Featured Alumni Profiles

Todd Haberman

BMus '02, Music Composition

One morning, Kyle Newman, a rising young Hollywood filmmaker awoke to a phone call from screenwriter and producer Hans Rodionoff asking if he wanted to direct his first feature-length film, a “soft” horror flick called The Hollow. Still groggy, he agreed, “All right, let me read it.”

But there was no time for that. Two hours later, Newman joined the crew, already in the fourth day of production after the original director had left, and started shooting. “I would buy time by saying, ‘Put the cameras there,’” he confesses over coffee one summer morning, “and then I’d go to the bathroom and read the next scene.”

Constrained by actors he hadn’t cast, a crew he didn’t know and costumes and lighting gels that had already been purchased, Newman decided to make his mark on the film by enlisting college friend and composer Todd Haberman to create an original score. “The music was something I knew I could control,” Newman says. “It would set the tone for the movie I wanted to make.” The resulting score, Newman says, was “a little bit dark, a little bit scary, but still fun” – like the movie itself.

Newman, 28, and Haberman, 29, are the youthful indie answer to Steven Spielberg and John Williams. The two have been mixing movies and music to great acclaim since their paths first crossed in the dorms, when Newman was in film at the Tisch School of the Arts and Haberman was in the music composition program at NYU Steinhardt. Their five-minute short, The Cyclist, was a finalist at the 1997 Hollywood Film Festival. And their 1998 award-winning minute-long Bitten by Love, a tale of a man and dog who both become mesmerized at the movies, was shot, edited and scored in less than five weeks over winter break during Newman’s senior year. (Haberman, a year ahead, graduated and moved to California to work at the studio of the celebrated film-music composer Hans Zimmer.)

Much of the duo’s creative cohesion comes from their comfort as friends. “I’ll sit down and tell him what I’m going for even before I film and he just gets it,” says Newman of his comrade, but more important, “Todd thinks of music in terms of cinema.” This familiarity also works well for Haberman, who feels an uncommon freedom with his scores. “With Kyle I can talk to him like he’s my brother,” Haberman says on the phone from his Los Angeles studio. “It’s different from just being hired.”

This closeness paid off in The Hollow, when the duo had only two weeks to score the film rather than the usual two months. “We put in 18-hour days in a half day,” Haberman recalls. The Hollow – “a cross between The Goonies and Halloween,” according to Newman – is a frightful, if quirky, update of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Too busy with their individual careers, the old friends rarely have time to just hang out anymore. Haberman recently finished scoring a new horror film called Rancid, while Newman debuted a short animated documentary, Artflick.001, at the Sundance and Tribeca film festivals. “Since we’re both moving at the same pace [through the industry], it’s easier for us to work with each other,” says Newman, who hopes to pull Haberman into his next project, an independent comedy feature called Fanboys. “Each time you go into a movie, there are so many unknown elements, but our work and friendship endured.”

This article, written by Nicole Pezold, GSAS ’04, appeared in the Fall 2004 issue of NYU Alumni Magazine.