think a lot of this might be because John Williams has scored so many Star Wars projects (and who can complain about that!) But do you think a woman will be scoring a Star Wars story soon?
I have also not found any women composers that have worked on official Star Wars projects yet – it’s a big dream of mine to do so! So far the credited composers I can find are John Williams, Michael Giacchino and John Powell in the world of the films; Ludwig Goransson in the world of live-action television; Kevin Kiner, Michael Anthony Tavera, and Ryan Shore for animated series (with additional composers Takeshi Furukawa, David G. Russell, Matthew St. Laurent, Reuven Herman, Russ Howard III, Jared Forman, Sean Kiner, Dean Kiner, and Julian Cisneros); Gordy Haab, Stephen Barton, Joel McNeely, Chris Huelsbeck, Mark Griskey, and Jesse Harlin in the world of video games and multimedia.
I feel so grateful daily that we had John to score all 9 of the Skywalker Saga films, and I have loved the musical contributions of every composer brought on to an official Star Wars project. The world is going to open up a bit now that John is sadly retiring – although I understand why he wants to! The truth is that just in the organization I volunteer for, the Alliance for Women Composers, we have over 400 members. There are a lot of fantastically talented working women composers – and we’re seeing our percentage of representation grow, although it remains low.
Do you have advice for women interested in getting into composing music for film or television?
My advice to any women composers wanting to get into this business is to understand that it is a long haul – a marathon! The same obstacles exist for everyone who wants to get into this over-saturated market – standing out, finding your voice, building solid relationships, understanding story, drama, narrative and character – but women face an additional challenge just that we need to be “in the room”, in the stack of demos in a more equal manner.
There are so many of my female friends, colleagues and heroines who are making great strides at the moment, though – and it’s incredibly inspiring. I’m here and ready, both as a mega fan and an award-winning Sundance Composer Lab Fellow and ASCAP workshop alumna, to write music for any and all stories in a Galaxy Far, Far Away! Call me, Lucasfilm! 🙂
Can you share any upcoming projects with us?
Yes – you can currently watch Virtually directed by Patrick Hogan on Amazon Video. Please check it out! Looking for Leia of course premieres this weekend 12/21 (note from Amy: see the link below to watch it now!) and Givers of Death will be available in spring of next year.
You can listen to a variety of Christy Carew’s compositions on her website.
Watch the entire Looking for Leia series on SYFY.
You can read all of the 365 Days of Star Wars Women posts here.