How You Can Make Contemporary, Iconic Film Musicals

You’ve guessed it, our Genre Format Series (working title) Extraordinaire has reached the week we’ve all been waiting for… MUSICALS week! Now, we all love a musical, whether its Disney or a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers classic, but have we ever considered making one ourselves? As filmmakers, it’s our job to break the mould and explore different ways to make films and pick the genres to best tell our stories. Therefore, our genre series is here to help you, once again, in understanding genres and how they can work for you. This week, Kat and Dušan are back with (perhaps) the best video yet, giving you the lowdown on the musical genre and how you can continue to make iconic contemporary musicals…


The style of music you choose to use reflects upon the style of your narrative and the way in which you want the audience to interpret your story. Styles vary, and have evolved throughout cinema history, so there’s no limits to what you can do with a contemporary film musical. Whether you choose to tell your story through rock, opera, pop, jazz, rap, or a mixture of the above, each style brings with it its own connotations, so choose wisely as the music you choose can tell the audience a lot about your character.

rocky horror


Will you have songs throughout, or interspersed with dialogue? A completely sung musical has a very different feel to one that uses songs at only certain moments in the film. What do you want the songs to illustrate to the audience and how will your narrative translate best to your audience? These are all things to think of when you go about writing your film. As long as your songs advance your narrative, you have complete freedom over your structure. If you’re using the songs for comedic value or to offer an insight into a character’s mindset, think about where these songs are best placed to elicit the reaction you want.

greatest showman


A lot of musical films incorporate choreographed dance routines into the film, so it’s worth considering whether this is something you want to do. Films like The Last Five Years and Les Miserables rely less on dance numbers and more on a sense of realism through the emotion of the actors and the songs and translating that to the camera. However, films such as West Side Story, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Singin’ In The Rain amongst others, feature huge dance numbers and complex choreography to make the songs more of a spectacle.

west side story

Costume & Staging

The production value of musicals can vary, however, it is common that at least one number will incorporate elaborate costume design and staging. The Greatest Showman used a lot of green screen editing to produce the visuals needed for the musical numbers, and think of the production design required for Moulin Rouge and La La Land. Consider how you want your film to look and whether the musical numbers will be in-keeping with the style of your film or whether they will illustrate another style, perhaps a dream sequence or a surreal version of reality, such as in ‘Broadway Melody’ from Singin’ In The Rain.

Moulin Rouge

Reemergence of Contemporary Musicals

With the recent box office and critical successes of films like The Greatest Showman, La La Land and Beauty and The Beast, the industry has clearly identified that there is still a market for musical films in contemporary society. Here at Raindance, we have had some great musical entries, so if you are thinking of making one, why not try and stand out from the crowd and make your vision a reality? Musicals offer another element to your narrative and can give you creative freedom beyond the realm of realism, so don’t be afraid to explore how this genre could work for your film!


Check out other genres from our series like – horror or noir or comedy!

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Kathryn is an MA graduate in Film and Television from The University of Bristol. After moving from the depths of the countryside, Kathryn has swapped fields for filmmaking and has recently worked as a Production Assistant for Baby Cow. Kathryn continues to make informative (read: hilarious) videos with fellow Raindancer Dusan, and hopes to pursue a career in the film industry to financially support her cat.

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