'A Quiet Place' Composer Couldn't Afford a Full Orchestra

A Quiet Place Still and Marco Beltrami - Inset - Getty - H 2018
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images (Beltrami); Courtesy of Paramount Pictures (Still)
The modest budget worked to Marco Beltrami's advantage: "I didn’t need it because the film is truly intimate and contained."

[This story contains spoilers for A Quiet Place]

For composer Marco Beltrami, A Quiet Place was all about doing more than less.

It's not just that the $17 million budgeted horror hit from writer-director John Krasinski was nearly dialogue free, an inventive concept that helped propel the film into a $50 million opening week. Beltrami also had to contend with a compressed working time and a lower budget for his score to the film about a family trying to survive in a world where sound-seeking monsters have killed off much of the population.

“Due to budget, I didn’t have a full orchestra to record. However, I didn’t need it because the film is truly intimate and contained," Beltrami tells The Hollywood Reporter. "All I needed were strings and a piano. I actually de-tuned the piano’s black keys to make it a little askew. For the monster’s sound, I took the strings and drums and processed it to become electronic.”

Beltrami finalized his deal for the film over Thanksgiving 2017, with the score set to be recorded in January. It was a short turnaround for Beltrami, who was already scoring a project for National Geographic. The initial blueprint for the score came from Krasinski’s passion for Peter Gabriel’s cover of “Heroes” by David Bowie. 

“John played that song for me and it really informed the score," Beltrami says. "This movie is not a horror movie, to John. It’s first and foremost a family drama. The family theme was what I sent back to him. I dropped it into the assembly cut and he really responded to it. That was the start of a long back and forth on each piece of music."

Beltrami felt immense pressure when it came to finding the sound for the vicious sound-hunting creatures.

“I really wanted to come up with a signature monster sound, something we haven’t heard before that  instills fear, even if the monster isn’t onscreen," he says.

The resulting track became a signature part of the score, the appropriately titled “It Hears You.” But for Beltrami, the most difficult scene to score was the film’s final moment.

“The last cue of the film when they realize that they can kill the monsters and the monsters are racing toward them, that cue was really crucial to the process," he says. "Once I solved that, everything else fell into place. It’s not a melodic cue, but it’s a driving force which led to the monster cue.”

Because A Quiet Place was dubbed very late in the process, Beltrami wasn’t sure what to expect at the New York premiere earlier this month.

“I never heard how they mixed the film or what they ended up using or leaving out. There were also a lot of visual effects that came in so late that I hadn’t seen. It was almost like seeing it for the first time again at the premiere," he says.

Beltrami was blown away by the final product, embracing Krasinski at the film’s afterparty.

“When I saw John, I gave him a big hug and said, ‘Wow, you pulled this off spectacularly.’ He’s a demanding guy in many respects, but it was a very rewarding project," says the composer. "John wants everything to be perfect and the way he was able to keep his vision throughout the whole thing was really amazing.”