by Jurgen Beck
Being a composer this may come across as self-serving, but believe me when I tell you that filmmakers should not overlook the importance of a composer, which they often do, knowingly or unknowingly.
All too often I read in filmmaking forum posts about all kinds of crew members required or at the least suggested in creating a decent film, no matter the genre or length of the production. What strikes me as curious is the bypassed role of the composer, which is rather odd, especially given the frequently quoted statement that music makes up almost 50% of the movie. So, why is it then that it doesn’t have a higher ranking in the priority list?
In talking with filmmakers, it seems to me that most thought patterns follow one of two directions:
- A composer for original music is not required, since we are using canned music (for the uninitiated, this is pre-recorded music that is edited to fit the film.)
- The score is almost considered an after-the-fact item, many times hastily put together and rushed into production, missing the impact it could have if carefully planned into the production from the beginning.
There may be other reasons why an original score is not considered higher on the priority list, the financial aspect being one of them, of course. However, of the later of the two above, I wish film producers and directors would learn to rearrange their priorities when approaching the filmmaking process.
May I humbly suggest involving a composer from the earliest point of a production? There are a number of reasons why you would want to do that.
Composers look at your production with different eyes. Great composers are able to express the story you are telling on yet an additional dimensional level, thus adding to the impression your movie has on the viewing audience. Lest we overlook the word ‘audience’, it’s origin can be found in the Latin word ‘audentia’ or ‘audire’, which means to ‘hear’.
Subsequently, when a composer is brought in early in the production process, he or she can contribute to the production in ways that are often difficult to achieve when the film is already fully edited and almost ready for release. Time pressure builds and you simply don’t have the luxury of playing with different concepts to test the impact of various musical ideas.
Even worse is the length of time temp tracks are being used during the production process. It is hard not to become married to a particular sound and musical movement, which essentially is so familiar that it limits the range a composer may have when wanting to contribute a potentially great musical idea.
Music has ways to find the depths of the soul that words or pictures alone may have a hard time reaching. That is how we are wired. As a composer I attempt to tap into that potential by analyzing what’s on the screen and adding impact to it with the musical score I create. Giving me a chance to participate in the creative process early on benefits the overall quality and impact of the film.
So, my advice to filmmakers: Engage your composer early and often throughout the production cycle. You may even want to consider bringing in your composer before you even capture your first images.
Your movie will turn out to be of much greater quality – I promise.
Jurgen Beck is an award winning composer for film, documentaries, and digital media. For more information and to hear samples of his work, visit his website at http://www.jurgenbeck.com/