Chad Rehmann started playing piano when he was 5. He was writing his own music at 10. By the time he turned 17, he’d composed his first orchestral piece.
Now 35, the St. Johns native has scored more than 40 films and TV shows, including romances, Westerns, children’s animation and horror movie spoofs. He’s written music for such greats as Sony Pictures, Paramount, the Discovery Channel, the National Hockey League, Bravo, HGTV and the Lifetime Network.
Landing such gigs was no easy feat. After earning his music degree at MSU, Rehmann and his wife packed their belongings in their used 2002 Saturn and struck out for Los Angeles.
“It’s the kind of decision that only a 23-year-old can make,” he said, laughing. “So many things could have gone wrong.”
From there, his trajectory is the stuff of Hollywood legend. Busing tables, teaching piano lessons and accompanying church choirs paid the rent while he pursued composition projects.
Perseverance and talent eventually paid off when he landed his first film, Adopting Change, by answering an ad on Craigslist. Eventually, he could afford to make composing his full-time profession.
“I was in theater in high school…and I was always drawn to storytelling,” Rehmann said. But it was in college, where he performed with almost every musical group MSU offered, that he learned to decode the many emotions music can evoke,
which is instrumental to creating music for film and television.
How does it all happen? “In the perfect world, we get a ‘locked’ picture…(to which) there will be no more edits or changes. The director and I will sit down…and we’ll watch the film, determine where music will go and why, and (discuss) the tone we want the characters to have,” Rehmann said.
“Then I sit down at the piano and start noodling. I’ll turn the movie on and watch it (while) playing. Very rarely does my first draft ever make it on film. It’s through revisions that something else will rise,” he said.
A pair of assistants serves as his sounding board. “They know right up front that I need honest feedback.”
While composing for film and television is his passion, Rehmann also has his own story to tell.
“Musically, I still have a lot to say as a composer and I’m starting to carve out time to do that,” he said. He composes concert hall pieces for ensembles and orchestras and even helps local musicians with their albums.
Rehmann hopes to be an A-list composer one day, working with a “massive ensemble” and composing for cinematic blockbusters. He knows that becoming the next John Williams or Hans Zimmer will take persistence and patience. “It’s really about continuing to prove yourself over and over again.”