It’s true what they say. First impressions count. Sight is the primary sense and it takes just moments to make a judgement call. As humans, we’re exceptionally good at this. You judged this article within minutes of seeing the image and title. (I’m delighted you’ve read this far. Stay with me. It gets better.)
Film is about immersing your viewer in a sensory experience and manipulating their emotions. For that you need music. Music enhances emotion, whether it’s tension during an action sequence or euphoria during a moment of triumph.
Our most adored and awarded films have exceptionally compelling and memorable scores. We can recall in an instant the music to Mission Impossible and Chariots of Fire. We can ‘dum-da-dum’ to Harry Potter, Star Wars and The Pink Panther.
Music forms an integral part of our viewing experience. Just as an actor’s performance can enhance a script, musical performance can enhance a film.
It’s so vital to the success of a film, it can be what stands between a brilliant screenplay and an award-winning film.
Baptiste Charles-Aubert recently wrote that all you can do right now is write, make, release and repeat the film making journey and not to concentrate on award season.
We agree. Audience experience always comes before an award.
But if you’re ready to take your film to the next level, be aware that your score could be holding you back.
Here are 5 ways it could be – and how to put it right.
1. You forgot to budget
If sound is 50% of the experience, why should music get 0% of the budget? It’s misguided to leave your film’s music without a penny in the pot. As Celine Palavioux says in her article ‘5 Tips of Clearing Music for your Film’, “whether you are clearing commercial music via synchronisation licences or commissioning a composer to write a score, you will need to pay for whatever music you want to use”. She recommends assigning 10% of the total film budget to music. A smart move.
2. You’re only using synthetic sounds
Just as an actor’s delivery of a line changes the impact of a scene, the way an instrument is played affects the delivery of the music. While there’s a cost implication to using real musicians versus synthesised sounds, the difference is always worth it. In fact, in my experience this is one award-winning ‘upgrade’ your film certainly deserves. Simply layering a real violin with a sampled orchestra can make all the difference. Check out this Real vs. Fake article for a listen to the difference.
3. You left it too late
The earlier you’re able to work with a composer, the better your music will be. Even if you’ve not finalised your edit, know they’ll be changes or are unsure of the direction, your composer needs to understand the very essence of the film – grasping your vision is vital. Include them early on, share your dream for the film and let them get under the skin of your creative vision. The results will elevate the music and with it, your film.
4. You kept your composer at a distance
It follows that you need to work closely with your composer. You’re asking them to translate words and ideas into music. Keep them at a distance and they’ll struggle to interpret your concepts accurately. Invite them in, be honest and vulnerable – a composer will never expect you to have all the answers and will welcome the opportunity to problem solve with you.
5. You chose the wrong composer
As a fellow creative, there’ll be instant synergies between yourself and your composer but there could be untold differences further down the line. Look for a composer who’s self-aware, their own toughest critic, has a good few years’ experience under their belt and understands your genre. Do they listen to understand, or listen to reply? That can reveal a lot about ego, confidence and capability. Above all, trust your judgement.
5 Ways to Help Your Score Secure You an Award
To take your film’s music to the next level, and maybe even secure an award this year, keep these top tips in mind:
- Allocate around 10% of the total budget to music
- Upgrade to real musicians at every opportunity
- Plan your music from the outset – don’t leave it till last
- Work closely with your composer
- Ensure there’s a good vibe
About Jim Hustwit
Jim Hustwit writes music to Move, Motivate and Inspire. He is a Composer, Producer and Musical Director with experience in TV, Film and Theatre. To find out more visit www.larpmusic.co.uk or follow him on Twitter.