Fighting with My Family composer Vik Sharma discusses scoring for WWE Superstar Paige

vik composer fighting with my family

With a Rotten Tomato score of 91%, it’s safe to say that Fighting with My Family (MGM/Channel 4/Seven Bucks/WWE Studios production) is living up to fan and critic expectations. If you aren’t familiar with the film, it tells the story of WWE wrestler Paige and her rise to fame. Fighting with My Family was written and directed by Stephen Merchant, co-creator of The Office and Extras alongside Ricky Gervais and stars Dwayne Johnson, Florence Pugh, Nick Frost, Lena Headey, Jack Lowden and Vince Vaughn. An important element to the film is the edgy score by composer Vik Sharma, so we decided to speak with Vik and learn more about his creative process. Read the exclusive interview below.

Nerd Reactor: What did you find most challenging about scoring “Fighting with My Family”?

Vik Sharma: They don’t call it rock music for nothing. Hard edges, big, direct, single-minded. Taking the steel strings of an electric guitar and molding them, giving them the flexibility necessary to move between light and shade in a scene was a bit of a challenge. And doing it in a way that felt original and not cheesy or cliched was a challenge we also had to overcome. It’s a nice touch opening the film with Motley Crue, but when you’re scoring a character’s descent to their lowest point, that kind of music doesn’t work. And yet we needed to exist in that sound world. We couldn’t use a piano or strings to create that kind of emotion. It was guitars all the way.

Before scoring this film, were you a fan of wrestling at all? Who was your favorite wrestler?

No, I didn’t really know very much about wrestling. I think my first exposure to WWE was that scene in Groundhog Day when Bill Murray gives a very young Michael Shannon and his fiancé tickets to WrestleMania as a wedding gift! I was aware of wrestlers like Hulk Hogan who had broken through into the mainstream. And I noted that actors that emerged from the WWE all had a seemingly natural gift for comedy – Rock, John Cena, Bautista. Growing up in the UK, wrestling had a far more rough and ready vibe to it than its American counterpart. So as a kid I used to watch Saturday morning wrestling matches with Big Daddy and his arch-nemesis, Giant Haystacks. The film does a great job evoking the DIY quality of the British wrestling scene really well.

Do you have a favorite scene in the film, musically?

It changes from viewing to viewing. But I do like the climactic fight between Paige and AJ Lee. It’s all improvised. Myself, the drummer (Jason Cooper of The Cure) and guitarist (Graham Coxon from Blur) just played through the scene a bunch of times. What you hear in the final film is a blend of no more than a couple of takes of drums, bass and guitar.

Was it intimidating having Dwayne Johnson as one of the producers?

From what I know, Dwayne Johnson empowered Steve Merchant to lead on all creative aspects of the production. Whatever suggestions he or producer Kevin Misher had regarding music went through Stephen before they came to me. It freed us to walk down a number of different creative avenues before finally agreeing on something that worked. Ultimately, this is Stephen’s film. He wrote it, directed it, had creative control and responsibility for the film – including the music. It’s his world, man. I just live in it.

You collaborated with Blur’s Graham Coxon on the film’s score. Did he teach you anything while working on this film? Did you teach him anything?

He taught me that I need new pickups on my guitar. I taught him how to quantize audio in Logic X. He taught me to trust my musical instincts. I taught him how to arpeggiate synths. He showed me the pleasures of vaping. I taught him about toothbrush subscription services. He taught me that the quality of the instrument you use is quite important. I taught him nothing he didn’t already know, probably. I learned he’s a top geezer, unimaginably gifted and a great collaborator.

A lot of your resume includes TV shows. How different is it to score a film like this than a TV show?

With TV, the turnaround is quicker, there’s less time to nail the right sound. With factual TV, you don’t always get a chance to look at footage. You write music on the basis of a loose brief. The music then gets chopped up in the edit. Consequently, it’s easier to get things wrong. TV is also subject to late-breaking changes, which precludes the slick results of scoring to picture. The budgets are also lower on TV, so you don’t always get the chance to work with great players playing real instruments. With high-end TV and film, the process and budgets are more closely aligned so the work is pretty similar. But again, the turnaround is quicker in TV. There’s also something about unraveling thematic elements of a score over the course of a film that’s hugely satisfying.

After working on a project like this and getting a real inside look at the wrestling world, what do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about the WWE?

The fake vs. fixed distinction is the biggest misconception for me, and something that’s explicitly addressed in the film. Wrestling is not fake. It is a kind of brutal theatre, expertly scripted, choreographed and performed. When wrestlers go out there to execute these moves and put on these bloody, visceral shows, the threat of injury is very real.

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