‘Prey’ Composer Sarah Schachner on Balancing Gory Action With an Emotional Storyline

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Prey” composer Sarah Schachner factored in two elements when scoring the 1700s-set entry in the “Predator” franchise. “We were making a ‘Predator’ film with all the fun gory action and suspense you’d expect, but the music had to simultaneously tell Naru’s emotional story and her evolution,” she says.

The action thriller, set in the Comanche nation, follows Naru, played by Amber Midthunder. Naru is hungry to prove her abilities as a hunter, but she gets more than she bargained for when a deadly dreadlocked alien makes contact and begins to hunt for sport.

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Schanchner’s biggest challenge, she says, was to find the balance of the score feeling equally large and expansive as well as intimate and raw to match the 18th-century natural setting. Says Schachner, “The key was to not be afraid to say something in a film with so little dialogue.”

The composer performed and recorded almost all of the string instruments featured in the score. When it came to the “Predator” theme, she says, “That came about almost in full form right away. I have a voice note of me playing it and working it out for the first time on the double bass.” Schachner adds, ” I tend to channel my own emotions directly into my playing, so writing and performing all the increasingly aggressive iterations of the ‘Predator’ motif was like therapy for me.”

For Naru’s theme, Schachner collaborated with the film’s director Dan Trachtenberg. “Dan and I spent a while collaborating on Naru’s theme. He was adamant that it should feel like a journey; that it starts small and really take you somewhere.”

She didn’t write the score to picture and the version of Naru’s theme that features on the soundtrack is longer than in the film. “They told me they went out and shot more footage to accommodate the length,” reveals Schachner.

Pueblo musician and Native American flute player Robert Mirabal also features on the film’s score. Schachner was looking for other instrumentalists to collaborate with when she came across a YouTube video of the musician.

Right away, she knew she wanted to work with him and she sought him out. “I recorded with Robert on several wind instruments one evening over Zoom and asked him at the end if he sang at all.” On Mirabel’s vocals, she says, “It was one of those perfect moments to give that extra layer of depth to the film.”

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