Ebertfest Q&A: Ken Winokur of Alloy Orchestra
Perennial Ebertfest guest Alloy Orchestra, the trio of silent-film music composers from Cambridge, Mass., performs its original score for "He Who Gets Slapped" at 1 p.m. today. Here, a Q&A with member Ken Winokur:
Is your score for "He Who Gets Slapped" Alloy's newest?
Yes. We premiered it at the Telluride Film Festival last September. It's a film we had seen and loved years ago. Telluride suggested it and we jumped at the chance.
Do the three of you compose scores together as you watch the movies?
We compose collaboratively. We put the film up on the computer monitor and go through it scene by scene — improvising. Any one of us can throw out the first idea, and the other two just fall in along with them.
We record everything. We listen back to it, and keep the stuff we like, and throw some back. It's kind of a catch-and-release system. Once we've found that perfect basic part, we'll continue composing improvements — new sections, transitions, endings. It takes a summer to complete.
How many scores has Alloy composed?
I think we're up to 30 feature films and about 40 shorts.
What do you think of Ebertfest?
We perform at a lot of festivals, and this is one of our very favorites. Roger's decision to just show the best movies (or at least his favorites) and not just the current hits made this an amazing place to see the films you might have overlooked through the years. And always with the best print, in that fantastic theater.
Did you have many encounters with Roger over the years?
We originally met Roger at the Telluride Film Festival, probably 15 or 20 years ago. I immediately remembered the somewhat obscure fact that Roger had written the script for a Russ Meyers film. Without thinking, I blurted out "Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill." Roger just looked at me like I was daft or something.
Roger has written the script for "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls." I blurted out the wrong film. It's OK, though — the first time we performed at Roger's festival, he introduced us as the Anvil Orchestra.
As everyone knows, Roger was one of the friendliest and most approachable people in the world. So he always had a little time to chat with us whenever we saw him. My biggest regret in life is that I could never stay up late enough to join Roger for his 3 a.m. jaunts to Steak 'n Shake during the middle of the festival.