For many composers, the Holy Grail of film scoring programs – the place with legendary faculty, connections, and curriculum – is the University of Southern California's Department of Screen Scoring (previously the Scoring for Motion Picture and Television [SMPTV] program). With the class of 2020 recently graduated, I asked my buddy and newly USC alumnus, Michael Wilson, about his experiences in the program.
So you want to be a film composer, but you don't have the money to go to Berklee, or USC, or Pulse, or wherever. Or maybe you're already working as a composer, but you'd like some resources to go to in a time of need. These 5 books below are some of my favorite books relating to film scoring, and I still open them all from time to time just to keep that information fresh in my brain. Remember, kids, knowledge is power!
Last week Los Angeles-based film composer Ryan Leach posted this great article on his blog, and I liked it so much I asked if I could re-blog it (thanks Ryan!). Throughout the article he discusses his technique of copying another composer's music to better understand the music and the thought process of the composer, a technique I have been using as well for quite some time. After you've read his article, head over to his website and check out what he's been up to!
How do you get started when scoring a film that requires ethnic influence in the music? Over the next couple of months I will be scoring a number of ethnic influenced films and I'll be sharing my process with you every step of the way. Our first step is the research, but it includes much more than music.
Films I will be scoring include an Irish influenced animated short by Grounded filmmaker Justine Howard, a Greek influenced documentary feature by director George Tsioutsioulas, and an Asian influenced Legend of Zelda fan film by A Boy Named Bellamy filmmaker Israel Combs.
To college, or not to college? That is the highly debated question (one of many) in the music industry. With success stories ranging widely from both college educated and non-college educated musicians, it can be difficult to weigh the pros and cons of spending time and money for a piece of paper with some black ink on it. Let's take a look at our options for the Film Scoring career path.
When you're done, check out my list of Film Scoring programs.
No two composers share the exact same formula or workflow when it comes to scoring to visual media. I'm always adjusting my workflow to meet the needs of each individual project I'm on, it's just necessary in order to keep growing as a composer and as a professional. Although I'm always trying to do something a little different, there are a few questions I ask myself that, for the most part, stay pretty consistent from project to project.
There are no geniuses in the world, only people who have worked harder than you.
This last week was an exciting one for composers and musicians in Portland, OR. Family Guy composer Ron Jones made a special appearance for our local Ravel Study Group, a group of composers and musicians started by Ron in LA, and talked about his experiences in the industry and what the future holds for him. Ron touched on some very important and inspiring aspects of being a successful musician and I wanted to share just a few.
There are many paths a young composer can take that may or may not lead to a successful career in film scoring, but there is one thing that is certain across all areas of the music industry and that is that professionals expect you to know what you're doing and deliver the highest quality performance that you're capable of. Everyone makes mistakes, that's how we learn to improve, but there will be times in every musician's career where they are thrown into a situation with insane deadlines and zero prior experience - it's part of the initiation process.
With film scoring becoming more and more popular as a career path, colleges and higher education programs are jumping at the opportunity to fill the need. I, myself, graduated from Berklee College of Music with a degree in Film Scoring, so I may be a little biased, but I'll try to give my honest opinion of various programs based on what I know and what I have heard. Keep in mind, these are only my opinions - links are there for your own research.
There are thousands of ways in which you (the composer) can emphasize the drama of a scene, and every composer will interpret the scene differently. Below are just a few ideas to consider that are widely utilized by many successful composers all over the world.
1. Orchestration and Genre Clichés
It is important to consider exactly what kind of film it is that you are working on so that you can understand what kind of drama is necessary to convey in your music. For example, the drama that may take place in a science fiction thriller like James Cameron's "Aliens" (composer: James Horner), is not going to sound like the drama that you would find in a movie like Rob Marshall's "Memoirs of a Geisha" (composer: John Williams).
So your first question is going to be this: what is my orchestra? This will again depend on the style of the film. So let's consider some useful clichés that are found in film scores:
Film | Music
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