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Modern Film Composing

Lesson 16 of 17

Creating a Pitch & Other Projects

Will and Brooke Blair

Modern Film Composing

Will and Brooke Blair

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Lesson Info

16. Creating a Pitch & Other Projects

Lesson Info

Creating a Pitch & Other Projects

Treating a pitch, you know, you're on craigslist or you're responding to an ad or you learn of a production. Um, I think it takes a little bit more than just, um, to whom it may concern I'm a becoming composer. Please consider me for your job. I look forward to hearing from you. You know, I think it takes a bit more time and throwing a bit more brain cells at it. Tio get a better chance of getting the job. We try to learn as much as we can about the project xl itself. The story. So if even for just coming across the road like paragraphs synopsis, we tried always pull out as many clues as we can think about them in musical terms. Um, and not only say, we're interested in available but here's, why and here's what we could bring to the table, musically speaking and, you know, it doesn't always work, but at times it does. Um yeah, this is you back to the desktop? Yeah. Let's. Go back to the best time. This is a little video we put together again. The film we just finish scoring two weeks a...

go. Green room jeremy's on these most recent film that said the cannes festival right now, we did have the luxury of working with jeremy before knowing how he works and knowing a lot of his tastes. This is also the director of blue ruin, but this was a much bigger project for him, a bigger budget in a bigger cast, and we we weren't necessarily pre hired for the job. There was a bunch of other new producers and decision makers involved, and we wanted to put our best foot forward, so we had we could probably play it. Yeah, we had a copy of this, so yeah, yeah, we had a copy of the screenplay early on that we could just spend as much time with, you know they're nowhere even new york cassidy or production yet, but we're thinking about ideas and a cup. This word kept popping out of the the script at us as a sonic element as a you know, audio character of the film, we kept hearing feedback and again, the film follows this punk rock band through this rock n roll venue and there's a lot of noise and a lot of punk rock source music gone screen, but when it falls real quick, the idea where the brother the word feedback kept jumping out. And stuck with us for some reason we weigh realized it was going to be a big part of the on screen sound you're seeing and hearing we wanted to compliment that and sort of fit into that and in a seamless way um so immediately thought of iris what we did is pitch jeremy this idea this screen room score proposal um it's part of the bonus features you know it's what? It's what got us the job but it's what got us really thinking about how to create music specific for this production? Um, so again we put together a proposal you know, was this a bit much? Perhaps, but we wanted to get our ideas on paper and he was a pages long maybe we could have kept it much more brief, but we we got him what he needed to feel good about, you know, putting a score in our hands. Of course mentioned iris is a tool that we would be using based on this idea, and we discussed the idea of incorporating feedback as a source sound in the score. So we spent, like two day that studio recording feedback, which is kind of the most obnoxious recording session you could imagine, but we got anything we could buy over mike in it and, uh, cranking volumes up in a way we're just created a chain audio again, at this point, we're not really thinking about music would think much is getting as many sounds as possible, so we owe on element that you would otherwise want to avoid and control all together. We were like, encouraging and trying to harness um, a lot of guitar feedback, and so the real work was like sifting through, you know, hours of of pro told sessions and wave forms, and then of course, going into anti virus where maybe, you know, seventy percent of the score was generated from these custom green room iris I mean, that's one thing we don't show you, you can you can paint frequencies, yeah, yeah, um and knowing that that was just our starting point, like our starting starting sonic palette, that unlike blue ruin, which had these very, very like invisible, atmospheric beaching area tones, this the origins of these tones were much dirtier, much more distorted tow us that red is more like rock n roll and mohr rebellion, which is her themes of this of this story, and again, maybe seventy percent of score. We're sort of rooted and feedback sounds, but we, of course try to stay flexible and and we're adding base since we added the bull bull a little bit, we always want to add organic instruments, but um that was important I think for jeremy and maybe the other folks that were involved in hiring decisions to see that you know, we had given some thought to early on to how music could could support that the picture I'll just reiterate though that if people want to see more of that proposal it is one of the bonuses the entire pdf is actually on the course page right now so if you purchase this course you will be able to download the pdf and go through the entire proposal and see exactly what these guys did in all the details there so you can replicate that in your work as well. So go ahead and do that if you haven't done so yet I mean of course will have I mean that that to me was pretty creative you know, our other composers that something that's kind of unique to you guys if something came out with her what other people be out there sending obviously you know that this is something completely different than a really or something you know, work like I really like you know, I would imagine that a uh come producer anybody they would completely respect that and I'm convinced that when I'm tired of you guys up front yeah, I don't know if this is across the board sort of a practice we've been encouraged to think about it just makes sense to us you know as like again, I don't think it's enough just to say hey, we're available we'll wait to hear from me if you're interested you know it's it's bringing something to the table and not give the early demos context as well after we had the script that we could sit with it and then kind of go through this approach we started putting them us together before we even saw footage so this is a big part of like here's why we're making his choice is um and then just let the director can sit with it you know, maybe before and that is before he even shot anything so um maybe subliminally this kind became the sound of the film as he was working on it um which in turn if I help solidify that the job but the written but I think the written proposal might be something that's a little bit different early demos quickly followed the proposal you know, this was just starting this initial idea we were just