Okay, after almost 17 years of having complicated websites, here’s something simple for now. More to come.
Creation and Process.
When creating anything of merit, there is a phase of wild creativity where all ideas are golden, thrashed about and recorded somewhere. After that time, comes the Editor’s time. This age-old process is proven to be the model. Rushing into the Editor role before having properly gathered all the fresh crops of creativity is guaranteed to give stale, clichéd and very un-inspired ideas- no matter the art or medium. It’s like a sculptor trying to perfect the rock’s details before she even knows what she’s creating.
With graphic design, you often end up with far more visual information than is necessary or desired to communicate the idea. Putting on the Editor’s hat allows you to whittle it back to the most efficient manner of telling the story. Music for film is the same way. How best to communicate the emotions of the storyline with the least amount of effort?
Seth says that over the last 27 years, every film that won for Best Picture also won for Best Editing.
Well, I took part in my second RIPFEST where we create something from nothing extremely rapidly with people you’ve just met. It’s an exhilirating experience and highly recommended. Check out the RAW IMPRESSIONS
website for more info.
After they’ve gathered 5 teams worth of film crews including directors, producers, actors, dps, editors and composers, we’re given some rules, locations, permits and a structure to focus on just creating a new short film in 16 days with a screening at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City at the end.
Our theme? Second Chances.
“What I liked about this script was that it didn’t offer an easy, pre-digested answer. There is room for expansion and discussion,” Mr. Ingkavet told The Blade.
Transgression had “a thoughtful script with a powerful message of mindfulness. Being a spiritual person, I am naturally attracted to projects that are not just adding to the mind-pollution media cloud,” he said.
I’ve posted the slides to my presentation here:
I talk about the uses of music to picture, what it can achieve (and not) and how to communicate between Visual and Aural creatives while using examples from my work in feature films, commercials, animations and shorts. The clips can be found elsewhere on the site.
It has been a very full life lately. Just came back from a week in Germany 4 days in Frankfurt and 3 in Berlin. A great trip and got to meet some lovely folks including Terry Gilliam who was honored at the filmmaker’s festival where I too was presenting. We got to see Terry’s latest, “Tidelands” which, as a parent, I found very hard to watch. Jeff Bridges is pretty great as a junky father. The little girl, Jodelle Ferland as Jeliza-Rose is great. It really is like Alice in Wonderland meets Psycho.
Working hard on the score to “Abandon” which is opening on October 19 at LaMama ETC downtown New York City- (lower east side) The show must go on.
A friend asked me to comment on a proposed curriculum for film school students regarding Post-Production audio. This made me refer to some old Walter Murch articles which still astonish me as to how accurately he describes the film sound experience. (Murch is the original holder of the title sound designer and has won several Academy Awards for sound editing, film editing and sound design.)
“This reassociation of image and sound is the fundamental pillar upon which the creative use of sound rests, and without which it would collapse…
film seems to be “all there” (it isn’t, but it seems to be), and thus the responsibility of filmmakers is to find ways within that completeness to refrain from achieving it. To that end, the metaphoric use of sound is one of the most fruitful, flexible and inexpensive means: by choosing carefully what to eliminate, and then adding back sounds that seem at first hearing to be somewhat at odds with the accompanying image, the filmmaker can open up a perceptual vacuum into which the mind of the audience must inevitably rush…
The rumbling and piercing metallic scream just before Michael Corleone kills Solozzo and McCluskey in a restaurant in “The Godfather” is not linked directly to anything seen on screen, and so the audience is made to wonder at least momentarily, if perhaps only subconsciously, “What is this?” The screech is from an elevated train rounding a sharp turn, so it is presumably coming from somewhere in the neighborhood (the scene takes place in the Bronx).
But precisely because it is so detached from the image, the metallic scream works as a clue to the state of Michael’s mind at the moment — the critical moment before he commits his first murder and his life turns an irrevocable corner. It is all the more effective because Michael’s face appears so calm and the sound is played so abnormally loud. This broadening tension between what we see and what we hear is brought to an abrupt end with the pistol shots that kill Solozzo and McCluskey: the distance between what we see and what we hear is suddenly collapsed at the moment that Michael’s destiny is fixed.”
This “sound-stretching” is the same thing composers do when working on a film. By stretching the distance between what is portrayed on screen and what is heard… the mind of the viewer perceives a vacuum into which they pour their own associations and emotion. The music is the sub-text to the screen action.
A wonderful painting is the result of the feeling in your fingers. If you have the feeling of the thickness of the ink in your brush, the painting is already there before you paint. When you dip your brush into the ink you already know the result of your drawing, or else you cannot paint. So before you do something, “being” is there, the result is there. Even though you look as if you were sitting quietly, all your activity, past and present, is included, and the result of your sitting is also already there. – D.T. Suzuki
These words are as true for music as any art.
Filmmakers today have unprecedented control over what goes into the their films. With HD cameras now costing less than $1000 (Sanyo’s HD1) and MacBooks with FinalCutPro or even iMovie – you can create films with a total kit costing less than $3000!!
