Scoring your film can have a sort of mystical power over the mind. The perfect song paired with picture can make you cry, as can the wrong one. But finding the right music for your film can be a major hurdle, especially if you’re an indie filmmaker on a budget.
Four Tips For Scoring Your Film
Here are some points to keep in mind when scoring your film.
1. What do you want your audience to feel?
Renowned Composer, Neil Brand, revealed the experiential nature of soundtracks when he said, “Human beings are very good at interpreting sound…we can feel it going into our ears via sound waves and it can produce all sorts of responses…it’s very physical.”
When scoring your film, you have to consider what you want your viewers to feel, think, maybe even smell. Choosing a more obscure track can actually prove to be more effective than a well-known song. If the song is less recognizable, viewers won’t already have past memories tied to the track that will distract them from your film, allowing them to fully experience the moment.
2. How long is it going to be?
In the sync licensing realm, you are going to have to pay the same rate no matter how long you want to play the song. This might be something to think about when that ‘must have’ song is going to cost you an arm and a leg only to play for ten seconds.
As amazing as it would be to have “Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan playing as your character wistfully stares out the window of a bus, you could probably evoke the same feeling with “I Don’t Fall Much Anymore” by Barna Howard. Although comprising doesn’t always sound like the best solution, it’s possible that a similar song can elicit the same intended feel, sans the big price tag.
3. Don’t over think it.
When scoring your film, go with your gut.
While finding the perfect track should take longer than a few minutes, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and overthink things. If you found a song that gives you the feeling you want to emote, don’t second-guess yourself – do it! As cliche as it sounds, there’s a reason why you feel it’s the right one and you should go with your gut.
4. What’s your number?
If it’s in the Top 40, you might be reaching unnecessarily high. Besides the enormous hurdle of clearing a big name track — big name artists can license their songs for up a couple hundred thousand bucks and can take months — a popular song might not suit your scene as well as an undiscovered indie track. That’s where music licensing companies like Marmoset come in.
With over 600 indie artists, there’s a chance they have the exact type of song your brain dreamed up when you were shooting a scene, and a sophisticated search tool to help you find it. Whether you decide on a big track or a hidden gem, a little bit of searching and a lot of patience can go a long way.
Sara Barron is a writer and musician residing in Portland, OR. She has a BA in Music and Marketing from Vanderbilt University and has previously written for The Odyssey. In Portland, Sara works as a Copywriter at Marmoset, a creative agency licensing indie music for film and TV.