brainstorming this feedback idea ok let's get it on paper then let's refine this yeah again. I don't know if everyone does that if there's it's time permitting I think it's important, I think it shows that you you are not only interested you're already thinking about it yeah, you have something written followed by a series of mp three's that you're sending the director it puts it in context a little bit he can kind of read through your ideas and listen to them at the same time and explain some of the tools would be using some of the approaches and you know what? I'm probably guilty of not keeping that proposal concise so it is a pages long I think we kept it creative uh it's thorough it's involved the idea here is that you know, an email response to a production you're interested in a quick phone call that you might have the opportunity to jump on um keep it concise but brings something created to the table you know um nick for example you know, if if we had an initial conversation and we were able to have the opportunity to create a pitch for nick and his film about tasers, we didn't have the time but it would've been nice to me to do some research about the company itself. Um look into some of the stories surrounding you know, over use of taser guns ourselves and be able to have a conversation with nick that's not this really a musical idea that's just, you know, bringing some research on some thought to it when you're in the early stages of I'm hoping to get hired you and asking questions you know again this is this is the end of your email, you know you've created a little pitch you've thrown out a musical idea that you think could be interesting and worth exploring and finish up before you close your email or your phone call with questions. Um, what? Your production schedule? You know, when do you plan on wrapping? Which festival, if you plan on submitting to and have even thought about original music, you know what people like talking about people talking about what they do so you can get a director interested and responding to questions about about their production and again in an email scenario, it's a quick way to to elicit a response, and there you have like that, then you have a dialogue going. Um again. A big takeaway for us from some of these big film festivals is not leaving with another feature film job, you know, but getting perspectives of other composers and what they're doing and meeting, you know, composers that air more established and more credits and a lot of them said it's, not just about feature films and it's, not just about documentaries. You know, if it's, if it's something you like to create a sustainable living or significant, you know, supplement to your income, it's, fun and it's almost necessary to start thinking outside of just film work, we kind of touched on the commercial advertising our spec really that we showed has been helpful with that and I mean think less about big car commercials and adidas commercials and things like that that's that's a goal for sure, but there's so much just online media these days you know, promotional videos and this isn't just infomercials but really creative content that exists. You know, online production companies and brands are now spending a lot of energy getting short promo videos of their you know, their nonprofit where their lifestyle products or there where their app for their game with their service and they exist online exist on facebook pages little short promo is exist on instagram um so it's less about trying to nail, you know, a big network television commercial but just there's tons of media being produced every day, most of which is in need of original music library license, and I was talking to joe about that, you know, we're still figuring that out, but in all of these projects we start to have, I don't want to say left over or surplus but a lot of additional music that that doesn't have a home quite yet, you know that we still retain the rights to that can fit in certain things were starting to organize that on dh make that available music that's preexisting do you have, like a sort of a strategy for for placing that we're rebuilding our now kind of shifted over to the publisher so you do it yourself in my opinion and license that yourself and try to get people to grab it from you keep hold of it as much as you can yeah that's exactly what we've learned we're trying we had with this certain certain companies and now we're kind of pulling it back and doing it ourselves there bigger services that collect a bunch of a bunch of music from folks just like us, you know and organizing and they do have relationships yeah, their relationships with big productions but they're a middleman yeah, we're trying to find a way to do it ourselves that's kind of what I was wondering like are you guys coffee writing your work and self public like are you publishing yourself there ascap or something? Copyrighting self publishing through hasn't been an organizing on an aspect of our website that's not quite live up to the public it but that's um production production library that the moment is maybe two hundred to three hundred snippets anywhere from twenty seconds to you know, six minutes it'll have different moods and it could end up in different productions um I noticed with most of what we've heard of what you do it's very similar to northern european cinema and it's incredibly atmospheric you know, a tonal you know and it's very much what you guys would be killer at so I don't know if you've thought about it, but I've tapped into that market and we have it they mean it's very if we've been watching a lot of the foreign film swedish norwegian stuff and your music would just slide spider cleanly right into a lot of what they're doing well, I don't know if you thought about that market cool we're going talk way have yet to do a video game or an at but it's what you thought your master's degree program she's doing a gaming section kind of a different world go by chase and and cross phase and looping and after the middle where interesting that's, how it is packaged into gaming and, uh I guess the triple eight games are kind of going downhill and it's going more toward all the handheld stuff so there's not huge money there anymore, but when they were coming out with halo and all these war things I mean it was I think destiny they made for the highest price. I'm sorry costing it was like it was millions, you know, assess what went into it and the composer's saw some of that it's a really long job yeah, but it's it's hours and hours but it's not it's not really easy you gotta know where to loop because just because you write a nice little ditty if when it comes back again depending on how the game is right it can get really monotonous you there's a lot of different ways to do it layering um but you have to think in bite you're only allowed you're not allowed so many hours you've got to write hoursworth of music you know you've got a writing right? Yeah so it's either linear or