With the hands-on, DIY ethic that has emerged, everything that used to be complicated and difficult about filmmaking is now enormously easier. This has also happened with music with Apple’s GarageBand, Sony’s ACID and a ton of music making software that enables the slightly talented to sound genius, or almost.
So what about scoring your film? As an indie filmmaker, you probably were your own Rebel without a Crew staffing the DP, Art Director, Gaffer, Director, Casting and Editor positions of your film. Maybe even Caterer and Location Scout and Morale Support. Why not just write your own music too using these easy to use cheap tools?
And, with the emergence of new software like Sony’s Cinescore, who needs a Composer nowadays anyway? Aren’t they just like last century’s Coopers? Who needs a barrel-maker anymore?
Well, yes, you as a filmmaker can do everything yourself.
Robert Rodriguez actually tries to do it all himself even with big budget Hollywood and the unions…for which I think his films suffer. The beauty of film is a team effort and the exponential magic that happens when great minds contribute to a whole. But that’s for another post.
Now of course, you’re thinking, cut the crap, I’ve got $5 to make this picture – who needs a Composer?
And here’s my argument. Music is a direct line to the heart. It is the “feel” of the movie. People slink down in their seats when the horrific music signals to them that they should. If you have the abilities to create that in addition to creating your film, then go ahead. It is doable. But to do it well is another thing. Try Cinescoring a soundtrack as indelible, evocative and as proprietarily mnemonic as John WIlliams’ Jaws.
And why suffer when for 5 to 10% of your production budget, you can have a dedicated, raving, film-loving music-making pro actually doing this with you?
Now the only hard part is communicating exactly what it is you want/need/desire. We’ll tackle this in a later post. And if you don’t know what you want (not unusual), no one in the world does. (please never say “I’ll know it when I hear it.”)
Here’s an interesting perspective on Sony Cinescore from Mark Northam, founder of Film Music Institute.
“Sometimes I think to myself that there are 2 types of films. There’s the confrontational film that deals with life issues and existential issues and political issues. And there’s the kind of film that is escapist. And I always debate with myself – which one makes the better contribution? You would think off the top of your head that the confrontational films are superior to the escapist films. But the truth of the matter is, the real philosophical issues of life, you know religious issues, issues of mortality and issues of human suffering are never resolved in any of these movies. Because you can’t resovle them. So people just go and they commiserate masochistically and they come out of the theater moved in some way. Where with an escapist film, at least you give the audience a chance to get away from the horrors of reality for an hour and a half. It’s like going into air conditioning or something and just sitting down and watching Fred Astaire dance for an hour and a half. You come out at least refreshed. And then you can go on with your life a little bit. And so I’m not sure that escapist films and comic films are not more of a help in the long run. Even though the temptation is to always to think and to want to do more substantive things.”
This is a great post about advertising creative which applies equally well to this world of filmmaking.
When you hire your team – trust them to do the job you’ve hired them to do regardless of whether they are a DP, or an Editor, a Production Designer or a Composer. 1+1+1 really does equal 58,000,000!
BART CLEVELAND: A creative team walks into the conference room with freshly mounted layouts underarm. They have worked untold hours to develop the ideas they now carefully share with others. Every detail has been examined and re-examined. There has been nothing left to chance. The work is superb. Their audience applauds with appreciation and admiration.
Then there is the “pause to reflect.”
A glimmer appears in one observer’s eye. Similar to telling a painter where he has missed a spot, the observer helps make a good idea better by adding that perfect little addition that causes good to become great. Then another glimmer appears in another observer’s eye. Well, I can’t go on because it’s just too gruesome.
Every artist spends a lifetime searching, discovering, refining and rediscovering their “voice.” Whether a painter, a novelist, a dancer, a singer or a composer. The artist, regardless of medium, expresses themselves in a certain way that after a few experiences of this artist’s work, is readily recognizable. It’s the artist’s “filter” on the way they perceive. Things come through them and are twisted and shaped and come out as a “Picasso”, a “Faulkner” or a “Beethoven.”
Recently, I took part in a great film scoring workshop. A bunch of us have put our work online so you can really see how no Composer approaches the same scene the same way. Take a look/listen.
There’s an interview with me posted today at music supervision central.
Just got the exciting news that I will be a featured presenter at the 9th annual Edit Ves Filmmaker’s Festival in Frankfurt, Germany on September 25, 2006. The festival is unlike others in that it delves deep into the heart of process, approaches, theory on the art of visual storytelling and attracts professionals in the areas of film, television, commercials, gaming, new media and more.
I will be speaking and showing examples of our process at 300 Monks especially with regards as how we bridge the gap in communicating about emotions from visual to audio.
Previous festivals have included talented filmmakers such as Roland Emmerich, Michael Ballhaus, Dante Ferretti, Dennis Muren, Vilmos Zsigmond, Phil Tippett, Peter Greenaway, Marco Müller, Tom Rolf, Bill Plympton, Emir Kusturica and many more incredibly skilled storytellers.
