The Director’s Chair Issue #143 – June 4, 2013 (Why Music is Paramount for Filmmakers)
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3. FEATURE ARTICLE: Why Music is Paramount for Filmmakers
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Welcome to Issue #143 of The Director’s Chair, June 4, 2013
1. The Feature Article this month is called: Missing the Music
Piece? Why Music is Paramount for Filmmakers by Cheryl B.
Engelhard. “Everyone has a relationship to music, whether they
consider themselves music fans, musical prodigies, or tone deaf.
You may remember a childhood lullaby, learning the piano, your
wedding song, or the Folger‚Äôs jingle, or you may ride the subway
every day, religiously listening to your iPod. You may use it to
drown out noise at work or at home. This, actually, is how music
first made its way into film: to drown out the horrible noise
movie projectors made.” (Read full article below.)
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3. Feature Article: Why Music is Paramount for Filmmakers
Missing the Music Piece? Why Music is Paramount for Filmmakers
by Cheryl B. Engelhardt
Everyone has a relationship to music, whether they consider
themselves music fans, musical prodigies, or tone deaf. You may
remember a childhood lullaby, learning the piano, your wedding
song, or the Folger’s jingle, or you may ride the subway every
day, religiously listening to your iPod. You may use it to drown
out noise at work or at home. This, actually, is how music first
made its way into film: to drown out the horrible noise movie
Ubiquitous in our lives, yet somehow a common afterthought in
video productions, music is a key player in enriching a film,
episode or ad. When I spoke about music as a branding tool at
SXSW this year, I was told by dozens of filmmakers that they
saved music for the last minute, they didn‚Äôt budget for it (or
didn‚Äôt know what to budget for it), or they just plain didn’t
think they needed it.
Um, have you ever watched a horror film without the score? Not so
scary. A family drama with out the music? Not so dramatic. A
sitcom without a theme song, a commercial without a jingle? You
get my drift.
The gist? Music is an accessible and easy-to-use tool (I’ll get
to that later) that will increase your production value by
tenfold. Here’s why.
1) Memorability. Smell is the number one memory sense. Hearing
is number two. Vision, number three. To skimp on music is really
missing out on a huge opportunity to add a whole new level of
recognizability to your brand/video/project.
When someone remembers a song, or the feeling of a song, that
memory invokes familiarity which leads to consistency and trust,
which ends up as consumer/viewer loyalty. Which of course turns
into views, purchasing products, sharing links, etc etc. Memory
–> Familiarity –> Consumer Loyalty –> Views/$$/Sharing.
The human being likes stability and predictability. If you have
an animated logo, it should have music. If you have a commercial,
a title sequence, anything, it should have music. And while an
entire film score may not be something that can be distinctly
remembered, like the 3 notes of the NBC ads, the feeling that the
score and film evoked is something that will last.
2) Messaging. Having music (and I mean custom music, not a
random track an intern found in a huge library that you plopped
into a cut) sends a message to your viewers that says “I took the
time and money to make this the best product/film possible.” It
states “I care about you, our product, our image, our process and
I take pride in my work, and will do it right. I know every aspect
of this is important and you can count on us to not skimp on
If I heard those words from a filmmaker, without even seeing the
trailer, I’d go see it.
3) Emotion. There’s no question about it. Music can
emotionally manipulate a listener (in a good way). As a composer,
I like to say I am manipulative. (My husband would agree with
this for different reasons, though. He still can’t figure out how
I got him to make the bed every morning.) My emotional
manipulation has intention, and that is to enhance the film and
the experience it gives a viewer.
Directors must be responsible for having their viewers’ emotions
in their hands. Taking care to have a composer design the music
to emphasize moments, characters, story arcs, and create tension,
anticipate drama, drop out for comedic lines, and tie together
themes will leave the viewer feeling more complete. Plus you save
the viewer a lot of work during the film.
When you have the dark ominous strings under a character, chances
are he’s up to no good. You can use music to tell that, rather
than have to write in “ooh, he’s up to no good” into your script.
4) Ease. Having music in your project is much easier than a
lot of folks think. You don’t need to “speak” music. You merely
need to tell the composer what you want the viewer to feel. If
you tell a composer you want strings then drums, you are limiting
them. Instead, use emotion and energy terms, like “I want to
start out poignant and reflective then build energy.”
This may or may not be done with strings and drums but at least
the composer knows what the intended outcome should be. Here’s
a slimmed-down breakdown of the process of working with me as
a) You get a project and call me to discuss 1) timeline 2)
budget 3) creative direction. This is where you tell me what you
want your viewers/clients/consumers to feel. Any music direction
or references like links to YouTube videos of examples of pieces
you liked or didn’t like are also helpful. If it’s a film, we’ll
have a spotting session where we watch it together and chat about
b) You send me a cut, usually as a web file.
c) I write music and send it back to you as a movie to watch.
d) You provide constructive feedback.
e) I finalize music (maybe over 2 or 3 more rounds of
revisions) and send final audio file with the invoice.
f) You process invoice and we all go on to win Clios, Webbies
Regarding budget, the general rule of thumb is that approximately
10% of your overall budget should go to sound. If you plan on
having a great soundtrack to your film, budget a little more for
licensing fees (the money you pay bands or artists to use their
song in your film).
The 10% will include fees for the music supervisor, the composer,
the sound editor, and the final mixer. Don’t be afraid or
embarrassed by a small budget to call up a composer and have a
conversation about it. My fees are always negotiable depending on
a number of factors including the possibility of future
collaborations, timeline, and the length of the video.
My final note about the importance of music in films is that it
generates a real magical connection between creators. It really
is remarkable and if you don’t know what I‚Äôm talking about, call
me and we’ll do a film together. Getting the perfect score is all
about communication between the creative teams.
It’s a fine art that requires being upfront about vision,
timeline, budget, revisions, and feedback. It requires patience,
respect for each other’s art form and talent, and commitment to
an extraordinary end result. And when you see what it can do for
your film, you’ve just deepened your own relationship to music.
BIO: Cheryl B. Engelhardt is a composer and songwriter with dozens of
nationally airing commercials, documentaries, short and feature
length films and industrial videos under her belt. She is also a
composer for CollegeHumor.com.
Her website is www.cbemusic.com and you can follow her on Twitter
at www.twitter.com/cbe. Check out her commercial, film and web
composing work here http://www.cbemusic.com/#!work/c13ay and
shoot her a line if you have any questions or need a composer for
your next awesome project!
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6. Filmmaking Links of Interest
1. The Philosophy of Filmmaking: Storytelling DNA
2. Steven Soderbergh:Studios Don’t Support Filmmakers over Long Haul
3. 16 Big Marketing Ideas For Filmmakers On A Small Budget
4. 6 Filmmaking Tips From Shane Black
5. 5 Things Every Filmmaker Should Know Before They Step on Set
6. How To Learn From Famous Filmmakers: Listen To Them
7. Indie Director Shoots Feature Film Entirely on iPad 2
8. The Next Steven Spielberg Uses A Smartphone
9. Directing: The Camera Language of Paul Thomas Anderson
10. Five Key Tips for Guerilla Filmmakers
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