Skip to main content

photo & video

Modern Film Composing

Lesson 15 of 17

Working Remotely

Will and Brooke Blair

Modern Film Composing

Will and Brooke Blair

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

15. Working Remotely

Lesson Info

Working Remotely

Nick baird danny is a director of a great documentary that we just wrapped a month ago called tom swift and his electric rifle and it's pretty compelling film about taser guns and sort of the responsibility police using taser guns in the potential unknown danger of taser guns and it just premiered a couple weeks ago a tribeca film festival and we met next through this siri's of who knows who referrals and friends of friends of friends I think that's how it worked and at some point we got company enough to to dig into it and we've you know without having met nick and person we scored his film from philadelphia you're based in missouri and we never met face to face until until tribeca at the premiere yeah brooke still avoiding me but everybody else way have a good time that's something he really he does exist that's right? We're facebook friends of thing I think we are that's that's really the currency in this world now at this point I guess right yeah a question just came from the onlin...

e audience you have to be in a certain location and do you have to you know you have to be in the same room with the director and like what are some advantages maybe if finding someone to work with elsewhere or I don't know what were your thoughts on the experience in general um for me was actually you know pretty rewarding because it allowed me which I'm do riverboats and I'll you know you guys sort of you know well we're all right you know, sort of epic poem sometimes about what is seen is supposed to mean and you know, the genesis of it all speaks to my ambitions down the road as as a narrative writer director but it allowed me to sort of think through things and write things out and sort of give direction really give actual direction on paper the same way I would do with an actor and what's fascinating about it you know, from your perspective I'm sure you guys will get into this is that I don't speak a musical language it also being able to just describe tone you know, mood pace emotion without worrying too much about you know, this is lo fi sound what is this going? You know, any bars air here and a lot of you just actually write things out especially since we were still kind of editing when you guys came on board and that was you know that I was actually a really crucial part of the process for me was knowing that we weren't just sitting there, you know, throwing stuff at the wall that I felt like everything it was really well thought out and even if we ended up changing our mind it was you know, being able to discover why we were changing our mind without just guessing on dso that actually was the most fun part for me was you guys forced to me just sort of think about what everything means and why it's there and what you know the end of that scene what are you trying to take away? We're transitioning into s so you actually you guys probably made me direct much more so than I would have anyway it was fun yeah, I think the question came earlier you know have you ever had total creative freedom on a certain project or are you almost always stuck tio pretty strict musical guidelines I think this felt like in a great way I think this project fell right in the middle. What was fun for us was translating these like you said poetic film ethic not long winded by any means but thorough and detailed descriptions but not of music of you know um what's happening with the characters what's happening with the story and just very general mood. You know, we found one of your e mails the other day it was like a blast from the past to find and you would give you would given in point in an out point and that's what's sort of the most you know um technical direction you gave start at frame so and so and be out by you know, this line of that line but in the middle you just described emotion and tone and uh and pace and allowed us to translate that so that was both the challenge but I don't know it was a lot of fun yeah, I hope so I mean I put a lot of people through you know, the ringer and so everybody tells me it's fun so I don't know if I could really believe you guys but I think it's worked out great everybody compliments how great the score is so I guess you guys you guys and your part I don't know how easy I made it for you well, I think one of the fun parts was there's very you're kind of breaking apart each scene that we're working on in a very kind of surface level way depend there's a lot of notes about but underneath it here's what we really need to hit so we kind of had to operate on two levels like the music can feel like this but ultimately you need this but subtle subtle pushed I thought, um it was pretty detailed I don't know if we did you'd never gotten that level of detailed notes well nobody wanted to talk to me about the movies for years I was making it and finally people are like you got to talk to about it? Well, are you sure you want to know what I think uh but that was you know, that was actually really great for me because you know the film is is very is two things it is on that surfaced about this weapon and sort of the you know, the reckoning that we're at now where it was very noble intentions from these two brothers that set out and, you know did revolutionize law enforcement through through through the weapon but what are the consequences of that revolution so there's a very practical sort of like timely and relevant and issue oriented, you know, pushed to the film because it is about this thing that is the most used police tool by like a million it's not even close it's everywhere and everybody uses it and everybody uses it a lot but beyond that it's much more of a character study about these two brothers and then what it means to have your perspective change from sort of altruistic entrepreneurs two guys running a business trying to survive on dso you know, that's what I found really fascinating about the way this score was going toe dictate mood because you know, we're dealing with hundreds of hours of deposition footage, but when you narrow it down to the film, how do you make this deposition footage feel, you know, like a scene in a narrative and not just, you know, a rehashing of of gotcha questions or anything like that I mean it's really much more about this evolution that they