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Composers: how do you choose?

With a genuine sense of curiosity, I'd like to know how you as a director or producer finally select your composer?
I've worked successfully in the industry for a number of years and with a broad range of directors, but nothing remains the same for long.
I'm also interested to know how you, fellow composers, made the grade?
Thanks for indulging me and I look forward to reading your thoughts...

  • Justin, The first criteria would be hearing a composition show-reel that sounds like what I need. This proves the person can actually do the work I might need in that genre of composition.

    My situation is different than most coming from the music industry and knowing people but I would always advise what I've said above. If I'm looking for John Williams/Hans Zimmer then they better have done work that sounds like John Williams/Hans Zimmer. Or on the other end of things Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross. I look for the show-reel that proves they can do what I need or close to it.

    Other than this , putting out the word to my industry contacts that I need (as an example) a Trent Reznor type composer, and then, again, listening to their reel.

    3 months ago
    • Thanks for taking the time to reply to my question George. It's an interesting consideration and I wonder how many pairings are successfully completed through this site.
      Your reply also makes me curious about the levels of creative freedom directors allow composers they choose to work with. Are Directors selecting because of a sound alike or because the showreel is closer to another composer's 'sound'?

      3 months ago
    • @Justin Wildridge Like George said the creative freedom is within parameters. Usually directors know what style or genre of music they want for their film early on, based on what they feel best complements the storytelling and theme as well as the visual and emotional tone of the film. So, let's say a director has decided they want jazz music, they'll go looking for a composer that has a good level of jazz on their reel. If a composer's reel is mostly orchestral it's unlikely they'll be selected to do a jazz sountrack. Once you agree on the style of music than of course it becomes a creative conversation on the sounds, rhythm, pace etc. where I believe the composer should have the freedom to bring their own suggestions and ideas to the table.

      3 months ago
  • Hi Justin,
    There are fashions/trends in what is popular in regard to soundtracks, just as grading, sound mixing and editing stlyes, which are driven by the latest highly succesful films. Its not a bad idea to focus on one film genre and to try and establish yourself as the go to person say for, horror films, action etc,. as for example directors usually establish themselves in one particular film genre to make a name for themselves, i.e. Hitchcock thrillers, M. Night Shyamalan for sophisticated horror films etc,. but there are always people that try to be like Kubrick that bounce from one masterpiece in one genre to the next but they are the very, very rare exception to the rule.
    Regards Ray

    3 months ago
  • Justin, I think there is creative freedom within parameters. I will guide my composer and there is a collaboration. He knows what I want, and there is a give and take. Music and sound design are so essential to the success of my film that in the end I have to know that it works for me or I'll change it until it does. Again, I am likely more involved in this than other directors because I come from a life in music.

    As far as SP, there are some great people here, but like everything else you have to look at who may contact you. I personally believe you should not take unpaid work as a composer unless it is something truly extraordinary (which is sort of an oxymoron) because if it is, then money will be in place to begin with. You deserve to get paid. I've been with the MPG for over 20 years now, the Music Producers Guild. Is there a professional organization like that for film composers? Maybe BASCA?
    Or even BAFTA? If you can join an organization like these and network and meet other real professionals it will be worth it.

    In any case whether you're a film director, a music composer or a record producer, any creative field, you have to be absolutely relentless.

    3 months ago
  • Thanks again George and Ray for taking the time to discuss. Your advice is also greatly appreciated. I think that your comment George about the need to be 'absolutely relentless' is a neat and accurate summary of the way the film world works.

    3 months ago