As any filmmaker knows, music can make or break your film. A solid soundtrack ALWAYS makes your film better. So how do you get a great score for your film without hiring a composer and breaking the bank?
It’s easier than you think, I promise.
- START WITH DESCRIBER WORDS
You need to know what you are looking for. If you can nail down a few attributes that describe the vibe you are looking for, it will save you time while searching. Of course not every song in your film is gonna sound the same but most scores and soundtracks have a cohesive vibe.
For example, you are making a moody drama. Describers like “somber,” “mysterious,” and “suspense” are great places to start.
If you are making an offbeat indie film these describers might be what you start with: “fun,” “quirky,” “silly,” “indie.”
2. GATHER THE TRACKS
Head to your favorite music library (hopefully ours!) and get cozy. Slow down and really listen.
Most stock music libraries will use tags to sort their tracks. For example, in our library (PPMC) we have the tag “INDIE FILM” under the VIDEO THEME category. This tag will pull up a ton of tracks from many different genres. From here you can add more tags to narrow down what you are looking for.
Often times while browsing I stumble upon a really cool track that ends up working perfectly with a scene I wouldn’t have suspected. Don’t jump between tracks too fast. There might be hidden gems you are missing.
3. DOWNLOAD WAV FILES AND LICENSES
WAV files are significantly higher quality than mp3s. Use only the best for your film and make sure you aren’t using mp3s if you can help it.
Be sure to keep your downloaded tracks in a labeled folder. As fun as it is to rummage through your downloads folder looking for something you downloaded 3 weeks ago, I promise your life will be more fun if you can easily find the music specific to your film.
Make sure to also download and save any necessary licenses you might need should your film be distributed.
4. ORGANIZE AND ASSIGN TRACKS TO SCENES
I’ve scored a lot of films so hear me out… spreadsheets are your friends. For almost every film I’ve worked on there has been some sort of spreadsheet with the scenes and the corresponding notes next to them. I use google sheets.
You should have all the scenes listed top to bottom on the left with the columns to the right for notes, music track titles, timecode, etc… Make sure to note where the track came from i.e. PPMC, Soundstripe, etc. You will be grateful you did. If you haven’t landed on just one track for a scene so put them both there in the meantime. Stay organized.
As the edit progresses you will eventually lock the tracks in your edit and you will have an organized shot list with all the pertinent info!
5. CUE SHEETS
Depending on where your film will end up, this step may not be needed. But if your film is going to VOD, a streaming platform, or distribution of any kind you will be required to fill out a cue sheet.
The good news is that you were super organized and this won’t nearly be the headache it could have been!
Thats a wrap!
I hope this was helpful. I’ve saved hundreds of hours by following these steps.
I would love to hear your thoughts or if you have any additional tips on this topic!