Trust your Director
Every time I start working on a new film, there are a couple of situations that can happen.
The first, the most common in my experience, involves some sort of temp-track put together by the director or the editor. Several composers hate temp tracks (I actually don’t if it helps the director to communicate what she wants) but let’s not go there.
The second is some sort of verbal reference given during the spotting session. Here the director would typically suggest where music is needed and which kind of music she expects.
The third is probably the least common but, if there is a great connection with the director, is my favorite. It consists in writing the music based on a script, before anything has been edited or even shot and then adapting it to picture at a later stage.
As rare (and not possible at all in several cases) as it is, I love working this way because it gives the composer a clean slate to work with, a creative world to explore with the story as the only guide, free from the preconceptions of the temp track.
Marvellous things can happen in this case: composers are left to run free and directors can be surprised by the unexpected ways their story has been told. More than one director has told me that music written this way has helped them to see their movie in a different light and to understand it better.
The main issue with this approach is that composers don’t have a visual reference and the room for mistakes and misinterpretations is huge.
This may result in a large amount of revisions and things can get out of control.
One lesson I learned, though, is that even if there are exceptions to this rule, trust your director. She has a view of her story that you lack and, provided she knows what she’s doing and has a clear idea of what the story needs, she can lead your work to exceptional results.
My work for Travestía, an incredible short film by Rogelio Sanchez Toledo is now available for pre-order on Bandcamp!