go through and so to set the tone of that and that's, what I think is is what I'm interested in as a doc filmmaker I'll never stop thinking about marriage for that reason because I believe they're just movies, you know? We get too wrapped up in what are they? What do they mean what's the relevance, you know, especially when you're doing this issue or into step, but at the end of the day they're still movies on do you have a great responsibility not just to make something important, but to make something that people watch is a film on dso when we thought about music, you know, is we talked a lot about in the early going I had these two brothers it's a lot about survival it's a lot about the trail it's all these other things, it was just very reminiscent of the social network, and so I thought about, like, those sort of human developments and sort of matched beats to that film and a lot of ways, and that was where I think you guys were able to just it's really hard to explain again, they don't talk, you know, in musical language, but you guys were able to capture that essence of broad, very conceptual themes like what is happening thematically scene I just literally what's happening, but what you know are we hinting at and that's what I think is special and unique and that's why you guys are really good not everybody could pull that off, but being apart helped me sort of again sort through the intention of everything and a good director really has, you know, an understanding of intention on dh that's that that's certainly I played a really big role and I think why the film has such a personal and emotional connection to the audience because they're watching two guys go through it and it's all cable it's not observational, but you're still you contract them from the beginning to the end or to where we are today on because of that, it feels very human and that's the music was a huge, huge part of that cool kristie of any questions for you. Nic, does anyone else have questions for me? We do have some questions coming in from the chat room. So film scores rock wants to know once a little bit about the difference between scoring a documentary film versus a more dramatic film. Yeah, I think we figured we figured this one out together because this was our first feature length documentary. You know, um, I think earlier we discuss the role of a score and like supporting the editorial pace and then their narrative pace and I think this was an example of, you know, we weren't following the edit, the rhythm of the editing, the rhythm of the cut was not as important for us to follow. It was more just really zero in on the understory. Um, I don't know, I think that was one approach that we notice that was different. We weren't you noticed with the resurrected that we were focusing on these timing specific frame specific cues when the tires came, this halt. You know, when the hand hits the screen, this wasn't a concern with with tom swift. Yeah, it was more just getting the tone, right? Yeah. And I would say this another. Another challenge to consider with the documentary filmmaking with the documentary film is in this case, there was a lot of archival footage you guys did a great job of and with that comes our, you know, archival audio. So you're getting audio from all different sources. It's not always a clean boom mic on set or a level here. Michael everything's leveled out. Perfect. You guys did a great job of smoothing things out in the final minute when some of those early cuts you know, you've got deposition footage that has, uh, an interview from, you know, the late nineties that's. That hasn't been restored or hasn't been you know preserved in some ways and it cuts to a more modern shot that's been miked up well and so your levels of audio and that sort of dialogue track that shift a work around can be all over the place unlike a narrative film um so that was fun to work around but again the final mix that you guys got together I mean it really took it from wherever we finished up and delivered our score you had about a few days was it a week a few days westerns yeah well kind of doing it at the same time I mean again I just love chaos we're like getting you know, getting stuff from you guys and mixing it in but we worked with a really great sound editor as well sound designers well lawrence everson who does the ross brothers films he does a lot of different stuff and you know he's in his own right a genius so it kind of made it easy where I could sit back and trust that everything was going tio you know it was going to end up ok because I was dealing with guys who you know have more experience than me and I could trust and you know I wasn't worried about another me out there trying tio figure something out at the last minute I was in very good hands with everybody else I was with but I think specifically to, you know, the difference between a narrative and documentary I've never been through, you know, obviously scoring a narrative, I hope to one day, but the edit evolves much differently, I think I mean, when you're shooting and narrative, you're editing davies, you got your editor with you and he's, you know, polling dailies and you're doing all kinds of different things, and that is certainly not to diminish the difficulty of editing, you know, in there to film, but, you know, like I said, we're dealing with maybe hundreds of hours of deposition footage, old promotional material, old, you know, and if you don't want to have just the typical talking heads, quick talking heads, quip, you know, all that literal context, if you want to do something more cinematic, what you're looking for is how to how to make the film like a narrative without being able to really script it and that's, essentially why I got a writing credit was because I kind of had to sift through all of this footage and not create it from my own head deal with what was existing and try to find a way to write that into into the edits so that it works, you know, that the narrative makes sense on dh so that's really a challenge? I know that you have to be prepared for that scoring a dock that the director is going to come back to you and say, hey, we have this whole idea about the way this was going to be paced it first and the way this was gonna sound at first and guess what? Like throw that out the window because we totally way found this new thing are we found a new way to interpret this thing and it's I thought about that a lot, actually since we wrapped about do you wait till your picture locked