Writing Music For Picture

Every now and again I run into a musician or songwriter who once they work out what I do for a living wistfully say ‘Oh I’d like to write music for films..’ Nowadays I don’t tend to react & just say ‘thats nice’ in much the same way as you might acknowledge a sunny day as being sunny… But the subtext is interesting; often they are actually saying one thing & meaning another. In some cases what they mean is they would like their existing music to be used in a movie, preferably followed by a large cheque in the mail, royalties & their career to shift gears… And that does sometimes happen, so dream big etc but dont expect miracles…

The other interpretation is that they seriously wish to compose music to picture & if that is the case then dreaming big wont really make it happen, because there are a lot of important steps required to get from here to there. Apart from the industry side of things, scoring for picture means understanding the medium, story telling, collaborating (with many people, in many different but very specific ways eg director, producer, music supervisor, post production supervisor, editor, music editor, arranger, music mixer, sound designer) and lastly an aspect that doesnt always go down well with musicians egos; receiving constant feedback about your music (& potentially having it rejected) for reasons that may not be immediately apparent. And by people who may not immediately (or ever) appreciate your musical genius.

But as with all things in life, its also a matter of how much you want it – hurdles/brick walls etc exist to weed out the people who were only dreaming & who arent prepared to pursue it regardless of the knock backs…. And just as you wouldn’t expect someone to pick up a violin for the first time & be a virtuoso (there are so many specific skills you must learn first) then it shouldn’t be a surprise that the same is true for something as complex & demanding as scoring to picture. A while back Sound On Sound magazine had a good series of articles about this very subject and if you are dreaming big, then they might help you start thinking about creating a realistic approach.

Part One: Getting A Break

Part Two: Creating Your Showreel

Part Three: Essential Gear

Part Four: How To Make A Pitch

Part Five: You Got The Commission — Now What?

Part Six: Completed Orchestrations

Part Seven: How To Cope With Revisions

Part Eight: Being Creative Under Pressure

Part Nine: Roll Credits

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