Music to write Torn by
Just after I’d delivered the second draft of Torn - in the end there were three drafts plus two short “production drafts”, where only tiny changes in dialogue were asked for right before they locked it as a shooting script - I found myself emailing with our brilliant exec producer Juliet about the various processes writers have to get a draft done.
I told her that for me, it was imagining how the actors would look and sound doing and saying certain things, and music. Always music. I know some writers who prefer silence and they BAFFLE AND CONFUSE me. I can’t do it. To me, silence is just a huge void of “Why can’t you type anything? / Why have you just typed that load of shit?” That still happens regardless, but with my headphones blasting something, it’s not as crushing. I told Juliet that I had a long playlist to write to, and certain songs for specific characters and moments, including the one I listened to over and over and over again whilst crying at 2am trying to write one scene. (No, you don’t get a prize for guessing which scene yes obviously it was that one.) I’d like to share that playlist with you now, and talk a little about how it connected the characters for me along the way.
(Skip down to the first video below & play - it really kicks in after about 2 mins)
When I got the WB job, I started on a playlist almost straight away - if I recall, the night that Ep 1 of S4 had gone out. Now I’d met the new characters, and seen the new style of shooting, I went to my iTunes (30,000+ tracks all stored on an offline PC running on XP and iTunes 9 - FUK U APPLE MUSIC YOU ARE NEVER REPLACING MY RARE TRACKS) and started throwing in music that said this one thing to me -
- running through the city at night, surrouded by lights.
Didn’t have to be running as a wolf, just needed that rush, that feeling. This netted me 5 or 6 tracks. I tried to stick to recent-ish things (circa April 2016), and mainly British artists. Anything with energy, screaming “city!”. Then I got corny and searched every Wolfblood related word I could think of - moon, howl, wolf, run, teeth, etc - to see if that threw up anything good. (More on that below.) This was a start, and was what I took up to the writers room in Salford. (On that journey, I also played the hell out of Try Everything from Zootropolis, which I had seen the Friday before. I especially played it on the tram out to MediaCity basically so I could arrive there for the first time like Judy Hopps.)
When I got back from the room, I worked on the playlist, adding a few more tracks (the full Aurora album was out by now as well and was the kind of thing I buy & love anyway) over the next couple of months while I was waiting for the real work to start. So, by the time August rolled around, and my story outline was locked… I. WAS. READY.
I try to avoid too much existing film music on a playlist because generally it’s already got a strong connection to something visual, but an exception was the opening track on my list, from the 1979 movie The Warriors. I know a lot of people who grew up with this film, but I only saw in a couple of years ago, when the full score was released on limited CD, and that’s where this track is from.
When I made this my opening track, it was merely to set mood. Creepy city night moving into propulsive action. But when my story changed in July and my opening became the scenes of Emilia, Madoc and Hafren stalking the city… OHMYGOD can you imagine more perfect music to write that too? And when they filmed those scenes I was there and could hear this music in my mind as I watched them walk. Magic.
(There actually seems to be another nod to The Warriors in Ep 5, when Birdie taunts “Wolfbloods, come out to play…” I must ask Ed if it’s intentional.)
Then I had the 30 second title version of Running With The Wolves on my iPod, so it was essentially like listening to my episode start after the teaser (”They think so.”) and then away we go. And yes, my nerdery knows no bounds.
I may skip around the actual order of the playlist now to talk about it, but the playlist linked at the bottom of the post is the order of the tracks on my iPod, so go hit that and enjoy.
First up after the titles, TURN THE MUSIC LOUDER (RUMBLE). This is everything I said above. This is running through a loud, lit city at night. This track gets me so fired up, and though I love love love Katy B & Tinie Tempah’s voices, the extended instrumental was the best one to get my blood going - especially when it was 1am and I’d just cued the playlist for the fourth time that night. When that beat kicks in at 46 seconds <3
Chaleur Humaine was such an important album to me last year. It was an album I got a few weeks before getting the job, which was also the week my grandma had a fall and went to hospital and… all that’s on my instagram, go look. Point being, I *needed* this album last year. So it was obvious some songs would make their way onto the list, and TILTED is just… It’s audio heaven to me. And while I was still finishing Torn, they’d started shooting Block 1, and a video went up of Jack dancing to this in the green room. So when you’re listening to the same thing the cast is, you kind of know you’ve chosen well. “But I’m actually good / Can’t help it if we’re tilted” could almost be a WB motto. We’re not human, but that doesn’t make us bad - just tilted. Later,
iT was a song for Jana, “I’m a man now” becoming a stand-in for “I’m an Alpha now”.
Raleigh Ritchie, aka Jacob Anderson, aka Grey Worm on GoT. How talented can one guy be? (Plus he used to follow me on Twitter when he had a seperate Jacob account and we’d talk movies and trade puns a bit.) If you haven’t heard You’re A Man Now, Boy, do it right now (or when you’ve finished reading this). Anyway, these songs keyed me *straight* into TJ. “This is a blue town / And I feel a Gene Kelly moment comin’ on” is sooooooooo TJ. That boundless optimism, even when the world is falling down, that sense of play and fun and joy about being a Wolfblood - more than that, being Terence Cipriani, the one and only. But he still can’t *quite* get it together with Selina, even though he *totally* should, so BLOODSPORT ‘15 got me into their scenes** together, and then when Raleigh is joined on THE CHASED by his real life partner, the amazing Aisling Loftus, that basically became TJ and Selina singing together.
