It's become clear that figuring out the music for the soundtrack is a hugely important and increasingly time-consuming effort.
Music is the way into viewers' hearts, and crucial to underscore (so to speak) the emotional footpath of the moment-to-moment storytelling.
I've been listening to a ton of tracks from local artists (mostly) and trying to narrow down to the ones that resonate most. That alone is a huge effort fraught with anxiety, especially since there's no guarantee a given track will work anywhere in the film nor any certainty that the artist will give us clear rights to use the track (without which, we cannot show the film).
On top of that, there's the question of scoring for scenes where individual existing tracks from music artists won't work, or a more specific and nuanced musical mood is needed to follow the thread of a scene. Thus, I need to figure out the "sound" of the score (orchestral, minimalist, jazz, electronic, noisy, etc.) and then find someone who can do that -- and as a volunteer or for deferment.
Since I'm process-oriented, I've been floundering a bit on trying to figure out how to organize the process of cracking this musical nut. First I listened to a lot of music (thanks to Heidi for all the suggestions for great local talent). Then I looked at places in the assembly edit where I knew the music was essential (montage scenes and non-dialogue scenes, for instance). Then, as I kept watching the assembly edit, it became apparent that there are a huge number of scenes -- probably 80% of the film, if not more -- that will need some sort of music to convey the fullness of the moment. That's a lot of music.
Then I -- well -- honestly I got lost.
So as a diversion, over the past few weeks, I've focused instead on prepping for the upcoming Comic-Con (including the launch of a new related project that will be announced at Comic-Con). Meanwhile, I kept churning around this issue in my head, trying to figure out how to structure the approach to dealing with selecting the music.
It was clear that there were too many variables, driving me toward feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to start:
- What music artists to choose?
- What tracks to choose?
- What scenes and shots need music?
- What track would go best with a given scene?
- Where in a track should we start the song in that scene?
- Should it be an existing track or scored specifically for that scene?
- How much of the film should be scored vs. existing tracks from artists?
Around and around I went.
Finally, after much cogitation (and a few frightening dreams at night that I'd never finish the damn film), I decided on a process.
Here's what I'm doing: I've created a spreadsheet and listing every place music is needed in the assembly edit (using timecode and description of the place in the scene), with notes as to the emotional tenor of the moment. Plus, if I feel a scene would be better served by a score (due to a twisting nuance of emotion that an existing track would be unlikely to fit), then I make a note of that as well.
Basically, I'm compiling a list of music cues for the film: in and out sync points for each place music should go.
The next step will be to approach these one-by-one and figure out the best track to use for each music cue (from those tracks I've already selected as potential favs). Some will come easy, others may take some work.
Inevitably this is a long, exhaustive process, since any single cue may result in weeks of scouring through artists and tracks for the perfect fit.
In the first act alone (currently at about 30 minutes in the assembly edit), there's about 18 or 19 music cues, including places for both existing tracks and yet-to-be composed scoring. That's 72-76 total for the entire film, if that rate holds for the rest of the edit. That's a lot of music.
But music is vital to the viewing experience. Audio is far more important than the visuals, in my view, due to the visceral connection between hearing and emotion in us humans. We won't settle for musical mediocrity, so into musical weeds I go.
And the pressure is on: when the director calls himself "DJ Bad Vegan," the expectation for music is high....