More than Setting the Mood

Score is as important as good acting and visual composition in providing us a glimpse into the inner life of a film character, and it is that inner life that is most compelling. The exterior life of a character in conjunction with other characters creates drama, and a drama unfolds through plot. For the audience, this works mostly on the conscious (intellectual) level. The interior life of a character (the lonely life of a character only hinted at in his or her interaction with other characters) works mostly on the subconscious (feeling) level. It is the feeling that stays with the audience long after they have forgotten the plot. The close association of this feeling with the character score is why we often remember the feeling and the score of a film long after everything else about that film has faded. Usually, at least as I have observed in lower budget films, the score is created after the final cut of the film. This is understandable since of course the music needs to be timed with the cuts of the film. Nevertheless, I believe it would be good to get some musical phrases scored even before production so that that music may be in the back of the Director’s mind as he is composing certain especially poignant shots. Just as an efficient Director composes his shot list with post-production in mind it seems that he would be aided at that point by having at least some of the musical phrases in mind as well. This also helps the actors. I recall how Anthony Perkins heard the end credits score for Psycho II (or at least a rough version of it) before production, and the evocative sadness of that piece helped him to get back into his Norman Bates character. 

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Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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