ENCINITAS — Chris Westlake is one step closer to realizing his dream of scoring films in Hollywood. The Encinitas native just scored big with an instrumental music piece in the recently released “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”
From winning international guitar competitions as a teenager attending San Dieguito Academy High School, to his success as a composer and music producer for high profile film and TV projects, Westlake is quickly establishing himself as a diverse musician with substance and style.
According to Westlake, 29, music is the last element to be added to a movie but remains the most crucial. “You take music out and a movie is the most boring thing,” he said. “Can you imagine ‘Star Wars’ without sound?”
While he has experienced past success in the music industry, Westlake said his latest project was significant. “I got to work with one of my musical heroes, composer James Newton Howard,” Westlake said. “I also got my mom to help me with some of the lyrics.”
“My Spanish is terrible,” Westlake said. The movie is set in Miami where there are many Spanish-speaking Cubans. “So I asked my mom, who’s Cuban, to help me put words to the music I had written for a particular scene.”
Westlake’s mother, Ommy Westlake, said she was excited to help her son. “I collaborated with my son but they cut the lyrics in the end,” she said. In fact, Westlake was told the scene would be thrown out altogether. “It ended up being one of the most popular scenes in the movie,” Westlake said. “During testing with audiences, the studio discovered people loved it, so they kept it in.”
“That’s how the movie business is,” he said. “You never know what to expect.” His piece not only sets the background for the scene known as “the fan,” but it also runs as the ending credits roll. “That is one of the biggest uses of music in a film,” he said.
Soon after completing his classical studies at the USC Thornton School of Music, Westlake composed for “The Beat,” a feature independent film that showed at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. Fusing elements of hip-hop, electronica and jazz, the score brought Westlake many opportunities that led to being hired to write and produce additional music for the 2003 Hollywood film “Something’s Gotta Give.”
When “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry needed to add just the right touch for selected scenes on the hit TV series, Westlake was brought in to create diverse music that can be heard throughout the show’s first season.
The demand for Westlake’s musical abilities are not only in the domain of film and TV. He was also hired by multi-platinum selling artists Switchfoot to write string arrangements for several songs on their gold selling release “Nothing is Sound.”
“I didn’t start out wanting to be a film composer but things are happening gradually,” Westlake said. “Music composition is a collaborative medium and I really enjoy that aspect of it the most,” he said.