I was just talking with the estimable Peter Fox and he reminded me of a producer comment. We were both in the room and can verify that we both heard the very same thing.
Peter was at the console recording a score I had written – this was in his home studio. We were listening to a playback. Two producers were hovering over us shouting meaningless directives. And at some pivotal point, one of the producers said ” Can’t you make it more edgy? You know, just add some more sharps and flats.” All I can remember of Peter is his face as tears came out of his eyes; he was shaking he was laughing so hard and biting his fist so he wouldn’t laugh out loud. I can’t remember one other thing about the session: not the music. that the name of the film. Not the producers names ( thankfully, because I would have used them here). Nothing but that line.
Got to play Gia Mora’s show in LA last week. She is an amazing talent. this was a cabaret show at the famous M Bar.
She has ice water in her veins. In the middle of a Joe Jackson song called Fools in Love… she found a place to include a tap dance break!
Mark my words: This girl will be a known national talent within three years.
On Wednesday I am heading out to Los Angeles to play a few gigs with Gia Mora. She is an amazing talent. We will be doing her cabaret show.
We go back a few years. She was my Cleopatra in New York for my musical: The Last Days of Cleopatra. ( the story of Liz and Dick on the set of Cleopatra in Rome)
She now lives in LA and I can’t wait to play with her again. One of our gigs is at the M Bar in Hollywood. I used to live in Hollywood. I haven’t been to the M Bar, but the address sounds pretty hip.
Just south of Hollywood on Vine.
Before I go though, I have promised to speak at CAREER DAY at North Chevy Chase Elementary School. They want me to talk about being a professional composer. I have been wracking my brain trying to think of something , anything attractive about what I do for a living. I will be speaking to 4th and 5th graders. They are all more technically savvy than I am – so thrilling them with a DVD is not on the table. They can probably all get sounds out of garage band better than I can. I doubt they will be interested in my mad skilz at jazz piano. Yikes. I have one little Quicktime video section to show them and then I will have to fill the next 20 minutes with…. what? I get along with kids and I love to talk. So how bad can it be? I will let you know.
Mostly I thought this was a perfect slice of my life: One minute doing a very glamorous thing and the next applying the same skills to the most quotidian of tasks. I am always surprised though, at which of the events turns out to be more meaningful. ( I am wondering right now..which is glam and which one is the quotidian task? )
There are as many ways to score a film as there are…. well, to write music. We don’t all get to score the big orchestral films we want to on every job. In my case, I bounce around from feature films to TV docs to non-broadcast short films, mostly for corporate clients. This last category is sometimes the most trying. They are usually filled with talk. And you have to remember that this talk is the single most important element to most of these clients. So don’t spend one solitary minute being irritated at all the verbiage in the film. After I once again realize and accept what sort of film I am working on ( Let’s say a 7 minute film for internal use at a rental car company. I have not done that, but it could easily happen) my first step in the process is to figure out WHAT I want to score. My choices seem to boil down to this: Am I scoring the pace of the film only? Am I scoring the tone of the dialog?, Maybe there is a directive from the producer that he wants it to be jazz or country of classical. Usually in films like this you can just forget trying to write an interesting melody. That is generally wasted time. It will fight the precious dialog and do yourself no favors with your producer. That leaves you with harmony and texture to work with. I have found that in most of these films even interesting harmonies can be distracting. So now we’re down to just textures and tempos. That can be fun. I do my best to divide the film up into cues, or acts. It is really important to follow the script. Again, it is the most important element in the film. ( No it is not the music!) The script will tell you, if you are an astute listener, where the different sections are. Once you find those sections the next step is to determine the tempo of each one. After that. You can start writing whatever it is that you think is musically correct for the show- somber, energetic, jazzy, whatever. I have found that the thing that has the most impact in shows like this is hitting cuts. ( in our imaginary rental car film, hitting each of the new models or rental counters or locations etc etc) Having to write to the picture in this way will keep your head in the game. It is way too easy to just loop your way under a bunch of droning voices until you come to the end. The mission sometimes is to keep one’s dignity as a composer while working on things that truly don’t demand much. If you can bring interest an creativity to a film like this, your chops will be honed and ready for the next feature that comes your way. And if all that comes along next is another corporate video, instead of dreading it you will be faster and more effective and probably having more fun.