• Composing for deadlines

    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.



  • The Origin of Trouble

    Over the last two years I was asked to compose music for some amazing projects. One of them however, stood out amongst others for its emotional story. The Origin of Trouble tells the story of a broken family; director Tessa Pope looks for answers to find out why the relationship with her father has been so troubled.
    Late August 2015 I was asked to compose the music for this project. Straight away, the teaser of the movie was shot. The director gave notes that it should be quick, light and most of all funny. I choose to write for a small chamber orchestra, produced with ‘bad’ samples and a few accents played on small percussion instruments. It appeared that it worked out very well and it gave exactely the mood that it needed. Even though it was different from the strategy I used later on in the movie, this theme was recycled and made it to the screen eventually.
    Like every other movie, the score starts with a plan. A good plan is half of all the work there is to be done. Really, this sounds cliche but its so true. So before filming, I started to plan my strategy. The director explained the feeling she wanted to create, and I instantly felt it. As I knew by reading the synopsis and the history of her family, I knew that things could get emotional. On the other side, by knowing the happy and light style the whole picture would get (titles, shots, quick editing ect.), I suspected that I needed to write music that would touch the space between those two contradicted emotions. I never had to change this strategy but I had to change the orchestration though.

    The orchestral score, that wasn’t able to touch the emotional side of the story, made space for guitars. Choosing guitars gave the freedom to cover all the emotions I wanted to give to the story. I don’t know exactly how I started to pick guitars but I know that it was inspired by Sufjan Stevens, Elliott Smith and Bon Iver. They all give their music a sort of oblivious and eternal feeling. Their sound is sober, but the emotional weight their songs bring is huge.

    I threw overboard the orchestral part, and started writing interludes for the 8mm footage inspired on Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Should Have Known Better’. Silvan de Smit played the classical guitar, and I played the Ukelele during the studio session. Because the story gets darker, I wrote the second and third theme in a lower key, and left out some instruments to make it more sober. Mind the synthesizer (korg 800ex) giving the pad sound and adding to this ‘longing back to those days’ feeling. Luckily It wasn’t removed in the mix (director joked: what does this sound tell us? an incoming alien invasion?).
    I was able to buy a second hand bad tuned mandolin of ebay, bought a Höfner Ukelele and wrote ‘You and Me’, to enforce the romantic line in the beginning of the movie. This mandolin was also used in the main title called ‘Our Home’. Because sudden changes in the production, the movie got on hold during the second week of the editing process. Because the studio was already booked, I was still writing the theme for a movie that wasn’t edited yet, the night before recording! Luckily this worked out well (fix it in the mix), and I was able to record the title song on a resonator guitar in open E. Mind that the credit theme at the end of the movie is also the same theme used in the opening sequence. This is part of the same strategy; to connect the beginning and the ending. The extended theme of the Origin of Trouble – ‘Our Home’, that I recorded with Selle Sellink (artwork by Roel Meijering) is now on Spotify and iTunes!