and then go to a composer for a doc? I don't think so because I think so much again of what you're dealing with evolves, and so I was able to find new meaning to scenes based on, you know, first draft accused I was getting from girls or I was I could hear something sound a certain way start messing with it and go that's too quick, it's just too quick for, you know what I had initially anticipated and that you know, that's, something to be prepared for its much more fluid than ah, you know, you have script, you shoot that script, you maybe do some reshoots you maybe, you know, but by the time you're composing a narrative you're really dealing with mostly what that film is this this film thematically made sentence. And, you know, the cut was pretty close by the time you guys came on, but certainly like the climax of the film, we prepared on doing a bigger sort of building, faster paced montage by the end of promotional stuff. And that slowed down in very much more subdued and personal and, like that's, a huge difference in your world. No, that's it's, easy for me to go, to manipulate that stuff. And we're with that stuff. But for you guys that's a huge pain in the butt. So, um, I think that's, really? What you I want to be prepared for is that if you're composing docks, you need to be ready. Even if the cut feels close, that unless they swear to you, it's picture locks, you know, there could be big changes from even in a couple of weeks, but with that said we were, you know, in the same concept, the same approach. We presented a ton of cues for that first cut, and they kind of like your footage, they became archives. Some of them worked where they were as you rearrange things, we realize we need to recompose new stuff, right, but we're still archiving this. A group of cues this big group of themes and it's grown we realized later in the game as you solidified more of a cut that some of those early things that were intended to be placed in such in such a scene now actually fit tonally somewhere else so you know a lot of scenes were composed for customers of course and then recomposed but early stuff we were able to move things around and kind of audition them here on audition them here and a lot you know not all of them but some of them worked in their new home that's what we think remixing a lot of those early cues also helped just changing in points and our points and muting certain instruments then thinking someone mixes out so I think we got away with kind of shifting stuff around a little bit and that seemed to work um it wasn't all start again if you guys changed the cut you know were ableto yeah we did some new cues but then we also worked with what we had and um he has kept the flow going I think it worked out all right I want to get a chance for a studio audience ask any questions you guys have for nick anything that you want to know I've got some other questions here from the online audience if you don't but now is your chance to smooth course we'd be here all day, sir I'd love I'd love tio see it and hopefully we'll get a chance to you but I was wondering was this film a little bit more on the melodic sided? Was it kind of more atmosphere? How did that interact with soundscape? Yeah, I think it met in the middle I think relative to things we've been working on today and some of the examples we showed you quite a bit more melodic um I wouldn't say they were structured like, you know, pop music or over over structured over arranged but there was there's a few artists we shared early on that what weren't necessarily involved in film music that we're just making music that we both agreed it was interesting just as faras choice of instruments, choice of tempo and things like that and I think you know, before we even saw the cut or started sending you music, our music we were discussing this music we like a lot of those influences made it into the score um absolutely, I would describe it cynthia there's definitely more percussion there's a little bit of drumming that helps move things along kind of looking electronic drums um that's a pulse is a lot of pulses and these organic pulses that brooke figured out how to do with this project and still a lot of like tonal atmosphere and some piano some piano made today um yeah kind of a more variety of elements than we were kind of experimenting with today we're happy with how it turned out we had a lot of fun with it yeah I'm very happy without turned out okay with other questions we got a question here nick what sort of guidance would you give to filmmakers who are working with the composer for the first time? Um you know definitely do your homework in terms ofthe what you you want now that's not to say that like you know don't think you're going to get electronic score and go to bluegrass cries I'm gonna get that but by but do your homework I think find other films that you think are similar to yours in some way thematically and then see how they do it find especially you know if you're doing and narratives you know it's clearly if you're making it jonah film find you no other genre films that you I think our similar two years if you're making a romantic comedy you know find romantic comedy that you think it's similar to yours that's the same way docks you know if you're making an observation all film about a small town you know finds watch ross brothers movies if you're making you know a big sort of expose that that's more issue oriented talking heads oriented watch shouts giving movies so that's definitely one is really doing your homework and understanding you know least in a relatively specific sense, not very specific but somewhat specific sense understand, you know what space you live in? And then, you know, when you're working with composers, remember that I think for first time filmmaker, you really want to remember that they the way that you feel about your craft and the baby that you feel about every little detail and most directors, you know, most really good ones are going to be obsessive and there, you know, obviously really controlling and about about certain things, and I certainly fit into that mold like incredibly obsessive, but remember that they are also artists and they're working in a craft and so be open minded about the way in which they might interpret your message and what you were thinking about, because if you get to sort of specific, especially people with music, all knowledge, I mean, again, I don't have a time I love music and I love, you know, great scores, and I listen to