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By midlandsmovies, Nov 16 2019 09:38AM



Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (2019) Dir. Midge Costin


Making Waves opens with Apocalypse Now sound designer Walter Murch explaining how deep sound is to humans - from the womb to the almost unnoticed and emotional effect it has on us in cinema.


And so begins new documentary Making Waves. And Murch is just one of an amazing array of interviews in this new exploration and within the first minute we have comments from legendary Star Wars sound guru Ben Burtt, directors Chris Nolan, Ryan Coogler, David Lynch, George Lucas and Ang Lee and musician Barbara Streisand. Wow. A list doesn’t get much more impressive than that!


Rightly so, the film’s focus is on the importance of sound in our enjoyment of cinema. The film covers the importance of the “Circle of Talent” to create the modern team-orientated experience audiences expect today. With so many people in the mix, the experts in their field enable impressive sequences like the D-Day landings of Saving Private Ryan to be created.


From the intimacy of an emotional score to studio mixing, the film covers the technical background to music-making – which is conveyed in an easy digestible way for the viewer. It also covers the history of sound when early films were projected with a live orchestra (or even live sound effects) as well dialogue from people behind a screen.


The documentary is fascinating and informative especially to someone with a music background like myself. But it also explains the journey of cinematic sound bringing general audiences along the way too. However, its biggest flaw is the familiar ground covered in another recent documentary Score: A Film Music Documentary from 2016 (our full review here).


Both have comparable talking heads, technical info and the history of sound (slightly more specific on musical score in the 2016 film) but they are VERY similar. And therefore this isn’t a unique illumination on the subject, more of a confirmation of some of the information seen from a different viewpoint. But the explanations are great if you don't know your foley from your sound effects and we also see how the variety of these important aspects are put together in the final mixing stage.


Score and sound design are definitely two different disciplines though - one being part of the other. So if you prefer one area then choose the documentary for you. However, both films together are a fascinating insight into the often overlooked (and hugely important) world of the magic of music and sound in movies.


★★★½


Michael Sales


Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound is out on DVD on Monday 25th November 2019

By midlandsmovies, Sep 16 2019 08:00AM



A Day in the Life of music composer Kirby Spencer


Our fourth entry into our 'A Day in the Life" features follows Kirby Spencer. Leicestershire based Kirby is a music composer and has worked on local short films Thursday and Eve.


From mixing, sound design and composition, Kirby tells Midlands Movies about creating the perfect musical accompaniment to film projects made in the region.


07:30 - Up and at them as they say. The usual get up routine, with a little bit of breakfast possibly - but most importantly coffee.


08:30 - I turn on the most important piece of equipment I have, my computer. From here I produce all of my music and it needs plenty of time to warm up. I never start a day from scratch you see, as I am either loading up work from the previous day or far less frequently, I am loading up a template. This is a tip a few composers use in order to get over the shock of a blank page. The feeling of not knowing what to do to get yourself started. This way I always have something to look at, to point me forward. My template is simply a preset list of tracks/instruments that I use on a regular basis. For example that includes, Violins 1 and 2, viola, cellos, basses, trombones, various synths and sound fxs etc... my main template at the moment contains close to 100 tracks each ranging from a few MBs of memory all the way up to several GBs. Spread this across 100 tracks and my template can take anywhere between 10 mins and 15 mins to load for any given project. So while thats happening...


08:30 - 09:00 - Business hat on. As a freelance composer, you take on the role of a head of department (HoD) for yourself, but also everything else that needs to be done in order to run a successful business. Answering and making Email enquiries, updating social media accounts, marketing, market research, reviewing contracts, dealing with PRS etc etc. I can't get all of this done in half an hour, but I take a bit of time to wake up by reviewing a certain aspect of this side of being a Film Composer - most of the time its either answering Emails (There's a handy setting to send them out across the day) or doing a bit of market research in order to get the creative juices flowing.


