Composing music for movie trailers business. The .Composing music for movie trailers ... video...

Composing music for movie trailers business. The .Composing music for movie trailers ... video games,
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    trailers are being commissioned up to nine or 12 months before the film is finished.

    The trailer music industry is becoming separate, agrees Bristol-based composer Timo Baker, whose credits include trailer music for Hollywood thriller The Adjustment Bureau and Simon Pegg sci-fi comedy, Paul. Because theyre working up to a year in advance they often havent even commissioned the soundtrack, so they get other dudes in to write the trailer.

    Money in moviesThis burgeoning industry can be a Holy Grail gig for composers with big American film companies paying $60,000$80,000 for two-and-a-half minutes of music and up to $25,000 for 10-second long snippets. Not all film production companies have blockbuster-sized budgets, however, and a cheaper option is to head to music libraries where licences for trailer movie tracks can

    With typically 120 seconds to convince an audience that this will be the ultimate cinematic experience, movie trailers are invariably highly-charged. While two minutes of fast-paced action, romance or comedy is thrilling, its the trailer music that helps stir the senses, giving the audience a distilled snapshot of a film that inevitably ends in a dramatic crescendo.

    Trailer music used to be either sourced from a music library or extracted from other films or the soundtrack of the film itself, but with film lead times getting longer and marketing budgets getting bigger, film production companies are increasingly commissioning a bespoke piece of work.

    Its quite a new and growing area, says Ben Jones, the Musicians Unions National Organiser, Recording and Broadcasting. Five or 10 years ago, most film companies used sync music for trailers. Now the

    The Musician Winter 2011 Report

    Composing music for movie trailers is an art in itself and a growing business. The Musician speaks to experts of the 2-minute teaser

    The trailer trade

    Feature by Katie Nicholls


    Havent I heard that before?

    When film companies do not commission original music for their trailers, they find inspiration in some familiar places

    Everett/Rex Features, New Line/Everett/Rex Features, 20th C.Fox /Everett/Rex Features

    O Fortuna When German composer Carl Orff composed the 24-movement cantana Carmina Burana he would have had no idea how the dramatic choral piece would grab the cultural zeitgeist. The piece has been used in a huge number of movie trailers from The Nutty Professor to A Clockwork Orange.

    Lux ternaAfter electro punks Pop Will Eat Itself disbanded in 1996, singer Clint Mansell reinvented himself as a successful film composer. This leitmotif from his score for Requiem For A Dream has been re-used, for the soundtrack and trailer of Lord Of The Rings: Two Towers and Danny Boyles Sunshine.

    StargateBritish composer David Arnold is well-known for his work on James Bond soundtracks. But his original score for 1994 sci-fi film Stargate, has been re-used on numerous big-budget trailers including Independence Day, The Mummy and Lost In Space among many others.

    MUM28.trailer.indd 24 11/22/11 11:13:59 AM

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    The Musician Winter 2011 Report

    Youve only got a few bars to score the scene... its a very complicated thing to do. Ben Jones, the MU.

    be bought for much less. The PRS tariff for film trailers is currently 3,500. BAFTA-nominated composer Richard Wells has written nearly 50 movie trailers, specialising in horror and martial arts.

    Keep the rights! he advises. I kept the rights to the music from the beginning and I later did a deal with KPM Music to release some tracks on two library albums, Overkill 1 and 2, which has resulted in a lot of secondary usage. Library music will earn you more than the trailer in the long run.

    Becoming successful as a movie trailer composer takes a lot of talent, a bit of luck and a few good connections. Timo first got involved after being introduced to the brother of a Los Angeles music supervisor.

    I stuck my CD in the post to LA and I started getting a few things on CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) and I slowly built up a relationship with this guy. A few years later he set up a company providing trailer music for films. Im two years in now and Im one of their go to composers.

    Wells started off writing trailer music for video games, through which he met director Jake West. After scoring the soundtrack to Wests low-budget vampire horror film Razor Blade Smile, Wells was

    commissioned by him to write the trailer for action film Atomic Train. It was during its making that he met Brian White who subsequently helped to set up Asian film specialists Dragon Dynasty. Wells has been writing soundtracks and trailers ever since.

    Moods in minutesTo carve a solid reputation in what is a very high-pressure industry is still hard. Timo Bakers ability to create top-quality compositions on time and to brief has been crucial to his success. Musicians are expected to produce results for a pitch quickly and often with just a written brief or with scant visuals for inspiration.

    Ill get an email on Friday night, saying,I hope youre around this weekend, says Baker. Ill work crazy hours Saturday and Sunday, as theyll want it for Monday. Stylistically, too, composers are asked to walk a tightrope. A trailer needs to create a

    Bristol composer Timo Bakers credits include trailer music for The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt





    memorable musical imprint but composers are often asked to write something, in the style of another trailer.

    Writing music for trailers is a very particular skill, says Ben Jones, because you dont have time to develop themes or let the music evolve and youve only got a few bars to score the scene with the explosions or the romantic scene... its a very complicated thing to do.

    Its essentially like writing a pop hit, explains Baker. They want the big memorable hook that people take away when they watch it but youll also be asked to take influence from another trailer. Conforming to a pattern makes a powerful trailer but within that sphere you need to create something unique.

    Avoiding clich One downside of working to such tight commissions, says Richard Wells, is that trailer music can sometimes sound a little formulaic. The most difficult thing is to give it some character, he considers. As a style its almost become a clich at the end you always have big drums, a choir and a riser. You could do them all like that but youd get bored.

    Having worked as a musician both with his band T Minus 50 and as a composer for TV, Timo Baker says hes got an arsenal of sounds he can access. Working on Cubase, hell start with a guitar line and let the music flourish from there.

    Ill start off with a contemporary sound with bass and light percussion right at the top of the cue. In the middle section, it kicks in with urgent strings with possibly a beat underneath and I develop that. Then theres a break before youre into the final section and its always, like, throw the kitchen sink into it! It needs to be massive.

    The challenge is not overloading the track and muddying it up while building the tension to a climax, says Richard. On the first write through I will often ditch everything except the climactic ending and then I start again with the ending and build from there until Ive found something that excites me. Despite the tight deadlines and stylistic restrictions, composing for movie trailers is undoubtedly a dream gig for the musicians involved. Its a lot of fun to do, says Richard Wells. And if you get lucky you are going to have your music played on a big screen at volume 11! It really doesnt come better than that.

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