them a lot, and I actually think of film ideas in a way I made, like, make a score for a film almost sometimes in my head before you know, starting a new idea, anything but, you know, don't get too wrapped up in the way that you we mapped it out in your head um going it remember that that the reason you hire something buddy is because they're supposed to contribute to the conversation in a significant way they're supposed to bring an element to the table that you're not able to dio mean I'm sure there are some filmmakers about there have been score their own films like you know, most of the time that that's why I don't believe in editing your own films especially as a documentary filmmaker I mean you you need somebody else there who can tell you how to how to stop falling in love with something and that's the same with composers sometimes you haven't you have an idea that you're just so married teo and he needs you need you need somebody you trust to be able to say what about this on just brought in your world out that to me is the biggest things to your own work and be really open minded going in that's great all right well I think we're too wrapped up in a minute here I do have a question about here's the question about collaborating together I know you touched on it a little bit but just working with that distance working remotely any sort of final thoughts on that collaboration was working with somebody from a distance yeah I think make just touched on it to a certain extent I mean it is a long distance relationship and what that said it is you know, for lack of a better word it's an intimate relationship in the sense that he's spent you know was it for five years I mean with your baby yeah like how we're really talking about it was time to get you know yeah like the harlan dash cam footage was six six years prior before we even met thousand eight so you know in the same way that he trusted our craft we really had to um um develop trust and to us that was just communication and I think I hope we didn't like just blow up your inbox all the time but we really just tried to you know, keep a dialogue going specifically about what he's looking for about ideas we have you know be available um you know yeah be available to communicate and I think that's the best way to keep them from moving along you know I remember we would we would send some accuse your way and maybe like we would wrap up the week and send you a big batch of stuff on a friday and like we would we would get worried to the weekend like we want to hear what he thinks we can't wait to hear what he thinks and um he was great about you know, monday morning getting right back to us and like pot like like constructive criticism positive feedback um a lot of feedback was helpful for us to then um yeah, begin revisions. I think we're all just like big communicators. I think that made it, um, we don't get sick of each other. I think that made a very efficient well, you know, for me, it's, um, you would you choose somebody, and then you trucks that, and then you don't, you know, you never worry about, like, passive aggressiveness is killer is absolutely killer to chemistry for, you know, working on felton, collaborating on a film, and so, you know, that goes back through again, you know, being open minded on both sides that, you know, from my perspective is the director when you get something back, and it doesn't sound the way it sounded in your head don't immediately, you know, have a knee jerk reaction that, well, no, this is not what I was thinking, you know, sit with it for a little bit, try to understand kind of what you're dealing with and and and in fact, that's in a lot of ways, why certain cues that we initially wrote for certain scenes ended up working in another place because you don't think about those cues as having to be honest. So, you know, there's, no scene in the film where it's hit on such a specific no at a specific time, it has to, you know, rise or fall at a certain moment there really all that's? What makes it a score for me? All these cues actually speak to a story, nothing of themselves in the film because they're very broad, they're not necessarily genetic scott specific to a montage that you know, that certainly that's not necessarily a bad thing, but all of them, you know, captured the four or five dramatic things that I wanted to capture, so you just have to kind of understand that being one hundred percent honest while also being, you know, open minded and being able to give feedback and especially when you don't like something, get feedback in a positive way without, you know, freaking out about it and that's, the other thing that directors are doing, I mean, you're getting to the point now where it's it's we're getting down to crunch time, I'm dealing with a sound mix, I'm dealing with finishing the score, I'm dealing with making the dcp then in five days, all these things were happening to you and you just kind of have to get tunnel vision and stay stay on the right track because it's very, very overwhelming, so you know, an open line of communication and being open minded is crucially important. All right, well I think that's a good time to wrap things up. Nick thanks so much for joining us. Could you just tell us maybe a website where people can learn more about you or about your film? Yeah, we have a facebook page right now it's tom swift in his electric rifle we are sort of embargoed on any, uh training on issues many trailer material or anything like that because what kind of working through different distribution options now but you can get us on our facebook page there's tons of reviews and stuff that are out there that we started linking to that page and follow me on twitter nick and I ck parroting the e r a r d a and I was some kind of the defacto face now against this this mega corporation in it's going to be really fun over the next few months. All right, thank you so much, nic thank you. Thanks for your time. All right. Thank you. Talked about getting your first job just place again places to network. Um what's not on here's how we met nickname it was a a like a four way referral a friend of a friend I was moving to texas and we said, you know, keep this in mind if any productions come up in need of music and they passed her name along to someone else passed it along to someone else. And it got to a producer that nick was working with that's. Rare. But it's. Just, you know, put put your name out there.

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!