How early in the editing process do preliminary cuts need to be ready, are they necessary to get started?
This depends on what the director wants the composer to do. If the director wants the music to be used as transitions for scene changes and to indicate entry and exit at specific times, the composer will need the final cut. This will give the best results.
The director can give the composer a rough draft so that he / she can come up with ideas for the score. Sometimes great directors don't even let the composer see the movie, they don't even mention what the movie is called. The music is based solely on communication about emotions, keywords and simplified versions of the scenes described.
Typically the composer will make a full suite, full length compositions and the music editor will cut the music and edit it on film, creating their own in and out points with the composer's music.
How long does it take for a composer to finish the original music for a feature film?
Generally, a composer has six weeks to score the music of a movie. Depending on the music budget, the composer focuses solely on writing the music if the budget allows.
If it's a low-budget movie, the composer also has to mix and master the soundtrack, which takes the same time as writing the music itself.
If the composer knows in advance that he has to do all the mixing and mastering, then he or she will plan accordingly and not focus too much on each track.
If the composer is on a budget to hire a mixing and mastering engineer, then the composer can focus on more complex tracks and really focus on making the best possible soundtrack.
Directors tend to panic when a composer has nothing to report to them, especially after a few weeks. Sometimes it takes a while for the ball to roll, but once it does, it's easy to navigate from there.
When you are working with a filmmaker for the first time, do you usually prefer to see a draft before accepting the project?
Absolutely. Very often, the script is not what is reflected on the screen for various reasons, and the music can help you get back to what you expected in the first place.
There may not be the proper chemistry, emotion, or tension that the script seems to have or seems to promise. But music can bring out those qualities.
The music interacts with the images, not only following the script. So you really need the images and a good idea of how they flow and the kind of story you're telling before you worry too much about the music.
When working with a director and producer for the first time, do you have a set of guidelines that you give them?
Absolutely. The guidelines have nothing to do with musical terminology; it's more about how to think about music and what it does in the movie. There are four basic questions, which are always good questions to come back to when in doubt about how to talk about music at a particular point in the movie.
For each moment in the movie, one should be able to approach that moment with these four questions:
1) What is missing if we don't put music here?
2) What do you want the audience to feel?
3) What is the energy supposed to be?
4) What is the point of view?
Should I invest in original music for my project?
I suppose as a director you have already answered the question "Am I going to have a custom soundtrack for my film?" And to be honest, if he hasn't passed it, it's a valid question for him to ask.
It's pretty easy to find unlicensed music, library music, or even pre-existing music and get permission to use it in no time (sometimes for a fee, of course), and the real question is about context.
If the movie requires a dramatic score, something to add to the mood, then you may find it difficult (though not impossible) to find some existing music that might work.
You may also want to use music to fix the movie at a particular time (as Scorsese did at Goodfellas). But using well-known hit songs will be expensive! My argument (and I have great interest, of course) is that it is always better to have a piece of music written specifically for your scene: the music should play when our hero does, and the music can guide and direct the audience towards a mood or action.
For a new filmmaker, the processes for using music that is already published and in the world can be complicated: record labels and publishers are not always easy to find, much less deal with. There are many music libraries that offer music for a fee and do the paperwork for you. But there are also many composers who will be willing to work on your film, happy to provide examples of their work and demonstrate some sketches in their writing.
Many of them will have standard agreements that can show you that they will give you permission to use the music (and, to be honest, the chances of financial rewards from a short film's winnings are slim, so the money side of things will be less of a problem than otherwise).
But hopefully you'll get more from a composer than just the score: sketches and options for the actual signs, a musical view of the project, examples, and ideas from other work that could inspire or influence directors' thoughts on the film.
So we'll assume you've settled on a score written by a composer just for your movie, and you and I are talking again!
What can the composer do to help me?
As a film composer, I have met and worked with many directors and producers in the world of film and video games, and there are a wide variety of challenges that a director faces.
The composer's job is fairly straightforward in comparison; Obviously, there are creative and practical challenges for the composer, but the complexity of the film-making process is overwhelming. And I think part of the role of a composer should be to try to make the musical part of the project as easy as possible for the director.
The other parts of the composer's role are writing a score that supports the director's vision for the film, writing tracks that stick and tie together so that the entire score is one piece, and hopefully getting a bit of the voice of the filmmaker. composer in music without detracting from the film.
To achieve any of these things, the composer must understand the director's message, what the film is trying to say. If the director does not have a broad musical vocabulary, then it is up to the composer to help him. Of course, every director and every project is different, but there are some lessons that I have learned that I pass on in the hope that they can help.
What can I do to help the composer?
Some things that have worked for me are:
Think about the music from the beginning! Get the composer on board early.
I was lucky enough to work with directors who did just that, and I was able to visit the set, think about what I was going to do, feel involved with the film, read the script, I have even recorded sounds in location to use for a drum track. But above all, the more time the composer has to think about it, the more options the director will have.
And the composer will understand if the director does not have time to answer questions, listen to sketches, comment and reassure. Or at least I'd hope they would, if they'd been on set and seen the director at work juggling all those calls on his time.
When I first learned to write in pictures, there was always a spot session, with a finished edit, and a group of people would look at the cut and decide where it might need music, roughly classify what the scenes would be like, talk about emotions, etc.
Today, that does not happen in the same way, because the scenes come to us through the Internet. But there was something else that happened in the spotting sessions, and that was the director, editor, producer, and composer sitting in a room (often crouching uncomfortably around a Steenbeck!) And talking about the movie.