layered and depending on what they're asking for it can it can be difficult haunt me really but probably pretty rewarding way I mean you know what we do here and we're going to get to museums and installations is like we're always keeping her here out in one of this organic sort of networking opportunities for a filmmaker for a documentarian for a commercial director but we tried to just keep her here out yeah I mean that's the idea behind this for dancing with a whole other world for more than just that you know and start to you start to see opportunities where original music could help support something um we did just that with local museums and installations in philadelphia you know, in lieu of having a big um film industry there there's a big museum sort of experience in philadelphia and a friend of a friend is a sort of interactive exhibit designer involved in a lot of cool things with new technology and sort of revitalizing displays and older museums and, you know, bringing them up to date from a technological standpoint she saw a big role for us in in music and a lot of what the jobs she was sharing with us kind of blurred the lines between music and sound design and just experiential atmospheric stuff within these um museum displays. But she's kept us busy and it's not writing for film but it is rating foreign experience and it's writing for midian like an educational experience she's trying to hit home um we're historical experience or just a experimental um um experiential thing we did can we cut to the video here? A big museum and field office called the water fairmount waterworks and it's one of the oldest water management facilities in the country is with one of the first uh purification facilities as faras water goes and now it's a educational slash performance slash event space and they have this underground swimming pool that's along the skakel river like in downtown philly it's all of the sun lights fills in and it's been abandoned for seventy since the seventies hurricane agnes but it's this beautiful sort of although decrepit still intact and beautiful space that they were trying to revitalize into a potential performance space gathering space even a wedding space things like that they put together a interactive light show and they needed music to accompany a light show. So again, we weren't scoring a movie, but it was really cool toe work with an experience lighting designer who had sort of a very conceptual idea in mind we were encouraged to again is iris, and the theme of the show itself was water. The theme of the building itself is water, and we built uh, nine or twelve instruments and iris just using water and or things that use water to resonate so well built again. It's very ambient and atmospheric. This is a when you play it, but it's also one more detail that is also mixed in such a way that we split the mix into four channels and therefore speakers and each part of the room we actually see one passed away and strack yeah, there's a little white speaker into that corner is so basically wherever you walked, you might get in the room, you get a different mix and different instruments with intern exit, depending where you are, if you right in the middle, you get the full surround like, you know, for speaker surround sound, but you kind of walk around. Everyone has their own kind of unique experience way kind of sent four stems different stems to each corner of the room, so if you're standing opposite each other, you're not hearing the same thing really to be in the center of the room would be the only way to get sort of that the full mix this is the full mix here e o you know, as a fourteen minute piece that kept us busy for a couple weeks and it was a nice break from film a little bit to write in a completely different you know, venue and that's actually got us into the building the custom sounds and iris in the first place that was the first project that we sought out the software and then sort of um really digging into it and doing field recording, getting lots of water sounds and then, uh samples finding sample libraries that were based water based instruments like the crystal bush a glass harmonica, wine glasses, you know, resonated wine glasses, that kind of stuff that's that that hope he's develops over fourteen minutes and slowly kind of builds. And then evan flows and it's meant to kind of loop on itself so it could be on you know, it could be going for hours and hours yeah, that's a good observation. You know, that is such an experimental project that it got us thinking about the capabilities of iris or got it's just thinking about music differently yeah, which we've now been able to go back and apply to film this is big for us because again there are two of us that makes it that does make it fun that does make it unique but we really like the collaborative aspect of making music and that's how we started making music and bands umm some of that is lacking and you know, home studio based recording so we'd like to collaborate as much as we can and I think in creating a pitch and thinking about like, what sort of creative angle can you present to a production you know think just outside of your box I'm going to be thinking of you guys and say like, I know someone san francisco's were good you know, guitar driven who is your network of pros? You know you're working from home but do you have a relationship with a big local studio? Um have you recorded there before? Do you at least know the engineer or the owner? You never know what a budget comes your way that says we want to do something big and we have the bandwidth to get in a big room you've got guys ladies that you're surrounded by that khun that could help pitch in unique instrumentalists you know? We don't play everything um way play a good bit, but what we're not focused really trained um the film we're working on now requires a violin and cello and in discussing that early on with the director and pitch in some ideas um I mentioned my next door neighbor and close friend rosie is a fantastic violin player and she's played with tom waits and other people and she's she freelances and has other work but she's kind of on call is there a violin player and she you know she's a strong part way have consistent work for her not necessarily but she's a strong part of our you know, network of prose that we can lean on you and we touched on this I mean it's important if you're not directly collaborating with composers having someone you can just whose brain you can pick you know and some local guys that we lied to we don't really talk about music as much you know we work on our things and develop our things and he's working on other very different projects we do talk about the business and we talk about some of the challenges and hurdles it has been so helpful and he said the same thing you know he said I thought I was the only one in philadelphia doing this it's so great to know that I'm not alone and it is very true um so be open to finding these people invite