**There’s not a lot of TJ and Selina in Torn, which is a regret, because I love them so much. I did write them some other scenes (while they’re waiting for Hartington, and in the Den at the end) but they were cut for time before shooting. They were nice in isolation, with Selina supporting TJ (he’s still worried about the chip having been in him), then him supporting her after her parents are taken, but they didn’t really contribute to the story, and as you saw, we had quite a few events to blast through in 27 minutes as it was.
ROMAN HOLIDAY by Halsey is almost an odd one out - one of only 2 American tracks on the list, but something about it struck me as right for Torn. “We’ll be looking for sunrise”, and “for now let’s get away” maybe? But it always felt like it belonged there.
The Wolf Alice tracks were the one of two results from my Wolfblood-related word search. Full disclosure - I had the Wolf Alice album and EP but they hadn’t grown on me yet when I put these on the list. That all changed as these songs became essential to the writing. STORMS seemed to fit for both Jana and Matei, as both are being told things by people and wonder the refrain over and over again “Who are your friends, your friends, your friends…”. By the third draft this always put me in Matei’s head. FREAZY became a big Jana song, as she tries to navigate ties and deals throughout the show, but always open to hope “You can join us if you think you’re wild / You can join us if you’re a feral child / Our love is cool”. “You can hate us all you want but it don’t mean nothing at all”, Jana just keeps Jana’ing, like a fucking boss.
YOUR LOVES WHORE was kind of an all purpose track to again serve that big city tone, but the more I listened to it, the more the insistent beat and heavy guitars felt like Selina. She could be talking to TJ (”I could be your perfect girl”?) or she could be taking on the world, because she is Selina Khan and she will kick you in the face whilst delivering a cutting comment, then one minute later come out with the sweetest gesture you’ve ever seen.
I used the other Aurora songs to mainly access Emilia and Hafren. CONQUEROR is basically Hafren’s entire mission statement. Despite being swayed in method by Madoc, Hafren is a pure WB, just like Emilia tells her. That was a really important scene to me - one that never changed from the first draft. I wanted to have a scene that showed just what a good Alpha Emilia has been when she’s not trying to start a fight. Hafren may deploy her aggression very easily, but she’s doing it for very clear - almost innocent, really - reasons. She really believes, and when she howls and raises her fist on the castle, it should be that pure moment of triumph (along with an “oooooohhhh shit” moment equivilant to shutting down the grid in Ghostbusters in terms of WB/human relations). Laura G was amazing, coming to those short scenes with brilliant notes on what they meant to Hafren that completely chimed with my thinking, and I really can’t explain to you just how amazing it was to be up there and see and hear her howl like that.
TILL THE END by Lucy Rose was almost a chillout section in the middle of writing for me. It feels very fresh and optimistic, and can work for any number of characters, including Katrina. And if you want to take the lyrics “‘Cause I want to believe / That I will keep fighting 'till the end / And I should have believed / That you were much more than just a friend” and apply it to what Katrina is feeling after she hears what she does in this episode, I’m not going to stop you…
Katrina is a segue into what I always thought of as the Kafe section of songs, from Florrie through Karen Harding & Little Mix to Hailee Steinfeld. All great modern pop songs that I love and could imagine playing on the radio in the Kafe, backgrounding the long talk the pack have at the beginning. If there’s going to be a day when BLACK MAGIC doesn’t get me feeling upbeat and happy, I don’t want to know about it. Hailee Steinfeld is also the only other invading American song on the list, but the Kafe is a place where that doesn’t feel strange.
After the Kafe section and before Bloodsport ;15, I had another song I can’t add on Spotify -
I have the proper studio version of this, on a sampler for Chlöe
Howl’s album that never came out, which is a fucking tragedy because wow. I love her, I loved every song she put out, and this song was sooooo important to the script. It works for Jana and Emilia and Matei… it takes them a long time to trust someone. And now some of those trusts are breaking down, and some are building again. (Howl was the other result from my wolf word searching, but I can’t imagine I’d have gone into battle without at least one
The only other song on the playlist I can’t include here is SLOWDIVE by Gemma Hayes, which is an exclusive song I got for putting in an amount of £ to back the album that became Bones + Longing. It’s a really beautiful song - it sounds like audio sunlight and green fields, and I used it mainly to write Emilia teaching Matei Eolas. Nothing on the album sounds exactly like it, but check out Bones + Longing and Gemma’s previous album Let It Break for a taste, and because they’re amazing.
For the longest time - before the July story change that landed the Kafe Escape scene into Torn, HEY NOW (BONOBO REMIX) was the only song on the list that represented Robyn. It’s *very* city at night music, and I kind of imagined it being something she’d listen to on headphones in her room, laying awake and thinking of a person sleeping not very far away, and what she was starting to mean to her. It’s one for looking at the rain streaming down your window and hugging your covers tighter.
