Music Composers Unite!
Opportunity comes from strange and unexpected places.
What is the essence of opportunity, really? Is it that first gig with a contract for a movie that other people will see in theaters? You bet.
Maybe, though, it's that obscure off-in-the-corner opportunity where you get to see what it's really like. Where you get to really let out the stops because you know you can fail and it'll be OK. Maybe it's just rationalizing that the film you are scoring will never be in a theater, will never be in a festival and will never make money. Or make you famous.
But it will be on Youtube and other people will watch it and your score really will be there, in all its glory and shame, for an audience to receive. A small audience. A very small audience. But an audience!
Among my several interests is war gaming (odd thing for a sensitive musician type, huh?). I play a little game called Planetside and over the past year have risen in the ranks of an outfit (clan) to become something of a leader within the group. Somehow, this led to the idea of making a video.
Now, in the gaming world, a "video" usually means firing up FRAPS while you run around/drive around/fly around and shoot up the place and then postin it on Youtube with somebody else's (usually famous) music.
But what if you could make a movie? A real movie. A movie with actors, sets, principal photography, foley, post-production video FX and an original film score. This is the question that my clan and I are attempting to answer.
I wrote the main script in terms of scenes to assemble. About 20 of my friends helped me shoot principal photography over a period of six weeks. I actually said things like, "action" and "cut" and we used actual filming tropes: tracking shots, dolly shots, aerials, close-ups and establishing shots. And then I had 500G of uncompressed video. Now what?
Enter non-linear editing. Again, in the spirit of trying to make a real movie, I edited the principal shots into scenes using proper industry-standard techniques to glue together a proper visual sequence of shots, scenes and, well, sequences. Did I do it right? I dunno. But I tried to be professional about it.
Then came foley, where I took the sounds from the game itself and spliced and processed and synced frame by frame to the final visual edit. (There really is a reason for SMPTE time code!)
By now, I was beginning to realize something: this is work! Even just for a silly little gaming video, when you start trying to do it "right", it becomes very involved.
Our outfit leader developed the story further, based on my original visual edit, and has written amazing narration to develop the main character and move the plot forward to an actual conclusion. We have no dialog, no facial expressions and very very few character animations to work with. Whatever the game could provide in real-time is all we had. So the dramatic substance of the thing is almost entirely dependent on his narration.
Finally, of course, there is a film score, which I am writing from scratch.
We are 5 months into the project and about half way done. The end result will be a 32 minute short. In our little world of gaming, it will be revolutionary. Fan films are nothing new, but within the context of the very limited environment provided by a game, it is not something that has ever been done quite to this degree.
What I'm discovering is that it's not the contract. It can't be; there isn't one. It's not the fame. It can't be; nobody knows who we are or what we're doing. It is, to the very limited extent it can be, about the audience.
But most of all, it's about the actual process of crafting a film, using your own ideas, passions and courage. (Lots of courage, trust me.) and then putting your own music to the thing to bring it to life.
If you want to know what it's like to actually score a film, make one. I did. And I will never look at the notion of film scoring the same way again.
It is so much more than I imagined.