Talking Trigger Warning With Composer Enis Rotthoff

Recently I spoke with Composer Enis Rotthoff about his career and work on the new Netflix film Trigger Warning.


How did you get into composing?

As an 11-year-old, I was amazed by the music in films. I had already taken piano lessons and naturally started improvising on the piano. While watching films, I would memorize the music and melodies, and afterward, I would go to the piano and replay these melodies. At some point I started composing little pieces based on my emotional state—it became a form of emotional journaling for me. This playful approach sparked a deep desire to learn more about film music, leading me to dream of becoming a film composer during my teenage years.

What have been your biggest challenges and your greatest triumphs with the score?

The biggest challenge was finding the right balance for this complex and dynamic action film and our hero, Parker, played by Jessica Alba. Parker is a soldier returning to her hometown after a military mission, only to learn that her father has passed away. Creating the right sound for Parker’s action-filled journey was a challenge I enjoyed, especially while working closely with director Mouly Surya. We asked ourselves how to make the music as immersive as possible while blending epic and intimate musical moments.

Compare and contrast your work in film and television. Which do you prefer and why?

I love feature films because they sparked my love for film music. TV has evolved dramatically over the past decades, offering amazing opportunities to write beautiful music and support inspiring stories.

What I love about feature films is their dramatic arc, which music can elevate and support. TV shows can achieve this as well, especially when they are conceptualized like long films, which I find very appealing. No matter what size or kind of film I try to record solo musicians or small orchestras and make sure the music will sound incredible also on a big sound system.

Is composing for a German production different from Hollywood in terms of how studios work?

Yes, it is different. In a Hollywood studio, more people are involved in the decision-making process about the music. I enjoy integrating different viewpoints, as they can reveal blind spots and make the project’s music and the cinematic experience richer and more complex. While every film needs clear creative decisions, I believe open communication and clear goals can help achieve great results. What I love about Hollywood, or Los Angeles, is the diversity of fantastic creatives from around the world. Here the best filmmakers and teams from the world collaborate, which I find incredibly inspiring. ´Trigger Warning´ is a perfect example for that.

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment to date, and what are your ultimate goals?

My biggest creative accomplishment is my ability to nurture and compose in various musical genres, sometimes blending or unifying them. This creative freedom allows me to continuously discover new sounds and instrumentation for each score. My ultimate goal is to keep evolving and exploring, always pushing the boundaries of what film music can achieve.

Where do you find your inspiration when composing?

I draw inspiration mainly from the film itself—its characters, atmospheres and the story: This creates endless opportunities. I love discussing the film and its vision with the filmmakers. Music can make films not only emotionally accessible but also stylize them and can be used as the filmmaker’s commentary. I try to include all these creative voices into my composing. And, of course, a good cup of coffee can sometimes be all I need for a creative spark.

What sorts of composers inspire you? Are there any you listen to when preparing for a project?

At the beginning of a project, I dive into a research phase, which is sometimes my favorite part. I watch films from the same genre or those dear to the filmmaker I’ll be working with. If the film is set in a specific location or country, I research its musical culture, even if it doesn’t directly influence my music. Sometimes I can get inspired by a piece or song I hear on the radio while driving in the car. So I am open to anything I hear in that phase and try not to think of a box of composers for that phase.

Were there particular areas of the score that were more difficult to compose than others?

For “Trigger Warning,” the most challenging parts were the action sequences. Creating a flow that immerses the audience in the action, required a lot of variation and precise compositions. The stunt choreography was so virtuosic that it inspired me to meticulously follow the action, ensuring it felt unpredictable and dynamic. I loved collaborating with Mouly Surya on this process.

I have always wondered about the workload for a busy composer. Do you work on multiple projects at the same time, or do you complete one before moving on to the next?

I try to focus on one film at a time, especially during the initial phase when I get to know the filmmaker and the creative team. However, films can take a long time to complete, including many months of editing or reshoots. I aim to get involved early to start envisioning a musical world from the start. Sometimes projects overlap, but I am comfortable with that as long as they don’t need to be finished simultaneously. For such situations I have a great scoring team that helps me with the recordings and the mix of the music.

How long was the process of creating music for “Trigger Warning,” and how would you describe the music?

I was involved from the early editing stages, so the score took many months to complete. This extended period allowed director Mouly Surya and me to develop a creative shorthand and truly understand what worked best for the film. The music is a blend of orchestral and electronic elements, infused with Western-inspired guitars, a gritty atmospheric electronic cello, and bold percussion. It has a retro-action feel, combined with cutting-edge electronics and unique sounds to create a new sonic experience.

If you had carte blanche, what would be your dream project?

I am living my dream by working in various film genres and musically adapting to each project. However, I’d love to explore science fiction more, as “Star Wars” was the film that made me want to become a film composer.

What do you like to do when you’re not composing?

I love spending time with my family, having inspiring conversations or walks with friends, enjoying good food and cooking, watching movies, and enjoying a good cappuccino every day.

What do you have coming up next?

Coming up next is a feature film about tennis legends Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. I recorded a string ensemble with two harps and piano for that and I´m excited for audiences to experience that wonderful love story.

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