Join Ashley Kennedy for an in-depth discussion in this video Laying the musical foundation: Working with the temp score, part of Filmmaking Forum: Conversations.
- Temp music is really there to do two things, establish the tone and the mood of the scene, and help sort of guide the audience into feeling what you want them to feel, and serving as a template for the emotional beats of the scene for the composer. So, when I kind of look at a scene without any music, I kind of pick where do I want it to start, where do I want it to shift, and where do I want it to end.
- So, I love that part of the process and I'm so respectful of the fact that a composer shouldn't just be ripping off your temp score. But I try to provide a really solid blueprint, to say, listen, here's why I made the choices to have the music start here, to have the music stop here. Here's why I like in the temp music there's an oboe that comes up at this look on somebody's face. Don't rip it off, don't copy it, but I want you to pull the essence out of the choices that I've made, bring your own voice and your own emotion, knowing that there are specific beats in the scene that I need hit.
- I usually, after I've read the script, I'll kind of think tonally about the episode, especially after the tone meeting. I'll take any notes that the showrunners called out with, "Oh I really picture a moody song "going over this montage." You know. Any feedback from the producers. - The way I work with temp score is I have my iPod on shuffle all the time when I'm working. So, it is constantly playing a random selection of film music of like 500 or 600 film scores that I've collected over my entire life from the age of seven.
I'm always listening for a track that will be like, "Oh, that could "be useful there." Then I'll look to see what film it's from, and I'll be like, "Oh, that might be "a good film to just listen to "the whole score and see if "there's other tracks that might be useful. - I'll pour over our temp score library and maybe make a bin of selects for a score that speaks to me, maybe for a specific scene or montage I know is coming up, or maybe just more generally in terms of tone.
If I have a piece that's working well, I'll try to use that thematically throughout the episode so that the composer then has more of a shorthand of all these scenes tied together. And then they can take that, and apply their sensibility, and I really try to stay out of the way at that point, because then they deserve to have that creative freedom as well. - When I did X-Men: First Class, I listened to all the other X-Men scores. I described the kind of music for each track very closely.
I would put markers on where certain types of emotional change happened in the music, or where the theme came in, I'd use a green marker, and things like that. I will try and make sure the music has the correct energy, that's very important that it has the right momentum and it has the right emotional buoyancy for the scene. - I don't care what instruments you use, but the emotion that that is evoking in my audience right now, I want you to do the same thing, but do it 20% better.
There's a spot here in the scene, at this exact timecode, the music has to turn. If you're working with a good composer, they know that stuff intuitively already. - Sometimes it can be very informative, as well. By giving you a limitation or a focal point that spawns all this creativity, because you're not just kinda looking at an ocean of stuff. (laughs) It's just like we're going to focus in on this now, what can we do with that. - I've been in all sorts of environments where me as the editor and the sole person giving the composer notes.
I've also been in an envirmonment where the producers are the only ones giving them the notes. I do appreciate being able to give some feedback, just 'cause sometimes the editor knows the cut so much more intimately in some ways, maybe the producer is generally great with the cue, but I'll usually point out "Oh, maybe it should hit "this beat a little stronger." Then we can have a collaboration about that.
- I really don't like using temp music, because I like to cut with no music and let the film find its rhythm, and then figure it out under there. I feel like if I lay in temp music, then I'm robbing myself of my own ability to come up with something completely unique for that sequence, because I'll start thinking of the scene with that music on it. Like the temporary stuff. Then, I might start leaning toward copying that, or it just becomes very hard to get your head clean again. When I've come in to other people's films as a composer, I tend to like to watch the movie completely clean, I don't want temp score on there or anything.
I just want to see it... Like, to have my own ideas. Then, maybe later, OK, turn the temp score back on so I can see what you were thinking and compare it with what I was thinking. But if you show it to me with your temp score on in the first place, it's kinda robbing me of the ability to have my own ideas about "Oh, I think music goes here and I think it should be this thing." - Quite often, when we send it to the composer, we may not put any temp score on at all, and just let them just try stuff out without being influenced by what we've done. Depending on what the director wants to do, sometimes the music editor is working very closely with the composer, literally next door to them, and we'll show them four or five options of an idea of like, "How about this? "How about this?" Then the composer will take those ideas and go, "Okay, I've got an idea, "I know what I want to do here." So, it's not a completely blank slate, it's like, "Here's four ideas that may work "from other movies." - When you're working with temp music, it's really hard sometimes to get the film's temp music to feel cohesive, and to feel like it's all part of the same thing.
I had one film that I was working on, where each piece of temp music worked really great within the scene that it was in, but overall it was just so different that people kept having this comment over and over, like, "I was really distracted by the music." Our answer would just be "Well, it's just temp music!" It doesn't matter because that's the version of the movie that those people are watching, trying to give you feedback. - Yeah, it's when they get too attached to it, that's the bane of every composer's existence. At that point, I really try and FBI it, and try and work out what is it? Is it the sound of the acoustic guitar, is it the sound of the string section coming in in a certain way, what is it that they're so attached to? Is it the shape of the melody, is it something about the chord progression? Then that's when you gotta try and figure out what pillars you can put in place in your own piece.
That will hopefully check those boxes and get you away from the temp. .
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