The Kaladin Book Soundtrack based on The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – Call To Action
Sometimes, when you work in entertainment, you take the gigs that will feed you. Sometimes, you take the gigs that inspire you. Sometimes, the gig pays off. Rarely, a gig can change your life. The Kaladin book soundtrack (inspired by The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson) saved mine. Literally.
None of us at The Black Piper (Michael Bahnmiller, Richard Williams, and myself) knew each other at the beginning of this project. Well, I didn’t know anyone on the team. I had just wrapped on producing Flight From Shadow, the Wheel of Time fan-film.
That shoot destroyed me. Physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. What was meant to be an homage to two of my brothers (one who died and whose death I blamed myself for, and to my oldest brother, who got me out of my grief by introducing me to the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson), ended up being one of the most corrupt shoots of my life. The “bigness” of the project just went to too many people’s heads and it poisoned my team. My friends, my film family, my network. The man I loved, the man who had saved my life that one time and literally carried me into the ER, had stabbed me in the back. And he planned it while I was at the book signing for A Memory of Light, cos he knew I was a Sanderfan and that’s where I’d be. I genuinely considered suicide the night it all fell apart. It was my composer and brother-from-another-mother, Nate Drew (composer for the Hearthstone theme from the Kaladin album) that kept me alive that terrible night and just let me cry.
I was devastated and couldn’t even finish the WoT series. I stopped making films. I stopped writing screenplays and poetry. I stopped writing music. I stopped playing the piano and the cello and singing. I stopped reading. I stopped editing. I stopped teaching. My life turned into one big cremling and my fire was gone. My trust was gone. And I was thoroughly embarrassed that Brandon (who had helped with our marketing cos it coincided with the release of AMoL) and Jason Denzel could have witnessed any sort of drama, cos that’s just not how I do business, and I was (am) a hardcore fan of both of them. (I work with Hollywood A-listers all the time and don’t get nervous; but I get seriously tongue-tied and fan-girly around Brandon, his work means that much to me.)
I was approached to produce an Infinity Blade film, which already had half a million dollars of funding in escrow. We made FFS on $12k, most of it out of pocket. I could have made IB look like freaking Avatar and done it in my sleep for half a million dollars. I said no. Twice. I would not do another Brandon Sanderson project. It hurt too much.
So, a year later, Nate recommends I get back in the game and give some producing advice to two composers who wanted to make an album. Cue a couple of Mormons meeting up in a Starbucks: a recent music grad with an ambitious dream, a final year grad savant that was severely under-appreciated, and a producer who had given up on everything.
Funnily enough, I wrote about this meeting in my journal and ended up using that journal as my Black Piper notebook. I had misgivings about working again but I was so inspired when I heard their music. Something inside of me stirred, but it wasn’t enough to make me commit. I told them their idea was cool but it was too vague and their music needed to tell a story. I blew them off for a while after that, expecting them to take the hint and give up before they got hurt.
Then I get this email from Mike:
“Hey Sae Sae, I found the PERFECT story to compose to! It’s called The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (have you heard of him??). It’s epic and spiritual, and everything we need to do! So I wrote to him and he said to contact his agent! What do I do??”
I think I had a literal heart attack when I read that. I just read that email over and over again, cradling myself and saying, “Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.” Not Brandon. Of all the stories in the UNIVERSE Mike could have chosen and it was THAT one.
I bought the book, the first book I’d read since That Night. I read it in three days and emailed Brandon’s agent the second I was done with it. A fire had been lit. This was MY story to tell. And the universe kept shoving me into Brandon’s work. I still don’t know why, but maybe it was time I listened.
I knew it would be expensive. I knew they’d say no. But I figured, if I got a solid no from Brandon’s agent, Mike would get off my back, lol. They liked our pitch. They wanted to talk. Every time someone had the opportunity to say no to us in a way that would axe the project, they ended up saying yes.
I broke down the book and wrote a treatment, the first writing I’d done in years. We wrote some songs. I got to direct, something I didn’t think I’d ever get to do again. Mike, Richard, and Phil went to Prague and recorded what we wrote. I grew sixteen more ulcers. We were committed now. These were personal funds and now it was on me to make sure these kids could feed their families and didn’t get destroyed by the dark side of the industry. I vowed I would not let that happen to my team. Never again.
Then I got a seizure/stroke thingy and became paralysed on the right side of my body. We had to halt the project for a little over a year. DMG wanted the rights to the Cosmere. They had more money than we did and we hadn’t yet inked the deal with Dragonsteel. Stuck in a wheelchair, with nothing, my hope started to fade. It was over. I knew my team would take what I had given them and boot me, just like before. I told them that I was no good and to leave and try to succeed without me.
They didn’t. They supported me, and worked with my damage. They said they needed me, and I realized that I needed them, and I needed this. DMG got the film rights but they said we could do our album anyway. That’s unheard of. (Seriously, peeps. Studios are not that gracious.) We were running out of money. Investors started coming out of nowhere and managed to give us just the amount of money we needed, when we needed it. At every turn, we thought this project would fail, but we put our heads down and our hearts in and we wouldn’t let it.
And here we are. It’s been one battle after another but more and more people come in and help us. They love the music, and the artwork, and the rewards. Our intense commitment to treating this like a true Hollywood project has been paying off. This is what we do, because we have to do it.
We don’t know if we’ll reach our destination. But that’s not what it’s about, is it?
This project gave my life meaning and purpose again. It reignited the spark of creativity that I thought I had lost. It proved that not everyone becomes corrupt when money and studios and names get attached. I found a fandom that I can enjoy. It feels like home. Brandon is like Dalinar. His words are important and they have united us all.
This is the power of books. This is why fantasy novels, of all the genres, inspire me the most and move me to create. The sheer imagination and dedication and magic and heart that comes from fantasy novelists is what drove me to work in such a difficult industry. It’s what keeps me going. I found my fire again. Because some guy who doesn’t know I exist sat at a computer and put words onto a page. He answered the call. And it inspired me to answer mine.
The music for the Kaladin soundtrack is a true-blue catharsis for me; Kaladin’s story and my story, in hindsight, are mirror images of each other, playing out on different planets.
The Black Piper is determined to give proper tribute to fantasy authors everywhere. And it all hinges on the success of this first album. Take a look at our Kickstarter and get a feel for the scope of the project. We’re already talking to other authors about future albums. If we can succeed here, we will open up the floodgates that has thus far proven to be a mystery to entertainment entrepreneurs.
If we don’t make our Kickstarter goal, I honestly don’t know what I’ll do. But I know I won’t do nothing, not again. It would be the biggest forward fail of my life. But if we do succeed, and we can only do it with everyone else’s help, we will take this project and make like Fleet and just keep running.
Thanks Sae Sae Norris and Michael Bahnmiller of The Black Piper for reaching out to us and letting Fantasy-Faction have a small part in this amazing project! To find out how you can help make this dream a reality, please check out the Kaladin Kickstarter page. Support these great artists if you can and share if you can’t!