Composing : Masters of Craft Webinar with Film Composer Terence Blanchard (Dir. Spike Lee, Dir. George Lucas) October 9th! by Amanda Toney

Amanda Toney

Masters of Craft Webinar with Film Composer Terence Blanchard (Dir. Spike Lee, Dir. George Lucas) October 9th!

I've been hearing our composers tell me how much you'd love a Masters of Craft webinar. I am so excited to announce that we hit gold. I'm bringing in Terence Blanchard, who has composed Spike Lee's films, as well as for George Lucas. He's Golden Globe and Grammy nominated and he is all around an amazing human being. I had the chance to meet with him in New Orleans last week to prep for the class and I can tell you that he is so EXCITED to teach for the Stage 32 community. Here's more info:

Joel Irwin

I fully support webinars like this from extremely qualified and honored composers like this one.

Here is why I believe there is a 'gap' between the composers like this who often do webinars and those of us out in the world far away from Los Angeles who do not plan on re-locating to a big film city like LA, NY, Nashville, Atlanta, London, etc. and those of us who work on films that clearly do not have budget for like musicians:

1. The webinars concentrate on the business end. The business end is very different for those scoring shorts or working on competitive films (such as the 48 hour film project). Often all there is, is an email and/or handshake. Breaking in outside of LA can be quite different from those in LA/NY. The networking is much more limited. The up and coming don't often mix with the successful - more often than not, everyone is pretty much in the same boat. The practices and procedure often common in LA and larger features such as spotting sessions and cue sheets generally don't happen elsewhere. Crew in films outside of LA often wear multiple hats and the people tasks with audio editing/engineering a not very knowledgable / are novices - the sound takes lower priority to the video. There are no opportunities (or very rarely) to apprentice for another composer. Pay in LA (or in features) is expected - outside of LA or in shorts, it is questionable - so learning how to negotiate is useful but rarely used. It sort of reminds me of the classic/standard text we all read when we start "Complete Guide To Film Scoring". Its nice to learn once, but if you are outside LA, pretty much more of an academic exercise but not immediately practical.

2. Webinars talk and instruct on production but that is as far as they go from an artistic end. They'll give you some general guidance on what software to create the music with, what samplers are useful and something about picking instrumentation - assuming of course you are scoring electronically. What I rarely, if ever see as more about the composing process. Sometimes, we see a master class like Zimmer's was which gets a bit into structure and motif development. But say you are starting your composing journey and you can write music, but you get a scene to score and ask yourself "now what" - how do you know what type of music to write - what should be the feel, the style, should it be an orchestral genre, a jazz genre, etc. What instruments should be used - should it be melodic, diotonic - in what key? what tempo? should there be a modulation? How should the structure sync with the action and the "hit points". This stuff and more is what a composer has to face for every cue they write/compose. Should there even be music at all? My single biggest challenge when I came out of a music program and chose not to take online classes at a school like Berklee, was not how to write music, but rather how to write a cue that works for the scene artistically (and makes the filmmaker/director happy.... :). A successful composer in the business world (especially in LA but perhaps more so like here in Texas), must be a master of their artistic craft. The composing field has become very crowded in the past 10 to 15 years. There are many talent people with the inert abilities to score with little or no training. For the rest of us - especially those coming from performing careers or studio producing careers in pop/r&b/rap/hiphop - training and on the job experience is required. Most won't study formally (such as theory and ear training and orchestration). Many will only know how to write for piano and guitar and so everything they write will sound like a piano/guitar piece perhaps in the three basic diatonic chords (1, 4, 5) no mater how many instruments, rhythms and tempos they use.

3. Webinars often (perhaps rarely) don't spend time analyzing a score. There are three challenges here - (a) in the world of film scoring, many of the scores are done with DAW (Sequencers) and midi commands specific to the instrumentation. So unless you are familiar with all the tools, they are hard to analyze. (b) some of the more sophisticated score written for live performers (often done in higher budgeted features), use standard sheet music. But a large majority of the composers who hang out here on stage32, can't read music and would have difficulty with either large multi-staff orchestral scores or even large multi-staffed big band scores. (c) Getting access to a film's score is nearly impossible. I try to share my scores whenever possible but after a few years of requesting stage32, I am still waiting for the ability to display PDFs in this lounge.

4. Webinars don't often address the issues and problems (both people and technical) that more specifically are associated with small production environments especially the low or no budget film world.

So the above things are some of the reasons why for the last few years I have been posting (for free) here in this lounge. I am not expert though I have now scored about 28 films (27 short) and have been nominated twice and won once. Most of us, especially outside of LA, start on a similar road which has many common pitfalls - some shared with our peers in LA and some not. Things like the whether I should take a scoring job if there are other composers scoring the same film. Or what should I do if the director has me score a film three times and still doesn't like it (and there is no contract because short filmmakers in these parts almost never have one).

And by the way - here is something that many webinars missed and I think we need to address more here:

1. Many composers park their music on soundcloud. I moved there a few months back from icompositions which shut down. I used to get 50 to 100 listens a week. Now I get 2 to 5. Other composers park in their own websites - where getting visitors to come and listen is perhaps a bigger challenge. So how does a composer get heard? Are there better 'watering holes' than soundcloud?

2. Composers constantly debate which is better - listening to a whole track or just excerpts? Sure we all like to make money on music we placed in films in addition to our contact and royalties. But should we just provide access to our scores online or try to place them for sale as soundtracks - there are pros and cons to both sides of this debate.

3. What about social media? How can social media be used by composers to either (a) pick up more work and/or (b) promote or sell the music

4. When do you go for a 'work for hire' and give up the copyright and when do you maintain everything?

Done for now....

Linwood Bell

This is going to be great! I'm such a fan of his musicianship and I look forward to it. Thanks Amanda!!

Amanda Toney

Looking forward to having you Linwood Bell! Terence is superb...bring your questions...he's ready for them :)

Alessandro Mastroianni

Looking forward to this, I hope I'll be able to make it. I love both the Blanchard jazz musician and the Blanchard film composer.

Michael Mason

Really looking forward to this!

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