I posted this before on Instagram and decided to also post it here as a blog in the hopes it would help more people. So, here it goes~ --------------
I've been thinking of sharing this guide for some time now since I have some film and composer friends who said it would be a good idea. I've just been a bit hesitant for the past 2 years that this idea has been lingering in my head lol. I don't really hear much of film schools discussing this so I hope this helps if you're in film, game dev or in any project you'll be working with a composer~! 🎥🎞
TIP 1: Talk Emotions.
Whenever I would start working with directors/producers, sometimes the first thing they'll be concerned with is not knowing music. And, to be honest, it's okay! It's best to be able to talk more about how you see the film, the emotions, and your vision about the film. Talk story, not music. Sometimes it would all the more be confusing if we talk music because you might have misconceptions about certain musical terms. It might do more harm than good.
TIP 2: Get the Composer as Early in the Process as you Can.
Budget for the music early. Secure the composer during pre-production if you can so you have an idea how much they would cost. If you have not secured a composer early on and you need to submit a budget, a good estimate would be the 10% of your overall budget. Also, sometimes there are projects wherein you'd need us early for sync purposes. This is for when you need music for a dance scene so they'd sync with the music on set.
TIP 3: Don't forget Timecode and the Split track.
Put timecode and have a split track for the music turnover. The split track is to help us remove the temp, or FX/dialogue whenever we need to. It helps us compare and check our music to what is there. The timecode is very important in terms of syncing. Remember to have these whenever you're about to send your cut to the composer.
TIP 4: Don't compare us to the Temp track.
It's hard if you're married to the temp. If the composer you're working with wasn't able to compose how you want them to compose, it would help to talk which direction you want your music to go, instead of comparing it to the temp. Because if you put too much emphasis on the temp, chances are, the composer will just copy the temp. You could say something like, "we can maybe add more nostalgic feelings to this" or "let's lessen the drama because it sounds a bit too sad for me." If you also want to have emphasis on certain emotions in the film, feel free to mention the exact timecode to the composer.
TIP 5: Limit Revisions.
If you are having too many revisions (maybe more than 10 or something insane like 30), then maybe you have the wrong composer. Or, it could be possible that there is miscommunication happening between you and the composer. It might be good to re-evaluate your expectations, project or composer.
TIP 6: Trust your composer and keep an open mind.
In any situation, micromanagement is not the best way to go. Let your composer express if they have ideas or if they think what you want could or couldn't work.
TIP 7: We cannot "Fix it in Post".
Someone once told me that my music can "fix the actor's bad acting". Music doesn't really work that way. Music can only bring to life what is already in the film. Music cannot fix what is wrong or lacking.
TIP 8: Don't forget Cue Sheets and Proper Credit.
As with any major production, composers are part of a film poster's billing block. Please remember to include your composer there and ask them how they want to be credited on your film's screen credits. If they have no idea as well, the standard would be a single card with "Music by (Composer Name)". Lastly, don't forget IMDb credits. I cannot count how many films I have seen where they don't include their composers on IMDb. Lastly, whenever you finish a film, cue sheets are needed to be submitted to PROs (ASCAP, BMI or SESAC). Talk to your composers about it. Producers would most probably be the ones who would need to submit since composers are not allowed to submit it themselves. If you are a composer and are not part of a PRO, please register so you can get royalties due.
TIP 9: Know What you Want.
It would be confusing for us composers if you do not know what you want for your film. Directors are supposed to lead us to the write/right direction. (#punintended) If you are not sure how to articulate your ideas, maybe preparing a playlist for your composer would help. Or, you can also ask your composer what they think based on the cut or script you give them. Take some time to formulate your vision before you start working with your composer to avoid wasting time. I've had instances where I offered making a playlist or temping the film for my directors before -- I'm not saying this is a standard, but it's just for me to help my director.
TIP 10: Strictly Follow Your Pre-records.
There will be times you'll have to have the music on set so that actors/actresses can sync with it -- this is called a pre-recording. Some examples of this include a scene where the actors/actresses would play an instrument, dance scenes, etc. It would greatly help your composer if you'd be able to strictly follow the pre-record you had them work on because not following that will mess up the sync and give us more tedious work to do in order to get that to synced again.
TIP 11: Know the Difference Between a Song Vs. a Score.
A song is a piece of music with lyrics. A score is a piece of (usually) instrumental music that is synced to picture. Some composers can write songs, some composers cannot (unless they have a lyricist). If you need a song, you can talk to a songwriter, or clarify first from the composer you're talking to if they can write one out for you.
Composers, what other things would you want our film/game friends to know when working with you?
Film Makers/Game Dev, what other concerns would you have?