Overcoming Writer’s Block – An Effectual Approach to Writing Music for Film, Television, and Related Media

Greetings all. This year, I’ve decided to focus my efforts in one of two areas of music production:

1 – Composing music for film/TV/media

2 – Sync Licensing

The first item I have some experience with, coming from scoring the ten-episode web YouTube webseries entitled “At Risk – The Series”, back in 2017. The second is uncharted territory that I’ve been planning to explore and traverse for two years now, and is the topic for an entirely different group of blog posts. The following actually applies to both. I’m sharing advice and considerations from the current mental state I’m in and the approaches I plan to undertake to push beyond said state.

“Writing for film has its own set of rules and skills thatmust be mastered. Just because you can write apop song doesn’t mean you can write a score forfilm (and vice versa). I often hear musicians sayingthat they would like to be film composers. They write a song and say something like ‘that sounds like something that would be good in a film score’.
Just kind of messing around and ending up with something that sounds ‘soundtracky’ and actually writing something that adds to a film and enhances a scene is something completely different; not to mention the overhanging loom of unrealistic deadlines.”

The First Step

As you can see, we’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning the craft of writing for film. Like any other endeavour, it starts with a single step. Take what you know so far and grow from there. If you’re an electronic musician, try writing to certain scenes with your current set up. With all of the videos online, there is no lack of sources to write to. Start with your instrument and grow from there. Try some of the ideas I’ve listed here (for example writing for certain instruments). If it’s all completely new to you, get some material and get started. Try writing something right away. As soon as you learn a new skill, use it in your writing and memorize it as quickly as possible.

(excerpt from “Writing Music for Film: First Steps by Robert Maddocks / January 18, 2010)

“More often that not when someone is stuck and can’t move forward it’s because the person don’t know what to move forward with. The potential of infinite choices leads them to make none. Think of the car salesman, who doesn’t ask “Do you want this car?” (infinite reasons yes and no), but instead asks “Do you want it in red or blue?” (a very simple choice and your brain will make one)

Don’t worry about doing things the right way, or the way you’ve seen someone else do it. Just focus on what works for you and allows you to actually output work instead of just thinking about outputting work.”

(excerpt from “How To Kill Writers Block and Start Composing Now” by Robin Leach/16 Aug 2013)

Finally….

8. WRITER’S BLOCK (HOW TO UNBLOCK YOUR CREATIVE COLON)

Composing and computers are an uneasy marriage. Step away from your mac or PC and go for a walk. Motion and creativity are better bedfellows, if you’re sitting at your workstation you’re in the wrong bed! Don’t think of work as work if you don’t do any composition there… If the park is where your ideas come to you, that’s your work! Analysts feel that true creativity is when you’re in the moment. This will be when the desk of your mind is clear. Usually when there isn’t anything you need to think about other than what you’re doing. No one is about to turn up, the bills haven’t just hit your doormat, and there’s not someone bugging you on Facebook. Many people say early mornings are the most creative time as you’ll be free of disturbance or distraction. However I would argue, this is the most productive time. For many, creativity happens just at the moment that they’ve decided to leave the door. This is the moment when you’ve decided you’re finished… This is when you’re in the moment. Try to sit at your piano at this point and if anything comes, note it down somehow. For me a very rough charcoal sketch of a tune or cue will enable you to wake up and ponder it in the bath in the morning. Then by applying those magic productive early hours to a preconceived concept you will reap the biggest turnover of material.

(excerpt from “10 Rules of Media Composition – The Spitfire Labs Team/Spitfire Audio)

This article, https://blog.native-instruments.com/composing-for-film-and-tv/, from the Native Instruments website depicts some of the very things I went through mentally, via different approaches, when composting for the web miniseries mentioned above.

Finally, some solid advice for moving forward….

What advice would you give composers?

Louisa Rainbird: Definitely play to your strengths – it’s better to be known as a great composer in a few key areas than to try and cover all bases, particularly when the genres and styles covered by production libraries are so vast. Also, look at what is being used currently across film, advertising and different TV genres to give you an idea of what the trends in each area are – there’s no easier research to do, just turn on the TV!

Brian Bennett: Be original. Be brave. Take risks. Believe in yourself and your music. Don’t get complicated. It’s all about the picture. Make great demos. Don’t let a client guess what you mean. Keep the music in the same or relative key to make the music editor’s life easy. Be prepared to make changes. If a client doesn’t like your music, it doesn’t mean its crap, it means they’re looking for something else. Don’t get too precious about your notes.

Sophie Urquhart: I would advise composers to do their research on the libraries that will most suit their style of music. And listen to their advice, they are specialists in what broadcasters and sync people are looking for and can help mould their style accordingly to give it the best shot of being used, hopefully numerous times!

Also, I’d encourage them to focus on where their strengths lie, better to be an expert in their field rather than a jack of all trades. There’s more competition than ever before so it’s crucial that they have an identity which sets them apart from the rest.

(excerpt from “How to Get Into Composing Library Music – Anita Awbi/ 3 Jan 2019)

That said, permit me to reintroduce a re-scrore of a Mercedes Benz CLS promo I completed a little over a year ago. It’s the first of many reels I have planned to showcase my work, and progression of such, in the future.

Thanks for the read, be well.

Doug

Author: Fresh

Dad/Hubby/Mac Fan/Sys. Engr - NASA planetary missions. guitarist/producer/AFOL/fitness fan/film+TV+sndtrk composer. Python newbie coder. Music by me: http://SFTF.bandcamp.com/Mellowly Cool

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