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.

To Kill a Mockingbird - Alessandro Mastroianni's Blog

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.