Helping composers be creative
As a director, part of your job is getting the people around you to function at the peak of their creative powers.
So what do composers need to be as creative as possible? It varies for everyone, of course, but I will speak from my personal point of view here,both in terms of the pure creative process and also as it applies to film composition.
Relaxation: Everyone works best when their mind is at ease. Ideas flow when the mind is clear. What can create relaxation for the composer?
Deadlines: Perhaps a deadline may appear as source of stress, but I don’t think so. It is very hard to get self-motivated to compose a lot of music and that can create stress. Having a manageable deadline is a great motivator and actually relieves the pressure of being self-driven.
Of course, a crazy deadline does create stress.
So how much music per day should your composer be expected to write? 1 to 3 minutes. (Action cues are 1 minute, slow moment will be more per day.)
Trust: We are more creative if we feel that our ideas are trusted even if they differ from the temp, that we have an input, that we are not micro-managed. In other words, that we are seen as the expert.
Artistic license: That we are given the opportunity to create and not just imitate. Remove the temp track, please. Artists work hard to forge their own voice! And yes, that can be bent to the needs of the film. Having you own musical voice and serving the film are not mutually exclusive.
Communication: If a director can explain to us what the film/act/scene is about very clearly, we can then compose with confidence that we are both aiming for the same vision.
For pity’s sake, don’t say: “I don’t know what I want but I know when I’ll hear it.” (Yep, I’ve heard that one before.)
Feedback: Feedback is important, focus on the positive. If the music is not coming out right, look for what works and what doesn’t but be specific.
Don’t just ask for another take without guidance. Look for ways to make sure the composer fully understands what you have in mind.
Also, keep an open mind to new ideas. Listen a lot before you give feedback if you are locked into a temp track. Get someone else’s perspective on it, someone who can approach the cut from an audience’s perspective.
Friendship: A composer is only human. If he feels that his input is important and appreciated, that you trust him and his ideas, and that you like him as a person, then he will give you 110%.
I would be interested in hearing your experience, both from the director’s and composer’s perspective.