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Film Music in Pre-Production

Discussion in 'Film School 101' started by David Rubenstein, Mar 31, 2021.

  1. I've been enjoying Film School 101, trying to understand how the structure of the score should follow the structure of the film. So, this brings me to ask the following question:

    I've been working with a director of a short film in the pre-production stage. This is a short film (20 minutes maybe). He doesn't want a lot of music, just a few cues lasting a couple of minutes each. The director wants to imitate how Sergio Leone directed, and worked with Morricone on the spaghetti westerns. That is to say, he wants me to compose the film score first, and then he will shoot the scenes to fit the score. The director sent me a copy of the script, so that I can understand the story and get some idea of the moods he wants to project. He also pointed me toward a number of classic film scenes, and asked me to compose music that imitates the mood and style of the scores that are used in those scenes. Can this work in practice? (Neither he nor I are film geniuses!) Has anybody here ever worked like this? How credible is it to compose music with only the script in hand? It is difficult for me to know the pace of the story, the texture of the dialog, and the exact moods he wants to create.
     
  2. What Sergio Leone had in common with all other directors of his era was that he was musically literate and understood the function of music as an essential storytelling device. Actually going the step further and having music created beforehand is an extension of that existing philosophy, not the root of it. The process itself of doing this is irrelevant.

    Music is no longer used as a storytelling device, because there's virtually nobody trained in doing this anymore. Music is now a bed; something underneath. Directors no longer turn entire scenes over to music to tell complex emotional stories, which was commonplace for the previous hundred some years. But this is because the directors no longer grow up listening to everything from Peter and the Wolf to Rite of Spring such that they understand what music is capable of conveying.

    Nothing you've told us about the director indicates an actual understanding of the power and potential of music. And without that, who gives a shit how you execute it?
     
  3. In the very small amount of time I've been working in this industry I'm starting to think that a lot of directors or filmmakers in general don't know how to use anything to tell a good story. I've had so many directors go "okay I'm going to shoot the film like (insert a popular artsy film that everyones talking about at the time)" and when you ask them why 9/10 the response is "because it looks cool." My follow up question is then always "okay, do you know why the director made those choices" and the answer is always "no" and they never bother to look it up.

    There was a film I was supposed to be editing and the director wanted to talk to me and the cinematographer on how to cover the shoot and he said he wanted a lot of wide angles and very little cuts just like Roma. I tried to explain why that was a bad idea because he was inexperienced and Roma is a very particular kind of film and the director explained the reason he shot it like that was that ontop of following the characters story he wanted it shot almost like a photograph to capture the time period and the culture. There were also a tonne of technical issues that I tried to point out to which he nodded, agreed, then totally ignored everything I said and went in without a shot list. Safe to say, the film didn't turn out very well. It also didn't help that he refused to call the actors by their real name and only referred to them as their characters which pissed off the actors and everyone on set. Everyone who came into the edit suite to hand me the shuttle drives hated that shoot.

    Then there was a student film I worked as a DIT where they had a budget of £3,000 and they wasted £1,000 on the pina calada song. Why? Who knows, it didn't fit the film, but it cut into the lunch budget and we all had half a baguette for lunch and we had to work through it all because they were so far behind schedule because they wanted eery single shot to be on a gimbal and, again, no shot list.

    It baffles me, I thought that with everything going digital the convenience would make everyone work a bit smarter and make life easier but more often than not it's making people more lazy. Probably because it's cheaper doing everything digitally so the stakes don't feel as high. Then to make matters worse these garbage films will win a film festival, boosting the egos of the people who worked on it and then on the next project when you try to suggest something they come in with "I won such and such a film festival." Then you go home and do your research, check out the other entries and find out that out of all the turds that were on display that one just seemed to be the one that wasn't the worst.

    Sorry David, I realise I might have went on a tangent there and it's not completely relevant to the question, just when I saw Mike's reply it unleashed a rant I've been sitting on for the past 5 years...And that's the abridged version. Obviously I've no idea what that directors skills are but I hope the film turns out well and that you enjoy working on it.
     
  4. It's not that it makes people lazy, it's that it enables people who otherwise wouldn't have made the cut to now get into the game. The trick is weeding these people out.

    It's been a while since I've done freelance composing or freelance anything other than coding but but I don't believe it's gotten better since then.

    I remember early 2010s when house music became really popular, cheap studio speakers were decent, cheap software synths became decent and well supported, and suddenly anyone with $1000 could make music and publish it. Beatport became a nightmare to navigate through. You would have to sift through tens of hours of garbage to find one decent song.

    It's always about finding your audience. I'd wager their size today proportional to the overall population is the same, the downside is that they're tempted everyday to join the mainstream and the noise makes it harder to find them.

    It's always going downwards, because of profits. Everywhere, everyone I talk to (game devs, web devs etc.), it's about becoming accessible to as many people as possible.

    I'm pretty sure we have at least a couple of Samuel Barbers or Tchaikovskys today, it's just a damn nightmare to even begin looking for 'em.
     

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