To Kill a Mockingbird
Years ago I read a wonderful interview with the great Elmer Bernstein.
When asked about his writing process, he said that when he was given a film to score, he would spend a lot of time just watching the film with no prejudice. He tried not to think about the music at all. No thoughts about themes, harmonies or orchestration.
I know what you’re thinking: those days are long gone, and no one ever has the luxury of such a long deadline.
Anyway, that’s what he did. Just spending time with the film.
Talking about his score for To Kill a Mockingbird, he explained that when you watch the film without music, all you see are lots of kids.
As we all know, however, the film is about violence, death and injustice: adult’s problems.
Watching the film this way he realized that To Kill a Mockingbird was a film about the adult’s world seen through the eyes of children.
This brought him to childlike elements such as playing the piano one finger at a time, music boxes, bells.
The filmmaking process has changed tremendously since 1962 but I find this approach remarkable.
We might not get that kind of time to think about a film but that level of depth is something we should always strive for as storytellers and as artists.