We had the good fortune of connecting with Isaac Mailach and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Isaac, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was born and raised near Toronto, Canada, in a cozy suburb called Thornhill. Growing up, I was constantly surrounded by music; I started learning the cello at the age of 3, but classical music was always on the radio long before then. This is where my love of classical music began and why it informs my musical style so deeply. Jewish cantoral music was also a huge part of my childhood, and I can often hear elements of it sneak its way into my compositions, such as my score for the Holocaust exhibit ShadowLight.
Being Canadian and studying at a small Canadian university gave me a unique opportunity to develop my own style of composition. Since Canada is so varied and multicultural, I didn’t feel like I had to conform to any particular style, so I had plenty of room to experiment and discover my own sound. Having this freedom to experiment has been invaluable to my film scores.
My parents and sisters have always encouraged me to be curious and critical about pretty much everything, including my own work, and I like to think this helped me develop the critical listening skills I use every day. When listening to music, I love to dissect it, understand it, so that I can learn from it. A love of learning and education is my family’s mantra, and that is what defined and continues to define my life choices.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a film composer, my goal is to bring a level of intellectual rigor, originality, and subtlety to the music in order to enhance the drama on-screen. I believe what sets my work apart the most is my source of inspiration, which is usually classical and modernist music. I love how modernist composers such as Béla Bartók explored raw dissonance in music, treating it as an equal to consonance instead of something to avoid. This opens up so many options musically to express drama! Playing the cello from a young age has also shaped my musicality, which is why I frequently use it in my film scores. My experience with improvising and using extended techniques on the instrument gives each of my scores a unique sound that sets them apart. For instance, my score for the short film Paranoia was created entirely from processed cello recordings.
The path to where I am today definitely had its ups and downs, but I’d say overall I’ve enjoyed the journey. It’s challenging, but challenges help you grow. That’s why I chose this career! Working on large projects such as Before the Plate and The Kissing Booth 3 can be daunting, but they are extremely rewarding. During such projects, it’s easy to forget the importance of work-life balance, but staying healthy, getting lots of sleep, and having the amazing support of family and friends has helped me through the rough patches. Stepping out of my comfort zone and meeting new people can also be scary, but it’s worth it for the personal connections you end up making.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My absolute favourite thing about LA is the variety and quality of restaurants and markets. First, I would take any newcomer to both Samosa House and Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery to sample the amazing variety of fresh ingredients. If you like sushi, KazuNori is a must try for the best hand rolls you will ever eat. If boba is your thing, head straight to Sawtelle and try one of the dozens of bubble tea places within walking distance of each other. Like in most cities, there is an abundance of high quality coffee shops, but one I’d highly recommend is Verve Coffee Roasters for their incredibly flavourful drinks.
As for must-have experiences in LA, my list is sadly much shorter due to the COVID restrictions for much of my stay. Now that theatres are reopening in LA, I’d check out the Alamo Drafthouse for a more luxurious theatre-going experience. I have also been hearing incredible things about Dreamscape, a collection of interactive VR experiences that I’ve been dying to try. If you are into hiking, there are plenty of hiking spots around the city that you should check out for a beautiful view of the skyline, such as the Kenneth Hahn State Park and the Griffith Observatory.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would not be here today if not for my parents’ support. They have always pushed me to be ambitious, take risks, and go on adventures. It takes a ton of love to drive your son to cello lessons every Sunday morning for 15 years, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I will never forget how they came to almost every concert during my undergrad to listen to my music.
My two sisters have always been there when I needed advice or support, no matter what. They push me to be better than I am through leading by example. I have an incredible respect for both of them.
Lastly, I’d like to thank my cello and composition mentors that have guided me all these years. I am so grateful to have worked with such exceptional people, including Tricia Balmer, Paul Pulford, Glenn Buhr, Linda Catlin Smith, and Katie Schlaikjer. I would not be the artist I am today without these people.