Talking to Your Composer: 3 Important Tips


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Talking to Your Composer: 3 Important Tips

By Kristen Baum

I’ve met many first-time directors who fear the scoring process or are unfamiliar with it. “I don’t know anything about music or how to talk about it,” they say. This is the reason to hire a film composer. The music-making expertise is left to them and you get to be the expert about your story.

Develop a Common Language

At the heart of the director/composer relationship lies your common language. Talk about your story. About your intention. About the words that describe your story.
Then go deeper. Talk about what those words mean to you. Shared language helps your composer understand your story, your story’s intent and its musical needs. When your composer asks, “What do you mean when you say…” dive in and discuss how you feel about your story and how you want your audience to feel until you’re both clear on what you’re getting at. Don’t be afraid to ask if music can help.

Communicate Intention

The way you speak with your cinematographer or your actor can be an effective way to speak with your composer. Speak in intention. This helps the composer understand what you want—or don’t want—the music to do.

Be Bold About What You Want Music to Communicate

The entire process of filmmaking is about giving the audience information. We do this in many ways, including lighting, set design, costumes and music. Carry the idea of information-giving right through the scoring process. Your film’s score can help the audience attach to characters, allowing audience members to gather and process information. Clearly communicating your intention for music is your goal for achieving the best score for your project.


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A fourth tip -

Be realistic in your expectations

If I asked a film maker to give me something like Blade Runner, in a week, on a budget of I'll buy you lunch, you'd gently set me straight. Here's the musical equivalent...

Film makers often suggest a favourite Oscar-winning symphonic score, or cutting edge custom synth work, as a reference and ask for something similar. Those results can be achieved by spending months composing a full orchestral score, hiring a 70-piece world class professional orchestra and recording the whole thing in a renowned recording studio. Or acquiring vintage synths for a small fortune (each) and spending ages programming them in a studio containing millions of $ worth of kit. Does your budget stretch to that?

Alternatively, the results can be approximated by again spending much time composing, but then using virtual instruments and sample libraries (good ones are expensive) for use on (expensive) computer software that needs a powerful (and expensive) machine, plus (expensive) accessories to run it. Even then, it takes a huge amount of skill (expensively acquired at University and through long experience) and a lot of time tinkering to make the virtual instruments sound convincing. Does your budget cover 100, 200, 300 hours' work for a composer using this method?

But don't despair. Something smaller-scale and simpler can often be just as effective. The Third Man and Arrival are a couple of examples. Be realistic about your funds and expectations, tell your composer what feelings you want to achieve, and he or she will advise you how best that can be done within your budget and timescale.

TL : DR - You can't have the score to Ben Hur for $1000