So my first tip is to try to find time to talk to your composer about the movie, the story arc, and the movie's message from him.
Sometimes the editor will edit an existing piece of music. This sometimes works for the composer and sometimes it doesn't. If the director likes reference music, then on the one hand it is a clear indication of what the director wants it for the scene.
On the other hand, the director may want exactly that piece of music and the composer ends up wasting his time, making it more difficult to make sense of all the scenes in each other.
What if I'm uncomfortable talking about music?
There is an additional challenge, which is that it is sometimes difficult to pin down why a piece of music works for the target audience. The beauty in music is in the ear of the listener! Here are some basic music terms that you may know, but might help. Some of the basic components of musical pieces are:
Tempo: the speed of the music. Tempo can be expressed in mostly Italian terms, such as slow, allegro, presto.
Melody: the melody. Some are happy, others can be sad. Some scenes in the movie need to be in a neutral mood to avoid getting ahead of the action. There is a technique in film composition called Mickey Mousing that comes from early animated films in which the music exactly followed the action. Most movie soundtracks don't do that, but this musical technique will come in handy to direct the audience a bit when needed.
Harmony: the chords that surround the melody. Harmony can completely change the feel of the melody: a neutral melody can be transformed by harmonic treatment, so a happy chord is usually higher, while a more melancholic one is usually minor. A change from major chords to minor chords can change the mood of a piece as demonstrated perfectly by Cole Porter in Every Time We Say Goodbye, where the chords change from major to minor when those words are sung in the chorus. I'm not suggesting that you need to understand how this works, but rather that it can be done.
Rhythm: the rhythm at which the music moves. In pop music, this would be a drum kit or drum loops, but in music that does not have percussion or drum arrangements, the rhythm that the melody follows gives the music a feel. In its simplest form, this is the number of beats in each phrase or measure. 3 beats is a waltz beat like "The Blue Danube" used for the 2001 Space Station Docking scene: A Space Odyssey; 4-beat is typical of most pop music. 5 beats jump a bit, like Dave Brubeck's Take 5 for jazz or Led Zeppelin's Four Sticks for rock, both examples of what a rhythm that uses 5 beats in one measure sounds like. Again, it's about how rhythm can change the feel of a piece.
Arrangement: the instruments used to play the melody. A simple arrangement with very few instruments can often be very powerful, while a full orchestra is powerful in a completely different way. A good example of a small ensemble would be Ry Cooder's score for Paris, Texas. Any John Williams score will be a full orchestra, while Thomas Newman's work exploits both.
Instrument choice can also be key: think Anton Karas's zither score for The Third Man, or Cliff Martinez's score for Solaris, which used dark instruments like a custom-made bell-shaped tubular metallophone and a Crystal Baschet), google them, they are amazing!
How will I know that the music will be delivered on time?
It's worth keeping in regular contact, if only to make sure production progress is being made. One of the concerns that I have heard from directors and producers is: How do I know that the music will be what I want and it will be delivered on time?
One answer is to agree on a schedule with the composer: get him to give you a plan, and then keep checking that everything is on time. And regular conversations can only help while the music is developing and recording. I guess the important thing is to agree with your composer on what fees he wants, so he sets his expectations for how often he will want to register.
The composer will probably not expect to deliver a finished score to you without any input from you, and they will welcome your thoughts and ideas on the score as it evolves.
As for the content, don't be afraid to participate. In almost every project I've worked on external information is valuable and useful, as long as there aren't too many people involved it gets confusing! But getting exactly what you want, if you are clear about it, will take some time on your part to make sure the composer understands what he needs.
What happens if I change the edit of the montage?
Hey, these things happen. I wouldn't wait until the edit is finally locked to inform the composer, and especially if it's short, there won't be too many tracks, so the changes won't be too much work; an experienced composer will not. surprised by this kind of change, and a less experienced composer should get used to it!
The edit changes so the only alternative would be to wait to start writing the music until the edit is locked and while that's fine I'd rather make changes to the scenes rather than wait that long. But you can have a conversation about that beforehand if he thinks there might be late editing changes.
What will the composer deliver?
First are the digital music files.
There are several audio file formats that you can receive, but you need to ensure that the music is mastered in the highest quality possible and delivered to you uncompressed. This means that the files will be large. Commonly used file formats are WAV, AIFF, AU, or PCM. A WAV format file is approximately 10 times the size of an MP3 file.
The paperwork should include a track list, some authorization forms, and the license to use the music. The track list is a list of all the pieces of music that have been submitted, generally containing the following details:
Production details: the name of the project, the name of the director together with the contact details, the company that carries it out, if any, the name of the composer and the contact details.
Scene details: For each scene, there should be a name, an indication of its use, for example, main title, background, theme, ending title, the duration of the scene, and the instrumentation used.
The track list is also a good way to check that you have all the correct release forms - this is a document in which all the musicians who have played the tracks have given you permission to use their performance in the music.
Lastly, there are the composer license forms, which allow you to use the work that the composer has created.
What will I do if everything goes wrong?
I think if you have the right person and you agree on what the soundtrack will be like, along with a clear plan, everything should be fine, and this won't even come out. It is also very exciting to see the music unfold and hopefully add a new dimension to your image.
However, despite everyone's best efforts, you may run into problems. My advice is to talk to the composer about this, explain what his concerns are and establish a plan to solve it, but reminding him that time is running out at this stage.
Ultimately, this is your project, and you should be as happy as possible with the result, so you have every right to get as close to what you want as possible, and you have the right to find and use other music.