I think music can make or break a movie. I’ve seen a lot of movies that have really crappy soundtracks and music that is, well, just horrible. If you are hunting for a composer to do your score, make sure they are the right person sonically. I mean, they might be a great musician but ask yourself if their particular style of music fits with the tone of your movie.
Johnette Napolitano, the singer from 80s band Concrete Blonde, did the score for my first film PEP SQUAD. I knew she was the right person for the cheeky campy sound I was going for with that film, and she did a haunting vocal version of America the Beautiful she called “Amerika.” It was her first film score, and it was fun to work with her on it. I even came up with the idea to incorporate drum cadences, which were recorded by our local high school marching band. Pleasant Gehman was working on a spoken word album with Kristian Hoffman at the time, and Johnette had a recording of Pleasant’s “Super Mega Zsa Zsa,” and played it for me. As soon as I heard it, I fell head over heels for it. The totally insane part was that when I placed it into the movie, the song fit the scene perfectly, beats actually happening on certain cuts, and ending at exactly the right moment. Total synchronicity.
Different composers have different methods of working. Johnette made several variations of each theme and left me in charge of where to place them in the film. Whereas, Justin Durban and Lindsay Ann Klemm, the composers for my film FIRECRACKER, scored music to fit the actual scene or sequence in question.
Also working on FIRECRACKER was The Enigma (using the name Paul Lawrence). The Enigma had previously made some music with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and composed some of the music for the carnival sections of the film. My dad Clark played all the Chopin Nocturnes you hear in the movie.
Then I met the genius Rob Kleiner. Rob is a talent beyond talents, and a great guy who is a total pleasure to be around. Some of you know Rob from his work with Cee Lo Green, on the song they did for one of the TWILIGHT movies, which earned Rob a Grammy nomination. Rob and I first worked together on WATCH OUT. Then he did the incomparable score for STUCK! and then CASSEROLE CLUB, CULTURE SHOCK, and FAR FLUNG STAR. Rob’s sonic brilliance comes into play as another character in each movie. His music can be subtle or big, but always right in tune and in step with the rhythm and tone of each given film.
I’ve worked with dozens of other artists who have given me songs for inclusion into different scores. THE WOODLANDS is Samuel and Hannah Robertson, who create absolutely breathtaking stuff. Samuel also made a solo project called QUIET ARROWS, which is equally arresting, and a couple of his songs became part of the OCCUPYING ED score, which was composed by Kevin Peirce. (Kevin appeared on my debut album Hypothermia, which was released in 1999).
Even if you don’t know famous musicians, it is totally possible to find super great music out there. My advice is to keep in mind that the right music will make your movie awesome, and the wrong choices could make it horrible to sit through.
Also keep in mind that just because you like a song, doesn’t mean everyone else will. So I encourage you to share the music with other people before including it in your movie. Just in case.