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5 Ways to Double the Impact of Your Musical Score

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Zane Groshelle

on 6 February 2013

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Transcript of 5 Ways to Double the Impact of Your Musical Score

5 Ways to Double the Impact of Your Musical Score Technique 1: Peter Petro • Emphasis on outlier and niche music options

• Help with unusual or specific musical needs

• Synergistic, deliverable-oriented “organizational consulting” approach My biases on music First Steps Select THREE DESCRIPTORS that will define your music when successful. “The music was amazing and created a _____, _______ and __________ vibe that is exactly what we needed.” TOP PRIORITIES Coherent The music creates a seamless, consistent and believable world throughout that supports suspended disbelief Memorable Creates powerful emotional experiences that resonate afterwards and give people reasons to talk about the movie Unique STANDS OUT next to other similar projects. Unusual music choices. Hip factor. Cred. Appropriate Doesn’t attract too much attention for any reason, but helps drive the story the right way Adds Dimension Gives us emotional insight into the characters or meaning, “adds content” rather than just resonating with what’s on the screen Helps “brand” the movie Many soundtracks are specifically created to cross-promote and brand Preview Choose a SINGLE KEY ELEMENT to drive the creative process. 1. Spotlight or emphasize a single INSTRUMENT 2. Spotlight or emphasize a single MUSICAL STYLE Can be a “virtual instrument” (sample, sound etc.).

Musical “stamp”
A form of audio branding for the project

Classic examples:

NBC theme on vibraphone
Jaws theme on doublebass Campy, edgy, stylized, throwback, music-driven Notable songs include Dick Dale's now-iconic rendition of "Misirlou", which is played during the opening credits. Tarantino chose surf music for the basic score of the film because, "it just seems like rock 'n' roll Ennio Morricone music, rock 'n' roll spaghetti Western music."

In 1997, Gary Thompson of The Philadelphia Inquirer said that Pulp Fiction "reinvigorated surf rock".... Del-Fi Records released a compilation CD in 1995 entitled Pulp Surfin' featuring songs by those bands plus sixteen other surf tracks from the vaults. The cover artwork was yet another parody of the Pulp Fiction movie poster. MANY examples.. probably the most common of all the techniques. Feature a single ARTIST/BAND Ruby Sparks – Nick Urata of Devotchka (Little Miss Sunshine, I Love You Phillip Morris) Having a music artist/band do the score provides an additional avenue of marketing, story angles etc. from an “independent agent”
Artist’s success ⇔ Film’s success
Performances: Tron: Legacy -- soundtrack by ???
La Bamba -- soundtrack by ??? Coherency



Creating a “sound”

Cross promotion Choosing a SINGLE KEY ELEMENT to drive the creative process helps when your priorities are: Being idiosyncratic, making the project STAND OUT


Deal making with a band or label or publisher

Efficiency with “R&D” : quickly become an “expert”

Competition/bidding war Technique 2: Focus on a SINGLE MOST CRITICAL CUE and build from there 1. Execute/score/license the “BEST CUE” and use this as a “litmus test” for subsecuent cues 2. Take the most challenging/complicated/delicate/important musical cue and tackle it FIRST to establish the reference for the rest of the project. Knock out the single most amazing blend of music and picture that you can for your film, and once you’ve cleared that song, use it as the stylistic benchmark for the rest of the film

Refer back to your “perfect cue” to make sure everything vibes with that.

When looking at other scenes, ask yourself: does this music work in the same movie as that perfect cue?

Avoid “scene by scene” approach to scoring Preferable to doing it after.
Work closely with actors to emulate the nature of the vocal performance especially (even non-musicians notice this)

80/20 rule

We focused all our financial resources, all our creative resources, all our time resources and all of our favors towards creating an incredible single track – literally 100% of our budget. It was by far the most challenging and critical part of the music and arguably of the whole movie.

It was the most “creatively needy” of all the tracks. It had to be “right” on over a dozen counts and it led the movie as far as the payoff at the end. Feature a single ARTIST/BAND The hugely successful soundtrack to the biographical film about 1950s rock & roller Ritchie Valens, La Bamba introduced the world to the Chicano rock of U.S. five-piece Los Lobos. Its title track reached number one in several countries, and was one of eight songs the group contributed to the 1987 album.

Cut for the biopic of the same name, the band did the nearly impossible by both staying true to the original and resuscitating new life into it at the same time. The walking, three-chord melody and Valens' frantic guitar solo is virtually Xeroxed, but the inclusion of a sweet accordion and a great, acoustic mariachi coda take the song to new areas. Focusing on the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT CUE first helps with: Knocking out the key scene in the movie that will make or break the project

Getting a quality/style references for the rest of the project

Easier to pitch other music when you have a great license

Time budgeting perspective -- the most important cue gets its due attention

Time effective -- often the other cues need less attention than you thought they needed

Budgeting perspective -- often unlocks more funds when you have a stellar scene in the can

Marketing opporrunities for the key song Technique 3: Build a “pre-soundtrack” while writing, shooting or editing Pulp Fiction
music was chosen first?
movie works largely because of the music choices
Terrentino is known for picking the soundtrack before the movie is written or made Communication re: music

