Trevor Thompson interviews Birdman composer Antonio Sanchez (Epicleff Media)
Most people know the James Bond theme music or the Pirates of the Caribbean theme. The upcoming SCORE: A Film Music Documentary, now raising funding on Kickstarter, has uncovered the international cultural importance of film scores, including the creative history of Hollywood’s finest maestros. And its (slightly biased) executive producer, Trevor Thompson, has comprised the following list of reasons why film scores are the greatest music of all time:
1. They Have Universal Appeal
Katy Perry is big. The Beatles are HUGE. But film music is iconic. You might not know the name of the composer who scored your favorite film. But if you have a favorite film, a big reason why it’s your jam is the music. It’s hard to imagine, but there are people out there who haven’t heard “Blank Space.” Many of them have seen a movie, though. If you go anywhere in the world and play an iconic film score like Star Wars, chances are [the people there] know it. And love it, too.
2. Film Music is Every Genre of Music Combined Into One
It’s the most non-judgmental form of music out there. Blues, jazz, classical, rock, R&B, soul, gospel, country, fugues, techno, electronica, Gregorian chants. You name the genre, there’s a film score that’s incorporated it before. So if you like ANY form of music in the world, you’ll like a film score, too.
3. Pig Teeth
Sometimes traditional instruments aren’t good enough for film composers. Sometimes they have to get creative. That is, more creative than usual, when designing sounds. Sure, you can program some synth sounds. But you can also do what composer Marco Beltrami has done before and just order a pig skull off eBay. He used the teeth of a dead pig as a rhythm instrument in The Homesman. And he’s considered a relatively normal composer.
4. Not One, Not Two, Not Three, Not Four, Not Five … Not Six
No, we’re not talking LeBron James and his predicted championships in Miami. We’re talking the number of film scores a composer does in a year. LeBron James, meet Christophe Beck, the man who scored SEVEN films last year, including a little film called Frozen. A single movie in today’s world can call for two hours of original music. That’s about as much music as TWO Beyonce albums. So take that, multiply it by seven, and that’s one year of work for composer Christophe Beck. What do you think about that, Kanye?
5. There Are 24.2 Billion Reasons to Love Hans Zimmer
And that number continues to increase each year. Hans Zimmer is the man behind the sounds of The Dark Knight, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, Inception, The Lion King, Interstellar, The Da Vinci Code and plenty of other box office hits. According to Box Office Mojo, films he has scored have combined to gross $24.2 billion worldwide. Comparatively, the director of the two most successful films of all time, James Cameron, has directed movies worth less than one-fourth of Zimmer’s films.
6. The West Was Won … By Immigrants
What’s more American than cowboys and sheriffs and outlaws and standoffs and the Wild West? Some of the most iconic American movies of all time are Westerns, scored by the most American of all people: Italians. And Russians. It was the Italian-born Ennio Morricone who highlighted Clint Eastwood’s icy stare in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. And it was the Russian-born Dimitri Tiomkin who penned the music for High Noon. Just as America is the melting pot of the world, film scores are the melting pot of the music world.
7. And Now You Can Compose, Too
One of the most exciting things happening in film music is it’s becoming more open to people without a film composing background. The success of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (of Nine Inch Nails fame) in scoring films such as The Social Network and Gone Girl is a shining example of how creating a wider talent pool in film music has led to some great results. The Reznor/Ross duo was awarded the Oscar for their work on The Social Network in 2010, signifying that all of Hollywood is taking note of the new, exciting developments in film scoring. Heck, even Daft Punk got into the game, creating the score for Tron: Legacy that same year to rave reviews.
8. Starting a Score can Give a Composer Nightmares
And spark a panic attack. And also cause hallucinations. There should be a label that comes on each contract a composer signs before starting a project. WARNING: TRYING TO CREATE TWO HOURS OF ORIGINAL MUSIC IN A FEW WEEKS HAS BEEN SHOWN TO CAUSE (INSERT TERRIBLE CONDITION HERE). Even composers with more than 100 film credits to their name say the feeling at the beginning of a project is the same: Why did I sign up for this again? Hans Zimmer calls it “panic.” Other composers had less appropriate names for it. Part of the reason why creating a film score from scratch is so scary is due to the fact that…
9. There Are No Rules (Well, Except One)
Most of the music you hear on the radio is structured. It’s a song that’s going to last about four minutes, in 4/4 time, with a chorus that repeats itself sung by an auto-tuned singer. There’s no roadmap like that for a film score. Film music let’s you explore your creative potential to its zenith, which is also what makes it so challenging to create. You don’t have to employ any one style, any one time signature, any one arrangement or orchestration. You’re free to float from one idea to the next as long as you obey the Golden Rule of film scoring: you have to match the picture, of course.
10. Johnny Film Score
There is only one person in the history of mankind who has been nominated for more Oscars than John Williams. That person is Walt Disney. But think for a moment where Disney films would be if they didn’t have any music in them. John Williams trails Walt Disney by ten nominations, so it’s still possible he catches up. But even if he never composes music ever again, John Williams still IS film music, and his scores may even end up outliving the movies for which they were written.
SCORE is on Kickstarter now with a crowdfunding goal of $40,000 to finish the film. The crew is offering a handful of interesting perks, from thank-yous in the credits to copies of the film, tickets to the premiere and even a chance to have your own musical motif written by a Hollywood composer.
You can check it out on Kickstarter or at score-movie.com. And watch the campaign trailer below. Also, if you want a chance to win an autographed soundtrack, see the posting on the doc at Film School Rejects.