Sascha Blank

With a diverse portfolio and a passion for pushing the limits of artistic expression, Sascha Blank continues to captivate audiences worldwide. While currently based in Berlin, Sascha has traveled to Los Angeles often due to the nature of his work - learn about it below!

Where do you get your inspiration for the music you write?

I think inspiration is everywhere. It can be in the film I'm writing the music for, but I also find it on the bike ride to my studio. The route takes me through many of Berlin's famous sites, such as Potsdamer Platz, the Brandenburg Gate, Hackescher Markt and Rosenthaler Platz. Random encounters with other people can also inspire me. When I'm traveling I often listen to all kinds of music, from symphonic pieces from the late 19th century, to contemporary classical music, to current pop music and jazz. Sometimes it is a sound in the street that I try to sample, or I get ideas while walking down the street or the market and I sing them into my iPhone. I also do a lot of yoga, which helps me to clear my mind and keep my body and mind in sync, which I think is essential to staying inspired.

What has been your favorite project to work on?

There are a few projects that I have really enjoyed working on, and I think that is the beauty of being a film composer, to be able to work on so many different projects, from a documentary about parenthood in wildlife to an environmental story in Peru.

One of the projects I recently worked on is a TV series pilot set on Mars called “Cyber City Love Story” by Carly Coco, a director originally from Berlin. It is a coming of age story of a young woman who is part of the 2nd generation of people living on Mars, while her mother works in the administration of the colony and does some shady cyber crime.

It was very interesting to work on this project as we tried to use a lot of sounds that are not orchestral but kind of organic for the story arc of the mother, whereas the story of Elaine, the young woman, is more hip, fresh and full of grooves. It was a lot of fun to bring those two different worlds together in one project. One of my favorite scenes to score in this episode was when Elaine goes outside on Mars. She makes the decision, puts on the suit and walks down the aisle, even though she is forbidden to go out there. It's a very powerful and beautifully shot scene. I approached it with a mix of sci-fi elements and combined it with modern pop music sounds, and we also hear the main theme from Cyber City Love Story, as this is a very important moment for our main character.

Are you able to describe the process of having an idea and bringing it to life with music for the feature films, documentaries, TV series, and commercials you have worked on?

Usually I have a conversation with the filmmaker about what the film is about, what is behind the story they want to tell, what is missing and what they want to get out of the music. Then I go to the piano and start working on themes. Sometimes I go straight into Logic, the DAW I use, and start sketching ideas and playing around with sounds. I also use some hardware synths, guitars with pedals or my violin and try to find a signature sound. When I find something I like, I start to sample it. I have also sampled my piano - playing around with some unusual techniques like muting the strings with a pillow or playing the strings with a guitar pick. Every project has a different sound and I always try to bring something new to a project I am working on to make it more unique.

Basically, anything a director tells me about the project can be the start of a musical idea in my head. For example, I was working on a documentary last year and I sat down with the two directors before they started editing the film and they told me about the different story lines and what the subject matter meant to them and what the music should convey and what it should not. During the discussion, some key words were dropped and I immediately had an idea of how to translate what they were saying into music. The challenge then is to keep that idea in my head until I get to the studio. If it's a melody, I can sing it into my iPhone, but sometimes it's a sound collage and that's quite difficult to capture with a recording device.

What has been your biggest accomplishment throughout your career? What are you most proud of?

I finished my Master in Composition for Film and TV at the London College of Music at the end of 2017, and it's been quite a journey since then, and I'm very proud to have made it this far - so far. Being a film composer and writing music for film and television is a very challenging career path. Everyone has a different way of getting into it. A lot of people come out of university and start by working as an intern for A-list composers, which can be a great boost as you learn what the real world of film composing is like outside of university, but it can also be very challenging in many ways, for example making a living in a city such as LA. Luckily, I started working on a film student project very early on and had some connections that kept me afloat, and I also wrote a lot of production music that started to kick in when I got out of uni.

I have also been very fortunate to write music for so many documentaries in the last year. Five of them have been TV documentaries and the two others have been “Wings of Dust”, which won a student academy award gold and was shortlisted for the oscars and "The Shark with a Thousand names", which got me a nomination for the Hollywood Music in Media Awards.

I'm very proud to work on projects that have a social impact, such as 'Wings of Dust' by Giorgio Ghiotto. It is the story of an indigenous journalist and environmental activist, Vidal Merma, who fights for clean water in his community, which is suffering from pollution caused by the mining activities in the area. At all the screenings we had, it was exciting to see how people were touched and moved by the story and asked how they could help.

The film is also about a father who wants his son to experience the beauty of Peruvian nature as he did when he was young. We started the project with a more investigative approach in the editing and the music, and along the way we decided to make it more personal and intimate, with very few moments where I used the big orchestra to emphasize the beauty of nature. In one scene, Vidal speaks to his community about the poisoned water in the river. To reinforce the struggle, we used some low vibrating drones and reversed guitar tones to set the rather depressing mood. It was very delicate balancing act not to push the audience with the music as the goal was to get the people in the mind of Vidal.

"The Shark with a Thousand Names" is a story about the whale shark that lives peacefully somewhere in Indonesian waters, swimming around fishermen's boats and eating their krill. Whale sharks are protected by the government in Indonesia and it is illegal to catch them. So the fisherman live with them peacefully together and even share some of their catch with them to safe the rest for their businesses.

It was the first time the filmmakers had a composer on board to score their film. They gave me a silent film file to score, because most of the scenes were underwater, and they hadn't done any sound design or voice-over at the time. So they told me everything they knew about these gigantic, peaceful giants that swim through the water every day to feed on krill, tiny shrimp.

I started writing a theme for them, played by a cello using a technique called flautando, which makes it sound more airy and flute-like - because they are floating and I also used some flute-ish sounding pads, a very close mic’d up piano and the deep sound of my Moog Subsequent.

It was very unexpected for me to be nominated for the Hollywood Music in Media Awards as the competition is very strong and I didn't expect to be back in LA so soon after the Student Oscars.

Do you have any upcoming projects we should look out for?

The documentaries I have worked on recently are going to be on TV in the next couple of months: The Power of Cycle on Arte, The Metal Planet: How raw materials secure the future also on Arte/ZDF and Parents in the Wild which will be on WDR/ARTE. For this year there are some projects in the pipeline, but unfortunately I cannot talk about them yet.

So, stay tuned for some news on Instagram!

Sascha Blank is an award-winning composer for documentaries, feature films, TV series, and commercials. He is currently based in Berlin but has spent a lot of time traveling to Los Angeles for different projects and award shows.


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