Composing the musical score for a television show full of hopelessness and destruction might sound like a depressing task, but for USC alumnus Chris Lennertz, it’s been a dream come true.
It’s not just that Lennertz is pursuing his passion for scoring, which he first discovered as a sophomore in the ’90s at the Thornton School of Music. He also happens to be working with his best friend, Eric Kripke, creator of apocalyptic drama Revolution.
Lennertz and Kripke met as pledges in the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Both soon discovered that they shared some similarities: Lennertz was a movie buff and Kripke was a film major. The two bonded over their love of cinema, and the bromance has been going strong ever since.
“We became best friends,” Lennertz said. “I [scored] all of his student films for free.”
Both men have come a long way since their frat days, but even back then both recognized the drive and skill that would later serve them in their careers.
“Chris has always been incredibly talented and an excellent musician and composer,” Kripke said. “When I was at USC and I started making my student films, I grabbed him as quick as I could.”
Lennertz, who graduated from Thornton in 1995, has seemingly always had the talent: After all, he had played music since he was a kid. Still, it took him until his sophomore year in college to realize his passion for composing.
“I was a music major from the beginning, but I was originally a performance major because throughout high school I was mostly playing guitar. When I got to ’SC I started doing more writing and composition,” Lennertz said. “As a sophomore, I got to sneak into a recording session with Henry Mancini at Universal and the next day I went and changed my major and said that’s what I want to do.”
Lennertz’s parents were supportive of his major and his passion, but his mother couldn’t help but remind him that he needed a fallback plan, like a degree in teaching.
Lennertz didn’t see it that way.
“I felt that I was either going to make it or die trying,” Lennertz said.
In pursuit of his vision, Lennertz moved out to Venice Beach after graduation with a couple of friends. A year later, Kripke and three of his friends moved into the same apartment building, a situation Lennertz humorously describes as being “like Melrose Place.”
The continued post-grad interaction proved fortuitous. Composing the music for his best friend’s show has been a great collaborative experience for Lennertz, who uses the characters’ stories as inspiration for his music.
“First and foremost, it’s what I see on screen, which is the picture without music. I always ask Eric or whichever producer I’m dealing with what they’re trying to get out of it,” Lennertz said. “A lot of what we’ve been writing has been about telling the story of this young girl out on her own and with no family trying to save her brother. That informs my decisions. I try to be what the voice on the inside of the character’s head is.”
And even despite his success, Lennertz continues to maintain his ties to USC, giving back to a community that offered him critical opportunities in his time here.
“Throughout the last four or five years I’ve been guest lecturing at least once a semester both at the film school and at the music school. I love to go down there and teach and try to help out,” Lennertz said. “Even after college the first person that I worked for was a USC alumnus. He was my mentor after school and the only reason I got that job was because he was a USC alumnus and he came back and spoke in a class. I feel like the USC family really worked.”
Phoenix Delgado, the assistant dean for advancement at Thornton, finds Lennertz’s success thrilling and sees it as a great enhancement to the profile of USC.
“Any time that one of our graduates goes on to have a significant career in their field it has an incredibly positive impact on USC Thornton and our faculty, staff and students,” Delgado said. “Christopher Lennertz is a perfect example of this, and we are incredibly proud of the success that he is having.”
According to Lennertz, this success stems from two pieces of advice.
“Number one, keep in touch with all of the young talented filmmakers you meet while you’re at USC because that’s how I ended up working with Eric. And then take every opportunity you have to apprentice [under] other USC alumni who are doing what you want to do and learn from them,” Lennertz said. “Expand both your contact base and your education by doing that. … That is the main reason why my career has gone well.”