Composing : Scoring My First Film by Julian Montgomery

Julian Montgomery

Scoring My First Film

I have the opportunity to compose music for my first film. It is a short film that the filmmaker will be submitting to festivals. I've composed music for a lot of movie clips through school and on my own time but this will be my first full film. So, would any of you experienced composers have any words of advice for me?

Allen Lynch

Communication! Get as much clear direction with the director/producer to determine their vision (temp tracks can either be suggestions or gospel). Have a spotting session to assess placement, tone, & to determine where music is not wanted. Be prepared for adjustments and revisions. Enjoy the process. Remember why you were hired. Good luck!

Julian Montgomery

Thanks Allen!

Joel Irwin

I like Allen's suggestions. Find out if you are both 'rookies' but if he has worked with a professional composer before, find out more about his style, and how he felt about his previous experience. If this is not a competitive film for which you sign a contract/agreement, then have something in writing or at least in email about what you have agreed to. I won't go into details here about what goes into it. If at all possible, try not score a unlocked scene especially if your gut tells you it may get changed (for example, you think it is too long). If they change a scene, make sure they understand the impact on the music delivery schedule if it needs to get rescored.

From a artistic perspective, if they give you a link most probably on youtube of something they want it to sound like (or send you a 'temp track'), try to come close. I'll discuss this in a post here within the week about my most recently scored film, but if you can get the 'feel' and tempo the same - perhaps even the key signature and instrumentation (but definitely change the melody! :) ), you'll make a friend with the filmmaker. You want them to tell you they 'love it'. But if it needs to redone, don't take it personally. They don't like your cue - not you.

AND DON'T BE MARRIED TO YOUR NOTES. Be willing to go through your score and pull out notes and other things/sections. Remember especially when your score is associated with a dialog scene, it will be mixed very low. If you have intricacies or complex instrumentation sounds, it will not get heard so don't spend to much time making it sophisticated.

Julian Montgomery

Thanks Joel!

Jonathan Price


Julian Montgomery

Thanks Jonathan! Hopefully this is the first of many.

Rods Bobavich

1) Don't overthink anything. Let the emotion flow. Again... Let the emotion flow. It's not about sounding pristine it's about sounding like the emotion is tangible.

2) Let the director direct you like an actor. He/she doesn't know music terminology and can describe in emotional colors what they want. When you communicate back use emotional picture language to describe what you're thinking and feeling.

3) Make every second of audio about what's happening on the screen. This isn't a music video about your music. You're writing music about their life on screen. Make sure that your music is the best supporting actor.

Best of luck!

Julian Montgomery

Thanks for the great advice Rods.

Yon Max-Aaron

Congrats Julian, and thank you as well as all who replied, this is very helpful advice to me as I'm very new at this. Good luck.

Alistair Melville

Congrats. My humble advice - keep it very simple :-) Less is more :-)

Julian Montgomery

Thanks Alistair!

Rachel Walker

Hi Julian! I hope this all went super well for you!

Julian Montgomery

Hey Rachel Walker, the project I was referring to in this post actually got canceled. However, since then I got two paid opportunities to compose music for two films. One of them I just finished all the music last week. The other is a film series and I'm working on the last two episodes right now. I have another one coming up next month. So, even though my first one got canceled it has been a very good summer for me.

Rachel Walker

Oh that's so super awesome Julian! So great to be able to use your gifts, contribute, and be paid for them! :-) So great to hear it all worked out for you!

Aashray Harishankar

Thank you to everyone for the advice! I am also a recently graduated composer looking to find my first project to write for! Good luck with those films Julian Montgomery!

Matt Milne

yea, don't take advice, find your own way. And Aashray, forget everything you've just learned, develop your own style that's practical.

Shawn Speake

Be confident. Keep score primal. Minimalism is where it's at, but that varies with genre. Know in your heart, if you like a sound and style, millions of people will too because you have taste. You were hired fore your taste, and you didn't take this journey cause you're soft. You're a boss, baby! Last, but most definitely not least. Have fun. If someone's chillin' beside you make em laugh. Like ability is worth just as much if not more than a primo score. If nobody likes you they don't care how good the work is...days are too long to be fuckin' around with attitude. Always here for you. Strength and honor...

Rachel Walker

Great advice Shawn:-)!

Luigi Suardi

I've just end my first feature film as composer and the situation is the same for me, great question Julian!

Julian Montgomery

Congrats on the feature Luigi!

Julian Montgomery

That's AWESOME Andrew! I'm excited for you.

Rachel Walker

How very wonderful and it is SUCH an exciting adventure as we continue to create and add to the song that sings all around us!! Have a wonderful HOLIDAY Season!! Rachel :-)!!!

Other topics in Composing:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In