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If you've ever had trouble communicating with a director, here are five of our top tips to help you out!

1. Friends

  • When you get hired on a project, you will likely be working with a director. They will lead the way with the overall vision for the film, and are essentially in control of what makes it in to the movie and what gets thrown out.
  • Many directors are excellent at working with music, however, there will always be some who don't understand the way music is produced, how difficult it can be to keep up with their ever changing edits, and the effect it has on the film and it's viewers.
  • No matter what the situation is, you should always try to remain friends and on each others side. You are there to provide a service, and that by taking the job you are agreeing to work with them to realise their vision. 

2. Common Language

  • Try to describe music in an emotional sense, rather than technical. This is because directors are very accustom to speaking in emotional terms when talking to other departments on the film, such as the actors, production designers, editors, sound designers and more.
  • You should use lots of adjectives to discuss the emotion of the scene and the music that is needed. This way you are more likely to hit the mark when trying to create your music, and they are more likely to enjoy talking about it with you.
  • For example, if you were discussing an action scene with them and you were about to write a fast action cue, you may use words like 'rhythmic', 'pulsing', rather than 'ostinato' or 'riff'.

3. Temp Love

  • It is not always possible to get on to a film in the early stages, and usually they will be at least mid way through the edit before you can begin work. However, on the occasions that you do manage to get hired early you should always begin writing music before or during the edit.
  • The sooner you can get your music in the film, the less likely you are to encounter temp love. This is where the director and editor place music in the film, usually taken from other film scores, in order to be able to get a sense of where music would be.
  • Whilst editing, they will watch segments of the film many times throughout the day and inevitably get used to the feeling they get from that piece of music. If they have been listening to this music for months or even years, it can become incredibly difficult for a composer to create something new which doesn't sound too similar to the temp music.
  • This can land you in a tricky game of trying to get as close to the original music as you can, without it being too close for legal copyright issues. You should do your best to get involved as early as possible to make sure that it's your score that they fall in love with, and not someone else's.

4. Communication

  • You should always be easy to communicate with during your time on the project. If you are taking days to reply to emails or ignoring calls then you will quickly annoy the people that you're working with.
  • When you're talking via email, always make sure that you are being clear in what you're saying, and format it in a way which is quick and easy for them to read. Emails can usually lead to confusion when talking in depth about nuanced things like music and film, so therefore it is always better to talk on the phone or actually meeting in person.
  • When you're with them in meetings, make sure you're paying attention and contributing to the conversation, being polite and friendly, remembering your role in the film and respecting other people's roles. Remember to take notes either with a pen or on your laptop - even if you can remember them, it shows to the director that you are actually taking in to account what they are saying and intending to review the notes.
  • The more kind, responsive and professional you are, the more they will enjoy working with you and want to hire you again.

5. Honesty

  • You may have heard the term 'fake it til you make it'. This works well in a lot of situations, however there are many times when scoring a film where honesty is going to be the better option.
  • If you are having a conversation with a director and they're using terminology that you don't understand, ask them what it means. If they used temp music that you think is providing the wrong emotion, ask them what it is that they like about the music. If they're expecting to hear a 60 piece orchestra, but you've only got the budget for a quartet, tell them it's not going to sound the same. If the money they are offering is just too low for what they need doing, tell them and try find a middle ground. If something they are doing in their job is affecting your ability to do your job, discuss it with them and find a solution.
  • In all of these situations, you could quite easily fake it and either pretend to know what they want from you or pretend that you're able to deliver what they're asking. This can lead to some very stressful situations where you either under deliver or end up spending heaps of extra time doing rewrites due to misunderstood notes. 

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