Bear McCreary

A Conversation with Bear McCreary

Featuring: Bear McCreary

On October 19, 2019, the Academy of Scoring Arts, in association with Peter Hackman’s Fans of Film Music Society, hosted an interview with composer Bear McCreary, moderated by Daniel Schweiger. Bear shared at length about his television, film, and game work, touching on topics such as Outlander, The Walking Dead, Child’s Play, Godzilla, The Professor and the Madman, Black Sails, God of War, Rebel in the Rye, Da Vinci’s Demons, and more.


In the sleepy port town of Bellingham, Washington, sixteen-year-old aspiring composer Bear McCreary imagined and wrote his own films, just so he could score them. A chance encounter led him to film music legend Elmer Bernstein, who moored his boat in Bellingham harbor. The maestro recognized a passion for musical storytelling in the ambitious high school student, and encouraged him to study composition at the USC School of Music in Los Angeles, where he took him on as a protégé. Two decades later, McCreary has validated Bernstein’s instincts, having proven himself one of the most versatile and in-demand composers in the industry. Forbes recently declared ”as a composer, his genre track record is one of the most impressive in modern day Hollywood.”

McCreary recently scored the global blockbuster Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Warner Bros. and Legendary’s follow-up to the 2014 hit film that opened as the #1 film in the world. SuperheroHype declared “McCreary’s music is so epic that it’s hard to imagine Godzilla: King of the Monsters without it. There’s simply a level of supremely effective bombast in the soundtrack that is unrivaled by the current batch of blockbuster films.” In stark contrast with Godzilla‘s massive musical scope, McCreary used an inventive “toy orchestra” to score MGM and Orion’s hit Child’s Play (2019), creating what the Chicago Tribune declared “an all time great score.” The film features ”The Buddi Song,” the critically acclaimed song performed by the film’s star Mark Hamill, which the Charleston Post Courier described as “the creepiest thing I’ve heard all year.” These were not McCreary’s first monster films, as he collaborated closely with producer J.J. Abrams on the Cloverfield film series, scoring the Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot films 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Cloverfield Paradox. Time Magazine raved that 10 Cloverfield Lane‘s “finest feature may be Bear McCreary’s playfully malicious score, a beehive of worried-sounding strings that channels the spirit of Hitchcock fave Bernard Herrmann.” USA Today praised the “fantastic wordless opening set to Bear McCreary’s roiling, glorious score.” McCreary’s incorporation of Blaster Beam, yialli tanbur and other exotic instruments into the gripping thriller drew upon his experience from his first job: scoring the influential and revered Battlestar Galactica. His music for that series was lauded by Variety as “innovative,” “like no other” by NPR, and earned him a coveted spot on’s “Ten Best Science Fiction Composers of All Time.”

McCreary’s wide-ranging recent film credits include the Universal / Blumhouse hit Happy Death Day, a horror-comedy that made over $100 million dollars at the box office, director McG’s hit Netflix film Rim of the World, and The Professor and the Madman, a historical drama starring Mel Gibson, Sean Penn and Natalie Dormer. He also scored the sleeper hit Anne Hathaway sci-fi-drama Colossalthe animated feature Animal Crackers, Danny Strong’s J.D. Salinger biopic Rebel in the Rye, the critically-acclaimed documentary Unrest, and Disney’s Step Up 3D. In the video game world, he earned the prestigious BAFTA and DICE awards for his soaring score to Sony Playstation’s record-shattering 2018 hit God of War. His other video game credits include Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate: Jack the Ripper, “Ryze: Call of Power” for League of Legends, and the ground-breaking television / video game hybrid Defiance.

In recent years, McCreary has become increasingly recognized for his musical innovation. His iconic theme for AMC’s decade-long record-shattering global phenomenon The Walking Dead is one of the most popular in the medium today. He won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title Theme for his theme to David S. Goyer’s epic historical fantasy Da Vinci’s Demons. The theme itself a carefully-constructed palindrome (it sounds the same forwards and backwards), evoking musical homage to Da Vinci’s own writings. McCreary also received Emmy nominations for his work on the pirate drama Black Sails, from executive producer Michael Bay, Outlander, Ronald D. Moore’s global-hit adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s acclaimed novels, and FOX’s Human Target which, along with his brassy- score for Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., helped pave the way for large orchestral scoring to return to television. He has twice been awarded “ASCAP Composer of the Year – Television” by his peers.

Never content to work only in a darkened studio, McCreary has always enjoyed performing in concert. He has conducted performances of his music throughout North America and Europe, appearing at Fimucité in Tenerife, and the International Film Music Festival in Úbeda, Spain. He has composed concert commissions for the Calder Quartet and Getty Center, the Hagen Philharmonic and Ballet in Germany, the Television Academy, and the Golden State Pops Orchestra. In July 2014, Maestro Gustavo Dudamel conducted a suite of McCreary’s music with the L.A. Philharmonic and L.A. Master Chorale at the Hollywood Bowl.

In quiet moments (few and far between), McCreary often wonders what his longtime friend and mentor Elmer Bernstein would say about his career. Sadly, he will never know. The iconic Bernstein passed away on the very day that McCreary began composing his original score for his first television series, Battlestar Galactica. McCreary says he will always look back with gratitude to the day when he first crossed paths with Bernstein. “Elmer’s guidance was a gift I can never repay,” McCreary said. “But I will spend my life trying to do so.”


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