these people and you know keep keep your eye out for them working remotely we touched on with nick I mean I think uh to have someone feel comfortable with with your workflow just communicating as much as you can um we like to early on developing share like a working schedule to let them know you know, to priority we're not in the same room every day, but we're working on it every day and again asking questions just just elicits more communication it just can't hurt you're hearing how they think about your workflow and how they think about the ideas you're submitting um I think there's a tendency to kind of like get focused on the project and lock yourself in your studio until you're done with it and it's important tio continue communicating pricing you know, eric asked me this question like how do we how do we consider that? And it's been it's been challenging for us? I think we've learned early on that it's okay to ask, is there a budget? And what is that? Um um and see if it's something you could work in and normally it is and the only people are flexible but it's good to discuss it early on and, you know, depending on what that is, I think just setting clear expectations assed faras time and scheduling what they can expect is what you're going to deliver. We often have conversations about, you know, re composing all the music and recording all the music, then it's someone else mixing the music, re editing the music there's all sorts of sort of postproduction questions to keep in mind and just make sure expectations or clear um, when you discuss money and schedules, um, offering options has it has been great for us when there's a production it's not sure what their budget is, they're not sure what they want for original music. You know, I think it's I think it's a bit difficult to say, well, this is our right, and this is and we make music is your imagination take it or leave it. You know, I think this this kind of speaks to create a pitch and present an option multiple options and bring something to the table um, the film we're working on now we said, you know, in this amount of time and in this dollar range, um, this is how many minutes and this is how much production and how many layers we can consider and right in the middle is option b for this amount of money, we're just a little more time we can spend and more layers more production option c is where we ended up with this film when we said would be really cool to try alive cello in alive violent in addition to these sort of water based iris sounds, um, it's, we gave him options to pick from this that we don't have a firm we don't have a firm price um let's work with your budget and we can find something that works for everyone and a day rate is important we didn't do this at first but you'll find herself oftentimes you're done, you're done recording and you're done all the writing and then editing just because literally adding music and pro tools becomes a huge task especially if they're at it is not finished and they're constantly changing picture and you're therefore having edit existing music to keep up with that um that could go on forever, you know and that can exceed the expectations that you've discussed um you gotta protect yourself a little bit yeah, it is good on it on what is it worth your time in your day and just say we can we can keep at this as long as you guys want here's our david and then of course, you know, we still do this and and we will continue to do this from the right project and working for free um if it's the right project and if it's something that you that you're passionate about helping out with but getting started I mean that is the nature of the beast, you know, you will get credits, you will get work um but I think if a project speaks to you and there's, they're lacking a budget it's worth considering so now that you have an agent, how does this play into it? I mean, are they kind of having to say and what you can or you're adjusting array based on you know they're their percentage are a little bit of both it's a product of project thing and he does take a percentage and you know the idea with an agent if we had more time we would have touched on it more but your work with your role in bringing work to the table does not stop there, you know, we've learned that and we kind of knew that, um an agent's job is less about just bring in a ton of work across your table it's more about protecting you in the in the legal arrangement of the work um, negotiating on your best interest and yes, keeping his you're out for projects that we could be a good fit for, but we're still responsible for justus much up front you know, marketing and getting the workers as we can he's just been an additional help in that you know, we're showing you the creative side of things um it's hard to bounce between the two I think and maybe not get rusty on on what you got into it in the first place for which was writing music this was a fun exercise, you know you're going to find yourself in between work and between different projects and there's some downtime and you feel like I'm discouraged you know there's not work and I should have a job russia has something to do there's always something to do we moved into that new studio space that we showed you last july june by the time we got to august things to slow down in the summer when we were looking at a month with not much on our table we wanted to keep doing something. So as an exercise we developed a q a day for the month of august the idea was a quick sketch you know a q b in just a snippet of work a quick sketch to keep our chops up based on what what do you write music about? Well, let's write it about what happened in that day so it's not a dramatic feature it's not a zombie film you know it's not a chase scene so to speak but we wanted to remain aware of emotional experiences throughout the day as boring or heavy is they might be um anything that happened throughout the day that was worth being aware of. We quickly tried to sort of translate that into a musical idea. We allowed ourselves thirty minutes some of them we did together, some of them we did independently but which had to do one every day I think we limited it our instruments like eight tracks um and we got one. I mean, some of them are is boring, is boiled eggs, you know, watching hard boiled eggs boil in the morning. Really well, what does that sound like, musically, let's, let's, head to the studio and score that, and we have a little snippet of boiled eggs. And why don't you play the ability for you want to play a bloody mary business lunch, wait someone that afternoon for lunch and maybe had a bloody mary when we talked about a business idea? We're not sure the details got, but the instruments of the town's got fuzzy, but it sounds like we're getting work done. There's, something angular about something determined about that. Wait till this birth, writing music a way that was fun, that's, a way to stay busy and keep working on music, you know, between jobs.

