9 Great Tips for Filmmakers When Interviewing Composers

Bridging the Filmmaker/Composer Divide

Film Directors & TV Producers Do Not Need to Hesitate When Hiring Composers

Directors, the visionaries behind cinematic masterpieces, often find themselves hesitating when it comes to hiring composers for their films. This fear is rooted in several factors, and one prominent challenge is the language barrier that exists between directors/TV producers and composers. Directors are fluent in the visual language of cinema, but when it comes to music, they may feel like they’re in uncharted territory.

One of the primary fears is the lack of musical knowledge among directors. They may worry about their inability to articulate their vision in musical terms, leading to potential miscommunication with the composer.  As directors invest significant time overseeing every aspect of the film, the thought of delving into the intricate world of music becomes overwhelming. This fear often results in directors sidelining the importance of a compelling musical score, compromising the overall impact of their creation.

To add to the apprehension, directors may fear choosing the wrong composer for their project. Selecting a composer who does not align with the director’s vision can result in a disjointed and ineffective musical score, ultimately detracting from the film’s intended emotional impact.

Fortunately, there are practical solutions to help directors navigate the hiring process with confidence. One effective approach is to rely on an excellent music editor who can act as a bridge between the director and the composer. Music editors are well-versed in the language of both film and music, making them invaluable in facilitating communication and ensuring that the director’s vision is accurately translated into the musical score.

When interviewing composers, directors can enhance their decision-making process by asking targeted questions. These questions should not only assess the composer’s technical skills but also delve into their understanding of the director’s vision and their ability to collaborate effectively.

Here is a list to help you:

  • Can you walk me through your process for scoring a film once you begin working on a project? Understanding their methods can provide insight.
  • What instruments do you prefer to score with typically and do you have access to record these instruments? This information helps set expectations.
  • What films have you scored previously that are most like my project in tone, style, and genre? Examples in a similar vein are telling.
  • Would you be open to providing a sample demo score for a key scene in my film? A sample allows directly assessing skills.
  • If selected, when would you be available to begin scoring my project? This helps determine timeline feasibility.
  • How would you approach balancing between underscoring emotions in a scene vs. moving the story and action forward? Their interpretation of this balance is insightful.
  • How open are you to feedback and changes once you have created a draft score for a scene? Flexibility is key for collaboration.
  • What is your communication style when collaborating with directors throughout the scoring process? Personality fit assessment.
  • May I have references from 2-3 previous directors you have worked closely with on scoring their films? Speaking to references provides additional confidence.

Asking strategic questions about the process, experience, work samples, communication, and working style early on helps directors determine if a composer is truly the right fit before formally hiring. This boosts overall confidence in an effective partnership for scoring the film.

Offering temp music and tracks for experimental scoring allows directors to better evaluate abilities firsthand. Leaving room for creative liberties and collaboration in this process ensures composers also impart some of their unique musical sensibilities into the film score. With the aid of these solutions, directors can feel empowered to find the ideal composer to meet both creative and practical needs during the production process.

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  • Explore more insights by checking out our related articles regarding the composer/filmmaker relationship.
  • Share your opinion! Leave a comment below!

For more information on this subject, I would read David Allen’s excellent blog:

DAVID ALLEN: COMPOSER DIRECTOR COLLABORATIONS

Christopher Caliendo is an Emmy-nominated TV composer, twice winner of the Heritage Award, the first composer in Hollywood history to re-score a major motion picture film for SONY Pictures, winner of the Henry Mancini Award for Film Scoring, and has had his music for film performed the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl alongside John Williams, James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith and Rogers and Hammerstein. Lauded for his “excellent orchestra scores…” David Kehr NY Times, Christopher embraces diverse styles from classical to electronic to world pop whose music “signals the next generation of Hollywood music.” As an entrepreneur, he created a successful northern Italian personal chef business to pay off his student loans. At the core of his life is his cherished family – his wife Kristin and their son Christian Paul. Caliendo finds profound joy in their company, valuing the harmonious balance between his professional pursuits and his role as a devoted husband and father.

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