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An open letter to film makers:

Some thoughts on the topic of film music


Don’t treat film music as an afterthought.

I’m not saying it can make or break your movie (although we sometimes get asked to „save“ scenes gone slightly wrong with our music), but music is an integral part of almost any movie and should be treated accordingly. It can, when it’s well executed, „glue“ the movie together and help support the message that you’re trying to get across. That is why the film music composer should never be brought in during the late stages of postproduction. Sadly, this often happens – I know this from experience. One of the reasons for this is that producers and directors are too busy dealing with casting, shooting, editing and the challenges of infrastructure. I understand completely, but here’s the thing:

Often there’s almost no budget left for music.

After the shooting of the movie is done they often realize: “wait… Don’t we need some music here? Oh, no. We’ve spent almost the whole budget already? Ok, then let’s use some archive music and fill in the blanks cheaply with composed music. To keep it cheap, let’s use mostly samples.” This is very disappointing for any film music composer, and there are a lot of movies around with sub-par scores for this reason.

The sooner the composer is in the loop, the better (there are, of course, exceptions).

Sound design is also a big part of the movie and should work together (as of course the dialogue as well) with the music. For this reason, it would be ideal for the sound designer and composer to communicate on a regular basis. This only works if they are both coming in to the project at roughly the same time. One of my most rewarding experiences has been composing my first layouts to a movie script. The director gave it to me to read through, and I composed 4-5 small pieces. His reaction was one of astonishment. “How did you know how I wanted the film to feel and look like? Your sound fits perfectly!” So most of the pieces ended up in the movie – after being tweaked and polished of course. And another benefit was that the director cut the movie using my sound, which in some cases influenced the cut and helped making the sound fit the movie. This won’t work in every case, but is also worth contemplating as a filmmaker.

Bottom line is:

We composers need to be a part of your project at an early stage to make sure that the music supports and fits the movie. And to secure funding for high quality recordings that help the audience immerse in your cinematic vision.

If I have to sit through another movie plastered with pop songs for no obvious reason I’ll probably throw a fit.