After I finished, the guy asked me “so, do you want to do the score for the movie too..?”
I’d never done anything like that before. My first reaction was to be as excited as shit. I mean, holy fuck! I was in my twenties, I’d never studied music, and all of a sudden I had been given the opportunity to write film score.
My next emotion was just plain fear. I was fucking scared! I’m not a professional so I had no idea how it was going to go!
“It was a magical first time, and I just fell in love.”
The First Time
I remember this one night when I got together with the director and the orchestrator. I remember trying to nervously asking the orchestrator “Is it alright? Is there something we can do to salvage it?”
To which he replied “No it’s fine. I’m not actually changing much at all. We just need to make it readable for the musicians.”
The feeling for me was simply “Holy Shit! Did I just write that?”
After the very last piece was recorded, the conductor looked back to me and the director as if to ask “Was that okay, or shall we go again?” I also glanced at the director, who looked emotionally moved by the entire experience. It was then, when I realised I’d never had this much power before, to control people’s emotions with the work that I’m doing.
From that first project onwards, I decided that I should probably focus on learning more music theory. I come from a fairly unmusical family, and have never been to musical school. So I just got myself loads of books, and for one or two years I just studied it by myself. I would ask people a million questions about how things were done and what things mean. This helped me to realise how things were linked. It helped me to understand better which scales worked together, and come up with these things quicker, which is really important for film score because you always have a limited amount of time to work on it…
How To Write Film Score
In the beginning I come up with MIDI “mock-ups”. These are basically small versions of each piece of music, without using real performers. The budgets are just too small to do it any other way.
When I first receive the video files for a film, I put them in my program and I try to understand the pacing of the editing. Is it fast-paced? Is it slow? What’s the build up? Where are the emotional cues that I need to follow?
And it’s right here that the problems may arise. If the script is bad, or the actors aren’t professional, or if nobody gives a shit, then there isn’t any emotion in the film.
“I think my record for making a movie score was one day”
The director then gives feedback and very often asks for edits. And after that you work closely with the director and keep going backwards and forwards to make sure it fits what he’s searching for.
There have been some scores which I did for three weeks, non-stop. Others take me just a week. I think my record for making a movie score was one day – this took twenty hours of constant work. It was a relatively short and easy project, but I wanted to test myself. I wanted to see how quickly it could be done whilst maintaining a high standard. It was an attempt to see where my limits are.
A day in my life
At the beginning of a new project, if I can see it’s going well, I tend to take more off time. This just gives me sufficient time to clear my head.
There’s a special feeling. When you’re working on something which is kind of close to you, especially when it’s a creative thing, I tend to find it very difficult to let go and do something else if I’m really in the zone. That means often I actually skip lunch.
“I usually try to keep working until my head starts slowing down.”
I tend to be far more creative in the evening and at night so I usually use the days to do more technical work. This means doing mixing and orchestral re-harmonising in the morning because my head is a bit clearer and prone to seeing things differently. Then in the evening, after 5:00pm, I become far more creative. I might start working on new cues or bouncing around new ideas. I’ll usually get to sleep around midnight, but sometimes I’ll just keep working until 3:00am.
It depends on my mood and how my mojo is going. If you’re feeling inspired and you’re on a roll, then why stop? Just keep going until you fall asleep or something.
Why Film Composition?
There are times I remember when I went for a long period of time, perhaps weeks or even months where I didn’t compose anything. Instead I did other stuff, like working on my masters or other non-musical stuff, and I noticed that over time I get considerably more frustrated. Yet as soon as I started composing and arranging things, I felt happy within a matter of seconds. I think this is the main thing with any job, if you find something that makes you happy, and of course it needs to pay the bills too, then do that!
I think this is the biggest downside of my job. There are projects which come your way which you really don’t like, but because you have to make money, you still have to take these projects.
But I honestly feel that if I had to do any 9-5 office job that I didn’t enjoy, then I would actually be fairly unhappy in life. You know that you’ve got to do that for forty fucking years of your life. This is why I think creativeness, at least for me, is inherently satisfying. That means if I can make my money and my living out of something satisfying, then I guess that’s the ultimate goal.
About 500 Coffees ☕️
I'm on a mission to get coffee with 500 strangers from all over the world. I want to speak to humans everywhere about their lives and how they experience the world. And cafes are the perfect place for this. Comfortable, cosy, illuminated with a cacophony of other human voices.
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