PICTURED: Film composer Joseph Metcalfe next to a poster of The King’s Daughter at the Regal Simi Valley Civic Center and Imax in January 2022. Photo submitted
by Marina Dunbar
Simi Valley-based film composer Joseph Metcalfe will make his national debut this Thursday, Jan. 20, with the release of The King’s Daughter. The film, directed by Sean McNamara, is based on Vonda N. McIntyre’s Nebula award-winning novel The Moon and the Sun and is a highly anticipated fantasy adventure story beloved by science-fiction fans and beyond. A unique and inventive tale, it takes a special talent to compose music capable of blending into such a fantastical realm. Metcalfe, no stranger to the mystical elements of music, was up to the challenge.
“I started getting involved in music when I was about 4 years old,” says Metcalfe. “I asked my brother for help on the piano and he told me I couldn’t play until I was 8. He said if I pushed any keys besides E and F next to middle C, that a big dragon would come out and eat me . . . I decided one day that I wanted to see a dragon. I went up and hit the keys then ran away as fast as I could. I was disappointed to see that there was no dragon, but also excited because I realized that I now had 86 other piano keys to play with.”
There might have been no dragon, but there was a different kind of magic that followed Metcalfe: a deep love for music-making. He became a proper composer by 11 and had written his first musical at 16. Based on George Orwell’s Animal Farm, his musical was a hit in his native United Kingdom, eventually leading to an offer to compose a television theme. His musical journey only became more prolific from there.
“Serendipitously, I found myself working on a show in Budapest, which is where I formed my first orchestra for film scoring,” explains Metcalfe. “When I first recorded with the orchestra in Budapest, I was still in my 20s. I looked around and said, ‘Judging by the average age of each of you, you’ve probably been playing your instruments for about 30 years each. Which means here I am standing in front of 1,500 years of musical experience.’”
Listening to and learning from your musical peers is a skill that Metcalfe really emphasizes. Though he is largely a self-taught musician, he is careful not to confuse that with being self-contained. “That was a huge honor being able to recognize [all of that experience] . . . Just because I’m largely self-taught doesn’t mean that I’m not constantly learning from the people around me.”
This level of receptiveness is vital when working on a major project. Filmmaking in particular brings together artists from the visual, literary and musical worlds and requires that they collaborate, making good communication an absolute necessity. “Oftentimes directors won’t know the musical language. Some know how to do music, but not all . . . So, what I try to really focus on is the feelings. If we’re in a recording session where there’s a struggle to communicate, I will always ask what they want the audience to feel.”
Metcalfe is also the founder of Sum Of All Music, an international collaboration of first-class composers and musicians who bring together a unique sonic palette, creating and supporting diverse music.
Other musical masterminds behind The King’s Daughter include successful film and television composer John Coda and esteemed video game composer Grant Kirkhope, with Metcalfe leading the project. The composing team will make appearances at various Regal Theaters throughout Ventura County during the film’s run, and Metcalfe encourages any filmgoers who spot them to come introduce themselves.