As our Extended Play Movie Podcast series focusing on film composers comes to a close, it was important to discuss a documentary on the subject. Score: A Film Music Documentary was released during the winter of 2016 and it may have missed many people’s radar. Surprisingly, even after a year, you cannot find it on services like Netflix, Hulu or even Amazon Prime. Thanks to the help of YouTube, I discovered this documentary’s trailer and I am glad I saw it.
Matt Schrader’s documentary talks with the industry’s top composers and touches on working in this business. The film is part history of scoring, discussion of legends and showcasing many of the current composers in the field. Not every composer took part in the documentary but archival footage was used in their place.
The film takes an elegant and impactful look at its history. From the organist that performed during the silent era to composers that took it to a new level. Learning the origins of Alfred Newman and Max Steiner and their impact on the films at the time. The lessons of motifs that composers use and the importance of a score in a film.
“Maybe You Should Call John Williams Instead!”
The biggest thrill for a cinephile is the stories of composers gushing about other composers. Hearing composers like Hans Zimmer, Trent Reznor, and Junkie XL discussing the impact of John Williams’ scoring in films. Jerry Goldsmith revolutionizing scoring to keep work when traditional film scoring was fading away.
Getting an insight into the process of scoring a major film was a huge thrill and learning experience. Many films nowadays find themselves under severe pressure to score a film. Many of them only have weeks to compose a film before it’s released in theaters. Listening to the panic attack that Zimmer has when committing to a project is a great summation of the climate in Hollywood.
The film does not touch on the politics of making films today versus making more intimate projects. The film solely focuses on the experience of a composer. We may remember what these people do around Oscar season but it is quite forgettable in the theater. Whether it is the latest tentpole from the studio or an intimate independent film from a small production company, the score is the same in all avenues.
If you have a passive interest in film, much less scoring, you may want to check it out. It would be interesting to see the faces behind some of the scores that you know. However, it is an interesting view in just how composers have different views on engaging with film directors. Learning about the craft of scoring. The documentary is great for fans of film or filmmaking, but it is not going to apply much for passive watchers.