Even though Geoff Koch has seen people leave advance screenings of “Beautifully Broken” with tears streaming down their cheeks, he’s hoping — like with every film he scores — that they will leave humming a tune he’s penned. The feature film opens Friday (8/24) at Marcus Theatres in Cedar Rapids.
Music plays “a huge role” in films, the Cedar Rapids native, 47, said by phone from his studio on Nashville’s Music Row.
“It draws you in without drawing attention to itself,” in the ideal film score, he said. “That what I aim for, and maybe you’ll go away humming something. But even better is if you come away saying, ‘That was a fantastic film and I felt something.’”
He knew this faith-based film was a tear-jerker. Beautifullybrokenmovie.com describes it as the true story of what happens when “a refugee’s escape, a prisoner’s promise, and a daughter’s painful secret all converge, causing their lives to become intertwined in ways they could have never imagined. As three fathers fight to save their families, they are led on an unlikely journey across the globe, where they learn the healing power of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
The cast includes Scott William Winters (“Lethal Weapon” TV series), Benjamin Onyango (“God’s Not Dead,” “Inception”), Emily Hahn (“Toy Story 3,” “Fresh Off the Boat”) and Eric Roberts (“The Dark Knight”), with appearances by contemporary Christian hitmakers TobyMac and Michael W. Smith.
With three story lines and shooting locations in South Africa and Baton Rouge, Koch created “an orchestral-style score with modern electronic elements and some African elements here and there,” giving the various characters themes that developed as the drama unfolded.
Since hiring an orchestra wasn’t in the budget, Koch, an accomplished pianist and keyboard player, created a “virtual” orchestra, playing all the parts and melding them together.
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His interest in film scoring goes back to his childhood in Cedar Rapids, where he became fascinated with the music of “Star Wars” and especially Jerry Goldsmith’s 1979 Oscar-nominated score for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”
“I was just a kid when that came out, but I knew that there was something really special about the music and impactful about it, and it made a great big impression on me,” he said. “Something struck me about how the music can have such a massive impact on a film, that keeps drawing me back to it over and over again. It even does that today. I still get that score out and listen to it pretty often.”
He used his earnings from his Gazette paper route to buy his first keyboard, which he said he may have used in his “Beautifully Broken” film score. He also threw himself into “every single musical thing I could get myself into” at Cedar Rapids Washington High School, including instrumental and vocal groups. On the side, he formed his own bands and started writing “all kinds of rock stuff.”
From there, he majored in music at college, spending one year at Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio before transferring to Belmont University in Nashville, just down the road from his current studio. Right out of college, he played piano for Lorrie Morgan’s national tour — which taught him that he didn’t like life on the road.
His first “big” scoring job came with the A&E cable network’s “Foot Soldiers” series in 1998. “It was a big deal — no pressure,” he said. “I started off on a high level by circumstance.”
His work since then has focused on composing and producing original music for television shows, including “Saturday Night Live,” as well as films, commercials, jingles and even planetarium shows.
Setting directors’ visions to music is a natural leap for someone who has “always written visually, with images in my head.”