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Does anyone write to picture anymore?

I studied at the London Film School to be able to write music to picture - I'm starting to feel like I should have studied being a chimney sweep or a thatcher! Does anyone do this any more (it was a few years ago!)? Or is it a lost art? Or maybe a dead art?

Scene 1:
Composer sits in studio with picture-locked movie embedded in Logic Pro (on expensive computer). Timeline is pre-prepared and scenes are marked. The Director is admiring an original Japanese Blade Runner poster on the wall. There are two keyboards, many guitars, two monitor screens, lots of musical toys laying around, hey, wait a minute, that's my studio!

Composer: Well, thanks for coming over, it's really good of you. I think the best place to start is to chat about what you like, what sort of score you'd like, what you want in terms of mood, that sort of thing?

Director: I'd like 22 minutes of scary, 3 and a half minutes of loving, and about 30 seconds of anything you like to go under the credits, please.

Cut to black.

Don't get me wrong, I can knock out a tune if I need to, but what happened to music in movies saying the things the characters can't say, delivering the emotion that the actors are feeling?

Go on then, SP, discuss!

  • Sounds rather sad to be honest.
    I had a simillar experience as an editor where I got engaged at the end of the film and at first the director didn't really listen much to my suggestions but became more and more aware of what we can do together as he started listening to me. I had to explain everything I suggested (which makes sense) but we managed to make a decent movie in the end.
    So what I think at this point is that our role is also one of teaching. We need to teach them that there are other ways of doing it and that the result is ten times better this way.
    You will be "the smart guy" from the beginning, but don't give up. Sooner or later there will be results.

    2 years ago
  • That director is an idiot. If that's his attitude, why not just buy those minutes from a music library?

    Composers should be brought on as early as money allows. Having said that, most composers I know would want to come on really early, even if the money is a flat rate. They can start developing themes and ideas before the director shoots a frame of film. They want that score to be as good as it can be, even if money is lacking. The sad thing is, post schedules are extremely short, and that doesn't give the composer time to work. That means he/she is going to their shelf to pull something that "kind of" fits. I really hate that. It's amazing that there is a director that actually WANTED that. For a feature that has a lot of cues and no needle drops, 6 months is a solid amount of time. But that doesn't exist any more.

    I make sure the composer is in on the sound spotting session. He'll get a better idea of how his score fits into the entire sound scape of the film. Then we'll have our own private spotting session just for the music.

    In the future, Kim, ask the director when he wants to do a spotting session. Then he can google "what is a spotting session?" before your meeting. I think the majority of filmmakers make a film before they have the basic knowledge of how to do that. It's up to professionals like you to gently educate them. What Maj said about picture editing is true for me as well. It is a real headache to teach while working, but sometimes it is necessary.

    2 years ago
  • Dudes! Thanks for your input - couple of points, if you'll indulge me. First, Maj, thanks for your support, but I went to the LFS in 1992, and I was really just asking if anyone else misses the time when music was written to picture. I'm not disheartened, just starting out, I'm old and ugly and wondering if anyone ever asks for the music to go bump when our hero goes bump. Second, Dan, that director is imaginary, but also, see "first" above - I know how to manage this, it's just no-one asks to do it anymore, it's all about placement.

    2 years ago
    • I'm not sure he's really imaginary! ;)

      To me, the worst scores are the ones the broadcast how the audience is suppose to be feeling, instead of supporting the underlying emotion of the character.

      Why not just do it, whether they ask or not? If done right, cues and stingers can really uplift the picture.

      2 years ago
  • I went to the London Film School back in 1964 and we didn't include music in the course then and didn't expect it either but I was lucky in having Malcolm Arnold teaching music at my school :-) and I've now got John Scott composing for my :-) :-))

    2 years ago