Music documentary

‘Score: A Film Music Documentary’ sheds light on an essential – but often overlooked – part of the filmmaking process

What is your favorite film music?

Music is a big factor in almost all of my favorite movies. The score for Requiem for a dream alternates between the sonic equivalent of Clint Mansell’s panic and the minimalist chord progressions of the Kronos Quartet. Jon Brion and Amy Mann Magnolia The soundtrack is so fused into this core of the film that the characters actually sing “Wise Up” at one point as if they were in a music video. Yann Tiersen’s instrumentations — accordions and tubas and others — give Amelie so much of his romantic fantasy.

“If you want to know how important a score is to a movie, try watching it with the sound muted,” says director James Cameron in Score: A documentary on film music. “The score is the heartbeat of the film.”

by Cameron Titanic is a perfect example. Set of Celtic-inspired orchestrations by James Horner Titanic in her period and provide a base layer for her emotional trajectory. Celine Dion’s lungs account for many of the film’s goose bumps.

Director Matt Schrader includes several of his own favorites in Goal – like that of Bill Conti Rocky and Hans Zimmer Gladiator – and he has both a deep respect for the classical origins of film music and a curious eye for its evolutions towards pop music, electronic music, alternative instruments and a deeper integration with what’s happening in the world. ‘screen. The film takes a behind-the-scenes look at several film scores as composers wrote them.

Schrader sat down with Decider to talk about Goalwhich has just been rented on Amazon, iTunes and other VOD and PPV platforms.

DECISION MAKER: Do you come to film music more out of an interest in cinema or classical music?

MATT SCHRADER: I’ve always been a fan of movies and I thought music was a big emotional part of almost every movie, so it’s almost common sense that it’s a hugely important art form. I was surprised no one made a documentary about it because there are so many places you could go with it in a documentary.

You include Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross in the film, and their score for The social network was almost entirely electronic. Did you see their victory at the Oscar for original music change the universe of the possible for film music?

Matt Schrader

That’s what I find so exciting about the modern era of film music. There are always issues of representation and diversity in all branches of Hollywood, but that’s changing in film scores because of electronic music and because of a concerted effort to bring in new styles. In the past, people thought that sheet music came mainly from a European classical tradition. We now see the orchestra as one of the many tools composers can use.

Has there been a movie since The social network who shows this enlargement to different types of music?

Mad Max: Fury Road is an interesting example. Tom Holkenborg comes from an electronic and DJ background. He recorded everything electronically, then added strings or other instruments where he wanted them. The score for madmax has so much more production value than what you see in most movies.

With the way you see drums and guitar incorporated right into this movie, he must have been involved early on.

He was involved many earlier than most film composers, and that’s where you get your best collaboration. A Hollywood composer usually comes last, and Holkenborg was watching the dailies on madmax for six or eight months while he was working on the score. He embraced the visuals with the music, and it made for powerful film music.

You mention in the movie that filmmakers in the 1960s started incorporating pop music into their soundtracks. How did this affect the work of the composer?

Film music got a bit lost in the 1960s and 1970s. A lot of movies tried to rely on popular artists to infuse movies with energy, and some of them did. too much done. The orchestra returned – mainly because of John Williams – and artists from very different backgrounds adopted the orchestra.

Large orchestras have mostly relegated film composers to pop performances, although many of the Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky and other composers they perform were essentially ballets. Do you think the classical canon will eventually include more film scores?

I think so. John Williams, Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer wrote scores that will live on for hundreds of years, and I think you will eventually see them considered alongside some of these earlier composers. Films today represent the same thing in today’s culture that classical concerts or ballets represented 100 or 200 years ago. There is a clear line between Beethoven and Wagner up to today’s composers.

You have a lot of footage in the film of composers early in their creative process. Was there one that gave you particular insight into how they work?

Every composer we spoke to seemed to have a slightly different approach, and it’s a little different on every film. Marco Beltrami talks in the film about using a kalimba – which is an African instrument that looks like a miniature piano – in one of his scores. For another of his sheet music, he went to Ebay and found a pig’s skull to use as a percussion instrument. When you start with crazy ideas like that, you can come up with really different kinds of music, and part of the fun of going to the movies is seeing that kind of creative vision.

There are docuseries like Chef’s table and Abstract that tackle big macro topics from many different perspectives. Why did you want to cover something as big and expansive as film music in a 90 minute documentary instead of a series?

We are already exploring the idea of ​​expanding it. Goal is kind of a highlight in a bigger world, and we could have done a hundred episodes about individual composers, or sports movie scores or different ways or how different composers score a heartbreaking moment in a movie. We decided to make a definitive documentary on film scores so that anyone interested in the subject could come away with some appreciation for film scores. We have a half-hour interview with director James Cameron on iTunes and Blu-ray bonuses. We’re also posting additional material on social media and exploring some possible mini-episodes that would include additional material.

The licenses you need to make a music documentary can get ridiculously expensive. Did you have a list of scores that you wanted to be able to include even though they were expensive? Did you ask the studios to give you a break given the nature of the film?

It was one of the big challenges of the movie even before we shot the first interview, and the studios were pretty supportive of the movie. We really had to think about what we were going to be able to include, so we had a media rights lawyer work with us to handle all of this early in the process.

Got an archival clip of John Williams and Steven Spielberg working on the HEY score that I had never seen before. Where did you find this?

A Japanese TV channel did this interview years ago with Steven Spielberg and John Williams, and it was very interesting. They talk about working together on Jaws too, and Spielberg at first thought that the two notes dah-dum was a joke. When you have a composer and a director trying to find common ground to tell a story, you can see some interesting moments.

Has your distributor committed to campaigning Goal for awards season?

They have. We’re going to campaign for the movie for an Academy Award and also for the Grammys, which has an award for Best Musical. It’s exciting and definitely a new thing for me, and it would be incredibly cool to get a nomination for the movie.

Scott Porch writes about the streaming media industry for Decider and is also a contributing writer for Playboy. You can follow him on Twitter @ScottPorch.

Where to stream Score: A documentary on film music