Greater synergy with music

Time effective with overlapping efforts

More time to pitch for music == Time/cost savings

Coherency in the movie

Creative team morale and clarity A “pre-soundtrack” helps with: Music as priority

Easier to “cop” songs

Music budgeting perspective

Can help emotionally calibrate script/acting during creation

Team creativity -- sounding board Technique 4: Select a specific set of musical styles to reflect specific characters or factions Creating a limited set of musical styles to reflect characters or factions helps when your priorities are: Coherency

Creative coherency with the team



Easy to “cop” songs


Budgeting perspective -- having a fair balance of different styles Technique 5: Using telling/ironic music that adds dimension, perspective or emotional depth

Providing a unique emotional palette

Creative license and unusual options

More “bang for your buck” -- the score works harder for you

Emotionally calibrate script/acting -- make the whole movie more ______

Coherency -- an overarching character to the movie

Branding -- i.e. Marie Antoinette

Soundtrack potential -- operates on its own i.e. Pulp Fiction

Time/cost savings from having a focused style -- efficiency/deals in creating/licensing

Creating a distinct “sound” for the movie Telling/ironic score helps with
Hawaiian music, denoting a breezy, vacation-like scenario as the protagonists lifelong denial of his family problems plays itself out in tragic gory details.

“With his wife Elizabeth on life support after a boating accident, Hawaiian land baron Matt King takes his daughters on a trip from Oahu to Kauai to confront the man who was having an affair with Elizabeth before her misfortune.”

Matt King’s life is in shambles and we’re hearing mellow, slack key guitar.
bittersweet empathy
cathartic The Descendants Ambition, Alienation, Desperation
=> cinematic and epic feel Platoon Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings during a war scene. Sofia Coppola – Marie Antoinette Coming of age, decadence Social Network Other Examples Times you want to err on investing in the best music supervisor you can afford Specific Region/culture/era that defines the movie and its world True Blood: Gary Calamar

The Fighter:

HBO theme
80s hits Using music to narrate or drive chronology Goodfellas -- 50s hits through Rolling Stones
Forrest Gump
Almost Famous

Why you want a great supe:
Requires extensive knowledge and sensitivity of the era/culture and its idiosyncracies

Requires ability to abstract a vibe or sound for the whole project or series to give it a feel

Requires imagination to stretch in various directions but still stay within a coherent musical “world”

This often calls for famous tracks that can be very expensive (or completely inaccessible) without a pro Six Feet Under
Breaking Bad

Why you want a great supe:
Becomes a pastiche of randomness very quickly
Want someone with a great baromter and huge resource base for picking music Eclectic/edgy/quirky/hip/heterogeneous score Review “A a shy Texas shut-in hits the road in search of her father, Jose Feliciano”

Family of characters and the ‘world’ is:
circus-like Useful approach for choosing source music choices
-- i.e. music overheard from radio, club music, shopping malls etc.

Useful for inspiring score ideas too: cop textures or styles from these “ipod songs”

You’re associating characters with these songs by superimposing music on them -- whether these characters would listen to them is a great “litmus test”

Provides great “sound alike” ideas for music searches. Your music collaborators will appreciate having 12 examples of tracks that relate to the characters as you see them A teenage girl in Beijing becomes a top competitor in China’s version of “American Idol”. It is soon made public that she comes from a mixed marriage (her estranged father is African American of Nigerian descent) and controversy ensues about whether she’s “really Chinese”. Overwhelmed by the stigma, she recoils out of the limelight and find herself wanting to finally reconnect with her long lost father. She’s sets out on a journey to find him -- following leads from her mother and family that take her to Washington D.C., then Texas, then Nigeria and ultimately back to Guang Gao China, where there is an enclave of Nigerian immigrants. Along the way she learns more about her father, finds love and most importantly grows into her own person. By the end we see her realize her own strength and destiny exists independently of the affections of her community or her biological father. Through her journey to connect with others she ultimately connects with herself and is transformed into a young woman. Chronological locations/settings/ character arc
“music to inspire the movie”

Helps with musical discussions

Provides references to work from

Helps convey overall mood or mood choices quickly through music

Helps with editing ideas and rhythm, sounds, textures, even possible artists to include or feature CHINA Ruby Booby Tied together with understated nylon guitar textures as if Jose was playing the soundtrack.

Scoring contrasting factions in the movie: beware “cartoon effect” if too obvious
To avoid this find a common musical palette that’s less shared elements among factions The bustle/urgency of urban life Mexican corridos and nortenos, Spanish hip-hop

Coherency of soundtrack comes from hybrid music -- artists similar to Los Super Seven, Los Lobos
buoyant, almost silly, music to keep the humor and poignancy Traditional Spanish for flashback/throwback moments
Traditional Jose Feliciano classical Spanish and schmaltzy pop from the 60 (out of touch with present) Ruby’s past and imagined/nostalgic past: Ruby’s present: NO strings. “What would the characters we’ve created listen to on their ipods?”

Different characters listen to different kinds of music:
Lost in Translation trailer: ALL characters listen to the same music -- reunion movies, coming of age movies, etc.
Garden State trailer: Specific Uses for a Pre-Soundtrack
Single element
Biggest/hardest cue first
Family of styles
Telling/Ironic Preview
Single element
Biggest/hardest cue first
Family of styles
Telling/Ironic Peter Petro
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