I’VE COME TO THINK of my composition process on a film as being similar to an actor’s in some ways. Let me explain by talking a bit about my process for “The Performance”, the film I am scoring starring Nicholas Campbell and Nick Mancuso.
I first analysed the story by using the script (normally I’d use the rough cut, but didn’t have it at the time.)
I had a preliminary talk with the director about his goals, his ideas, his thoughts, his view of the story and the characters. Jotting down key words in my notebook (pictured here) and asking questions along the way.
My first goal was to decide where there would be music and where there wouldn’t. Because this bit of information is obviously the first step in identifying what role music could take.
And then comes the fun part: digging in to the story and the characters to discover the function of the score.
I read the script over and over, watched what scenes I had to view, jotting down thoughts in my notebook (see the picture? That’s my notebook). Words. Sentences. Whittling it down, looking for that POV, looking for the essence. The center.
On the surface, the main character is sad. Sure. Fine. But I refuse to just say “I’ll write sad music”. I want to do more than that.
I want to tell part of this man’s story as we accompany him on this emotional journey. Something that is specific and unique to HIM. Something that tells the audience something about him. Something that only music can bring.
And that is when I become an actor in a way. I ask myself this simple question: “why is he sad.“ Understanding his thoughts. His point of view. Trying to think his thoughts. But also to psycho-analyse him. What’s his reasoning, but also what’s behind his actions. Digging deeper until something starts to emerge, words pop out, a POV clarifies. I reach that point where in a few words I can describe what my goal will be for the score and I think “of course”.
Because the right solution should always make you think “of course.”
With the understanding of the character and the function of the score I am then able to get to work and write with a clear target in mind.
I set to work writing my themes knowing exactly what to aim for. No throwing notes at the screen like spaghetti on a wall.
And there you have it, a view into my process and why I consider myself an actor with notes.