Published Oct 14, 2022
Michael Giacchino on Scoring and Directing Star Trek
The prolific composer's career spans many beloved franchises, from Pixar to Star Trek to Marvel and beyond.
By Christine Dinh
Michael Giacchino is having a fantastic week. In addition to celebrating his birthday earlier in the week, the prolific composer just recently released the wildly refreshing and thrilling Werewolf by Night, a Marvel Studios presentation which sees him helming both directing and composing duties.
While Werewolf by Night may be Giacchino’s feature directorial debut, StarTrek.com has decided to look back at his illustrious contributions to the Star Trek universe, from scoring the 2009 Star Trek film with longtime collaborator J.J. Abrams, to directing the Star Trek: Short Treks episode, “Ephraim and Dot,” to the full theme score for Star Trek: Prodigy, which returns with new episodes for his premiere season next week.
Prior to directing Werewolf by Night, Giacchino directed an episode of Star Trek: Short Treks, “Ephraim and Dot.” In the bonus content, “Inside Short Treks: Ephraim and Dot,” Giacchino revealed how he got involved with the project, specifically coming on as a director.
Giacchino noted that executive producer Alex Kurtzman reached out to him one day, gauging his interest in directing Star Trek: Short Treks, presenting both live action and animated options. “[Alex] goes, ‘We have two different animated ones; I’ll let you choose which one you want because I know already which one you’re going to pick,’” shared Giacchino.
As to why he leapt at the chance on working on the short that featured a tardigrade and a DOT-7, he revealed, "I would love to do an emotional Tom and Jerry that takes place on the Enterprise," honing in on the core of the story. "It's about sort of their relationship, and Dot trying to get Ephraim off the ship because that's his job. As a robot, he has one job; he sees something, get rid of it. That's it."
In addition to telling a story full of emotion and heart, what also drew Giacchino to the project was its scope, "We were able to bridge the entire Star Trek history from the beginning of TOS to the destruction of the Enterprise over the Genesis planet."
Episode Preview | Star Trek: Short Treks - Ephraim and Dot
Giacchino has had an incredible career spanning multiple decades and beloved franchises, including Pixar's Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, and Coco; Lost, Star Wars, Jurassic World, The Batman, and Marvel Studios' Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and Werewolf by Night, to name a few.
He delights in the projects he takes on, last sharing what consistently pulls him back into the Star Trek universe, "It's always fun when you get to play in the Star Trek canon. To recreate any of those original moments and to revisit those things, it's always very exciting and very scary at the same time because you want to make sure that you're doing them justice, and that there's something that the passionate fan base is going to be happy with."
"I love Star Trek because it is about inclusion," continued Giacchino. "And it's about discovery, and it's about reaching out to new things that you don't know anything about but yet accepting them. To have a popular show that is based around those ideals, that's so important. And I think that's why we still have Star Trek in our lives."
Michael Giacchino's Musical Journey On Star Trek: Short Treks
Giacchino himself upholds those ideals by inviting others to go on the musical journey across the universe with him. When presented with the opportunity to score all the shorts for Star Trek: Short Treks, due to bandwidth and timing, Giacchino wanted to "take a real sort of Star Trek approach" and enlist as many collaborators as possible and give them a shot at scoring a Trek project. "It was a huge learning experience for me," reflected Giacchino. "We are so lucky to do what we do, and that we've been able to do what we've been doing for so long, and for us not to sort of reach out to the community to bring that next generation in to do this, that would be wrong if we didn't do that."
Star Trek: Prodigy is the franchise's first foray into creating content geared towards a much younger audience.
Giacchino previously shared, “I am excited that I had the opportunity to write the main theme for Kevin and Dan [Hageman's] latest project, and as always am thrilled to be a part of the Star Trek family."
Star Trek: Prodigy Opening Title Sequence
While he only scored the opening theme, Giacchino expressed excitement for the series' composer, "I'm especially looking forward to everyone hearing the incredible work of composer Nami Melumad, who will take the reins of scoring the episodes," citing her extreme talent.
Speaking to StarTrek.com back in 2013, Giacchino explained whether he viewed music in the lead actor or a supporting player role.
"I tend to think of the music as one of the characters," he stated. "It’s another character in the movie. It’s sort of that character that sits there and gently nudges you and says, 'You need to feel this' or 'You need to notice this.'”
"It’s sort of the subtext of everything that is going on," continued Giacchino. "I can take a picture of you starting at me, and I can score that any number of ways, and I could show those versions to people, and they would think either, 'You’re plotting to kill me' or 'You’re really happy right now.' There are so many different things involved, but it’s all within how you play the scene, how you score it. It’s actually a very dangerous tool to have."
Recalling an exchange with one his longtime collaborators during the scoring of The Incredibles, Giacchino shared the responsibility of his own role in the storytelling process, "Brad Bird once told me, 'Now, you’re going to have to be very careful....Your music can ruin my movie.' And he was right. What he meant was that, if you’re not totally right on target, then the audience will be thinking something that he doesn’t want them thinking. So you’ve got to be careful."