The Music Behind Visitors Only

Something I’ve always found helpful when writing and exploring ideas is listening to music. Sometimes it can be a distraction, but when I’m trying to imagine a character or find a certain tone, having the right music can help me quickly zero in on a choice that just feels right.

When I was writing the early drafts of Visitors Only, I started creating a playlist of music that I happened to be listening to at the time, and then added other songs that I thought related to what I was trying to say.

Check out that first playlist here.

Of all of these songs, the one that stood out the most was “戦闘の色” from Atlas and the Astronaut.

At almost nine minutes long, I could almost see the entire story playing out as a build up to the moment at around the four minute mark when the song just explodes into a wailing drive. It’s a wild ride of tone and energy, and I haven’t quite heard anything like it since.

As I kept writing and started moving into pre-production, I continued adding more songs. It grew into a collection from all styles and genres, and post-production and editing. I even created separate playlists as part of the backstory for each of the four characters. (There’s a much bigger idea behind what ultimately made it into the short film, but that’s for another time.)

I kept all of these songs in my daily rotation throughout the production, and the whole time I kept thinking it’d be really cool to find a way to use one of these songs in the film itself.

Sometimes your art becomes what it wants to be, not necessarily what you thought it would be.

By the time I watched a near-final cut, my thoughts of what the audience should be left feeling had changed. The whole thing needed a different energy to close it out. I needed something that reflected Dolores being absolutely strange and powerful and undeniable.

My first pick was “Night Child” by The Oath.

The track has such an epic sound, but lyrically it didn’t quite match up with my feelings for Dolores and the story. When I found that the band had broken up in 2014, I figured getting permission to use it in the film could turn out to be a dead end.

Instead, I went back to my original touchstone from Atlas and the Astronaut’s album Tiny Artifacts. The film was so structurally very different than what I first imagined that I didn’t see a way to make “戦闘の色” work, but I looked to another track “I Am Pixl” that seemed like a good fit to fly in over the final credits.

In early drafts of the script, the film cut to black when Dolores appears in Rome’s car. When I saw that we would have to go back to our location to grab a few more pickup shots, I realized I just wanted to see more of Frank and give Dolores a bigger sting at the end.

I had worked out an entire backstory about how Frank and Dolores knew each other, and if nothing else I just wanted something to indicate everything that just happened was only the beginning of something bigger and weirder. When Dolores turns to the camera , I wanted to make sure we all understood she had the upper hand.

In my mind, Visitors Only is just the beginning of Dolores Duran’s dark and deadly quest for justice. I started writing a screenplay a year later, and it sits in my files until the day I can find a way to tell the rest of her story.

In the meantime, here’s a chance to check out full playlist I worked from.