The festival runs from the 24th to 26th of September. You can learn more here.
There seems to be not a lot of information given filmmakers in school or even in books regarding who can help with the audio side of film.
Before we do this there needs to be distinction between location audio and post- audio. These are very different jobs and usually different people as the equipment, disposition and skills are completley different. Location audio guys will have a mobile recording setup (either 2 track or multi-track) which nowadays can be on miniDisc, tape, CD, DAT, DVD, Hard Drive or a swappable media such as CompactFlash, SmartDisk, MemorySticks or something similar. Some of these units can hook into the camera or a digital slate for true professional recording with reference points for the later tedious and laborious process of logging all the footage and audio and syncing it. Location audio specialists will also have a number of special mikes including shotguns, lavalier (hopefully wireless) and boom poles and windscreens. This stuff is not cheap. The blimp windscreens alone are around $500! An industry standard Sennheiser shotgun mic is over $1000. And then headphones and perhaps a mobile battery-powered mixer for multi-mic recordings.
For post-production audio, your team can include one or all of the following:
– Music Supervisor – person with a vast encyclopedic knowledge of music who can suggest/find songs for use in film and then arrange the licensing agreements for those songs. The licensing part may actually be more work than the actual creative part especially with well known songs. Can also be the person to hire the Composer.
– Music Editor – person who edits the music to conform with the picture. may also add a temp score to the rough cut for use by the Composer.
– Composer – person who will write the music for the film. This person, depending on the deal, may also be responsible for contracting the musicians, conducting and recording the score. The greatest Composers can lift up, unite and emotional bind a story as music speaks quickest to the heart, leading the eye.
– Music Producer – a vague term in film, this person can be in charge of the music for the production. Can also be another name for the Music Supervisor or the person who brings all music elements into the production. For example, T. Bone Burnett was the Music Producer for the film “Walk The Line.” His job included finding the songs they would sing, teaching Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix to sing believably, arranging the songs, contracting the musicians and booking a studio and supervising the production of the final recordings.
– Sound Designer – These people are unique in their ability to create and recreate sounds that create hyper-realism on screen. They often will mix in unexpected sounds to beef up the results. For example, in “Fight Club” the sounds of the punches were layers and layers of sounds of meat being punched, kicked and beat. It was so powerful, the director David Fincher asked for a version without the extra violent sounds to pass the review board for an R rating instead of an NC-17.
– Mix Engineer – This person is the one to bring all the final audio elements together into a cohesive experience. These disparate elements can be dialog, sound effects, music in final mixes, or music in stems, voiceovers and source sounds. They can do separate mixes for cinema, television, web, promos, and these can be in a combination of stereo or surround sound.
BACKGROUND: Clear Channel, the country’s largest operator of radio stations, is discussing the idea of one-second radio spots with marketers and media buyers. Called “Blinks,” the new format is being promoted as something that could be used between music tracks by, say, McDonald’s to play part of its “I’m lovin’ it” jingle or Intel to play its chime or NBC for its bells between music tracks. Clear Channel VP-Creative Jim Cook says the one-second format is part of an effort “to find new uses of radio for advertisers who are continually asking us to demonstrate that our medium can successfully extend brands, can successfully reach the consumer with touchpoints that are new and surprising.” Critics suggest the format is likely to fit a very small number of advertisers and is too restrictive for meaningful creative. What do you think?
I think it’s a natural evolution. Everything has been moving to smaller, faster, cheaper, better. The human mind/ear can discern and recognize melodic fragments, textures, harmonies in a millisecond. And as the article suggest, it’s probably best suited for marketers who have already had media exposure to their audio mnemonics such as NBC or Intel or McDonalds.
I’d love to work on one of these if anyone wants to try it out. I’ve done some short audio mnenonics for HP in the past that were never sold through. Anyone?
A great thing to keep in mind whether you are using a song or score with your film scene is to be mindful of closing cadences. A cadence is a musical term to describe an ending point. In classical era music you often hear a series of chords that set up the final resounding last chord. Pop songs also usually have clearly defined endings or fadeouts which signify the end.
If you want to keep propelling the dramatic action forward, edit your music so that it never ends on a finality. It stops the dramatic action and subconsciously closes the curtain. This may be useful for the end of Act 1 in your screenplay, and yet it also may stop the action too early.
Martin Scorsese is currently working on a film called “The Departed”, (a remake of a 2002 Hong Kong film entitled Infernal Affairs) and Howard Shore is scoring. According to Tim Starnes (one of Shore’s right hand men) Scorsese is very much attuned to the “curtain calls” in the music. Whether it’s song or score, he often edits the piece to start after the beginning and end in the middle.
If you are working with a Composer, you can bring this up in conversation early in the process.
One way Composers can avoid the “dramatic finality” is to avoid the use of the tonic (the root note) in the bass. As orchestrator Deniz Hughes likes to say, “putting the tonic in the bass is the dramatic equivalent of sitting in a chair. You’re not going anywhere. You’re static.”