People often ask: ‘how do you start with a film composition?’. A question can understand too well, as I asked it myself over again before I started writing for film. Most of the time a project starts with spotting. Just to find out which of the scenes are in need of music. Whenever these places are established, the editor and composer sometimes work with a temporary as a guideline for the score that has to be written.
A temptrack is an existing music track that is temporary synced with the film for guideline purpose only.
Easy right? Yes, but no. The first major pitfall is copying. During the editing, directors sometimes hear the temptrack so many times, it is almost impossible for them to adapt to anything the composer comes up with. They reject the original score, in search for something else, but what they want they are really looking for is actually the temptrack itself. This is a dangerous situation for composers as they are not really composing anymore. You can’t blame the director for this, as they have to watch the edit a thousand times. No wonder the temptrack gets stuck in their head. A demo [quickly composed piece mostly in low productional quality] is often used to prevent this appearance. It takes more time to create, but it might save you time that would otherwise have been spent copying. Clearly it is more fruitful to work on the basis of an idea, then of an existing piece. On the other hand, it is always fun having a temptrack in a style that is way out of your comfort zone. By doing a style research, it gives you the possibility master a certain style. It gives you the opportunity to go way out of your comfort zone.
I’d advise both director as composer to work as soon as possible with a composed demo, and leave the temptrack out in an early stage already.
So how close do the final music score sound like the temptrack? In this video you can see clear examples of what might have been the temptrack of a view blockbusters. Unfortunately some of them are almost identically. Is this a wrong way of film scoring? The creators of this video essay say it is the cause that nobody remembers a theme of any ‘Marvel’-movie these days.
I think the key is to get as close to the feeling as possible by:
1.) Listen the temptrack maybe once or twice.
2.) In an early phase, switch the temptrack with your own demos
3.) Don’t get used to the temptracks.
This month I produced the music for a commercial, where the director and the editor asked if I had any temptracks in mind. For a long time I wanted to write a mandolin/banjo/ukelele track, and this video gave me the cause to do so! In my temptrack library I saved the ‘Casual Soundtrack’ written by mateo Messina and Rolfe Kent, and delivered it as temp. The result is comparable in the final video, and the temptrack (‘Casual’ starting at 2:00).29 oktober 2016
Deadlines in the film industry. Working together in a crew makes deadlines inescapable. For the two commercials at the bottom of this page, there was one week to compose, produce and record the scores. I was able to finish the job with these goals:
1.) Set your goals, but don’t set them long-term!
Before and in the edit-phase, things can change fast. The ideas of directors often changes a lot. When time is of the essence, it is not fruitful to write full scores, just to find out that the director is skipping the scene in the next edit anyway. Work with temp tracks (already composed music, that will work as guide in the edit), or write demo’s! Contact your crew!
2.) Find out what works for you.
Composing music is a sport. You have to be fit to do the job. You can’t spend your weekend in the club, only to find out the next day that your deadline is due the day after tomorrow. You should get enough sleep to keep your brain creative. Of course an 8-hour sleep and an early wake-up to start your day writing sounds ideal, but might not always be the right thing to do. It is also possible to change shift and work through the night, to stay in the flow. These shifts work for me, but find out what works for you!
3.) Be honest.
Some things might not work. Whenever the director picks Bernard Herman as temptrack, you might need more budget or time to get the job done. Tell the producers about it, be honest, and come up with alternatives.
If you stay true to these goals, it might save you some tears.8 september 2016