As a director you have to be a storyteller, yes, but also a leader. And to be a leader who gets the most out of the people he leads, there is nothing better than walking a mile in their shoes.
That doesn’t mean I suggest you have to sit down and compose, but listening to what composers want and need, their desires, what they consider the best working environment for them, understanding those things will go a long way in building a productive and creative working relationship with your composer.
Here is an interview with 5 established composers published in the Hollywood Reporter . A lot of important subjects were discussed, some of which I will address here.
But first, here’s is the link to the full article. Oscar Roundtable: The composers [N.B.: requires subscription.]
Today I will comment on some answers by Howard Shore and Danny Elfman, which I quote below.
Shore: It’s important to make films in a linear way. It’s the most productive way to do them. You wouldn’t start shooting a film if the script wasn’t finished.
Elfman: It’s a contemporary problem. Thirty, 40 years ago this wouldn’t have happened. It’s something we deal with now that our predecessors didn’t have to. They didn’t have to reconstruct things in the eleventh hour the way they do now.
Shore: It’s a good discussion point, because here is a group of composers sitting here saying that the best way to make good films — which is what we all want to do — is to allow that the postproduction process be linear. It’s like what Danny said: Films used to be made like that, and look at all the great films that were made.
They are talking about the last minute changes that happen now because of the new digital editing revolution. Now everyone can have a say in the final cut and it keeps on going and going and going.
Sometimes the changes are minor and a composer can rework his cue, or the music editor can nip and tuck the music, but if the changes are big enough then the whole cue goes out the window.
During the editing you may not feel the changes are big ones, a few frames cut here and another few added there, no big deal, right? But suddenly none of the hits in the music cue work anymore and it has to be redone!
What these guys mean by a linear postproduction process is that the final cut stays final while the sounds and music are being created.
And the bottom line, is that redoing cues hurts the quality of the music overall, since the energy spent on reworking something that was already done takes away time and energy from music that still needs to be written.
Like Mr. Shore said, we just want to make good films!