Class Description

A film’s score is so much more than background music. It creates a mood, shapes the story, and influences the way viewers interpret the action. In Modern Film Composing, Will and Brooke Blair ("The Blair Brothers") will examine the art and illuminate the science of scoring moving media.

You can hear The Blair Brothers’ work in award-winning features (from indie films to Disney), documentaries, commercials, and television shows. 

In this class, they’ll share their expertise and help you:

  • Find the style and tone of music that best suits your film 
  • Create dynamic musical elements that fall within your budget 
  • Improve your collaboration with composers
During the class, Will and Brooke will also score two CreativeLive student films – one prepared in advance and one scored live on air – to lend an artistic insider's view to the film scoring process and results. The Blair Brothers will also discuss their professional trajectory and how they maintain careers as composers. 

Composing music for a film can be an intimidating process for both filmmakers and composers, in this class you’ll learn practical strategies for approaching your project and producing a final product that fits your artistic intention.

Class Materials

Free Bonus Materials

Cue Sheet Template.pdf

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Will and Brooke Blair - Home Studio Gear Guide.pdf

-UNTITLED- Film - Audio

GREEN ROOM Score Proposal.pdf

Wll and Brooke Blair -RESURRECTO- Pro Tools

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Will Blair

Thanks to everyone at CreativeLive for helping produce our workshop - and thanks for everyone at home for taking a look!