Another song like that is HEARTLESS. Oh my musical god. Really. This is one of the songs that went on the list that first night. I can listen to it endlessly. It represents everyone, in every space we go to. Kafe, Den, streets, wild. I can even access *Madoc* with this song (And it was important to understand Madoc and his reasons, but I can’t go into that now for spoilers. But I get why he’s doing what he does.) This is simply a key song in the creation of Torn.
Believe it or not, in my first draft, we had a car chase! I know!! Basically Hartington was somewhere else than the gym, and they all piled into Jones’s vehicle to track him on the roads before cornering him. Then everything went down the way it does in the ep now, but still, car chase! Then of course production said we could spend the enormous amount of money the chase would cost on better things, so can they just ambush him as he leaves the gym? But for the time the chase existed, the theme from The Warriors returned in BASEBALL FURIES CHASE to go with it.
The third Aurora song, I WENT TOO FAR was always Emilia to me. Perhaps not in lyrics, but in voice and feel. Has she gone too far? Maybe in some part of her mind. But she can relate to the “Crying 'give me some love, give me some love and hold me” part. For all the strength she takes in her pack, she’s so happy to get Matei back. It was a joy to write those scenes reuniting the siblings, and I am so so so happy with the Eolas scene. That’s been the same - bar literally changing one single word - since my first draft, and Sydney blew me away with how beautifully she delivered it. I hadn’t seen anything of that scene until Monday, and … yeah, it’s so so beautiful. Sydney, Jack, the look, the music. <3
The last Christine and the Queens song, NIGHT 52, I used to track the deleted Den scene, which came inbetween Madoc slipping away from the party and his call. Not much happened - it was really Jana, Imara, TJ & Selina trying to figure out a way to do… anything… to help the situation they’re in now. So it was sombre and quiet and though I’m now glad it’s gone (aside from missing the TJ & Selina beat mentioned above), this beautiful track gave it life.
So, it’s late July, and my story now includes a certain scene, and yeeaaahhhhh, gonna need some specific music for this one. Thankfully a couple more albums had come out recently. First, Nothing’s Real, by Shura. How good? Is it even measurable how good it is? And it gave me two songs in particular that seemed really Robyn, who was now so much more important to the episode. MAKE IT UP, with all the talk of waking up in the night, was like a companion to the London Grammar song, but 2SHY? That might as well be the narrative in Robyn’s head in the days leading up to Torn. “It’s taken me so long / Maybe I’m just too shy to say it / We could be more than friends / Maybe I’m just too shy / Too shy.” Wanting desperately to say something but too professional and maybe even hesitant to say it, until one awful event leads them to a very specific set of circumstances. They weren’t outside at the time. They weren’t downstairs, where Robyn could have quickly bolted out of the back door. No. They were up in the flat. One terrible moment, as brutish men crash into their lives, leads them to the only exit - to that window - and that moment, that perhaps could not have happened at any other time. And suddenly something terrible becomes something beautiful…
And that’s where HEAR YOU CALLING by Birdy comes in. It just hit me in the heart. In the music, in the lyrics (“I could take my make-up and put a brave face on” could be a mantra for Katrina during recent events), in Birdy’s beautiful voice. *This* was the song for that moment, and I played it and played it and played it. I left this scene to almost the last in my first draft, as I basically knew what I wanted to do with it, it just needed to be done right. So it was about 2am on the second night of writing when I cued the track for the first time. (I wrote the first draft over two nights in a 24 hour cafe, which is a useful thing Plymouth has for writers. And hey, a few months later I was reading Lucy Sutcliffe’s amazing Girl <3 Girl AND GUESS WHICH CAFE SHE MENTIONS HANGING OUT IN!!111!!)
And then I wrote the scene, over and over. Every line of description, every line of dialogue read and re-read and changed until it flowed with the music, and we reach that moment where Robyn stops herself from leaving, and the chorus kicks in on her declaration to Katrina…
And because Katrina is just a glorious wonderful beating heart of a human being she responds to Robyn with love and *that* **Alpha** ***headtouch*** and that human red red kiss that says come back to me and then Robyn’s gone until they meet again…
Every night when the sun goes down
And I’m left in this lonely town
I hear you calling me, hear you calling me, yeah
Every time that I say goodbye
Every night when I close my eyes
I hear you calling me, hear you calling me
Take me home, take me home, don’t know this place
Are you there wondering if I’m lying awake
Thinking of you?
Take me home, take me home, don’t know this place
Are you there wondering if I’m lying awake
Thinking of you?
Oh, my beautiful summer
How the winter makes me wonder
Where you’ve gone
And then a few weeks later they started using Hear You Calling for the opening titles of Our Girl, but they cut if off before the best bit anyway, so I’m planting the flag in it for us.
And finally, we’re back to the city, literally, with IN THE CITY, the end credits song from The Warriors, that just feels like the end of a very long day - but one where you have hope for the future, which is exactly what our pack need at the end of Torn, and what I needed because hearing this song meant I’d been writing for a couple of hours, and probably had loads left to do, and was about to start the music all over again…
Anyway, here’s the music that helped me with Torn - I hope you enjoy at least some of it!