09:00 - Time to review the previous days work. When we listen to music, especially the same piece of music over and over again - our ears and our mind can block out noise and frequencies that are disturbing or unwanted. Or simply an instrument might be slightly too loud or soft (most of the time its too loud..). We gradually get used to these imperfections over time as our ears adjust to them. I can get around this by listening to the previous days work with what we call 'fresh ears'. I've not been subject to the piece for several hours or even days previously, and this morning listen can highlight any problems that I may have missed through this phenomena. This can be a tip for any directors or producers out there too - you can usually tell if the music is right or wrong for the project within the first few plays. Its a bit of a balance however, you should give the music some time, but at the same time we can con ourselves into a certain piece if we dogmatically listen to it over and over looking for some profound revelation that makes it all okay. Listen, take some time away and come back to confirm - it works for me. Anything that comes up, I'll do my best to fix.


If I am starting with a new template that contains only the blank tracks that I use most frequently, then I skip to the next stage.


10:00 - Time to actually compose. If its a fresh scene or a fresh piece of music I will again try to remove the daunting aspect of having a blank slate by looking at the Film Composer's guiding light - Story. The music if decided to be present in a scene, must follow the story in some way. It must be highlighting (not adding!) something present in the scene. Through study I use an approach that was highlighted to me by Andy Hill (Walt disney Studios Music Producer) in his book, 'Scoring the Screen'. What is the point of view the music is highlighting? What is the energy level of the music? By that we mean does it work with or against the pace of the scene and the editing, and finally, does the music need to tell us something that the picture does not? Armed with these questions, and a brief from the film makers about what they would like to see (notes from a spotting session work absolute wonders), I can settle on a general direction for the music. From here its a matter of controlled experimentation, and at this point I cannot say how I might proceed as every case is different. But if I ever get stuck, its time to go back to the guiding lights.


12:00 - Lunch and break. Its important not to fatigue your ears, eyes and mind. I might go for a walk after having something to eat or something like that.


13:00 - Back on it in the same manner as the morning. It can be a solitary job this.


15:00 - Mini break usually about halfway through the afternoon - at this point I might go back to doing some of the business side of things, in particular, looking for new projects and productions that I feel I might be able to benefit, and those that might benefit me. Or anything else that might need to be done adhoc.


16:00 Back into the nitty gritty of scoring to a scene. At this point, my ears are pretty fatigued, and the creative juices are going to be running low. This late in the day, I usually focus on the technical aspects of making the cues sound realistic rather than anything creative or experiemental. There are times where I might save the thing I am working on and move back to a previous piece, something fresh in order to again get out of getting too used to hearing the same thing over and over. I would not mix at this time of the day, it always ends up sounding off.


18:00 - Pack up, save - Relax. When it gets close to deadlines, I will work on into the night as late as I feel I can.


That is just an example of a 'Day in the life of a Film Composer' and I know that it can vary from composer to composer quite drastically, and even for each composer themselves. Some days will be spent more on production (Mixing, Sound design etc) than composition. Some days will be spent on simply upskilling - learning more about the craft of writing music to picture. Some days may be spent on the business side of things, travelling to networking events, meeting clients, attending spotting sessions etc. But this is the general outline I like to follow when creating music for a media project. "


By midlandsmovies, Mar 16 2018 04:19PM



Score: A Film Music Documentary (2016) Dir. Matt Schrader


If music be the food of love play on! This fantastic documentary has a who’s who roster of infamous film music composers and the sheer range of the talent on offer is worth a watch even to a passing fan of the medium.


But if you enjoy film then you must certainly be a fan. Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, John Williams, Trent Reznor, Tom Holkenborg, Randy Newman, Alexandre Desplat are just some of the stars interviewed in the amazing story of movie music.


Throughout, every aspect of the process is covered, as well as the historical context, and some of the pure joy is simply listening to the interviewees talking about their influences and contemporaries.


From James Cameron explaining a spotting session (where a director and composer get together to decide where music is going to be) to Hans Zimmer talking about the fear of the first meeting (“I think you better phone John Williams, I have no idea how to do this”) the trials of composing and the enjoyment of the challenges comes across in each talking-head segment.


The documentary shows Rachel Portman working on the film RACE with a screen next to her piano which a fantastic insight into her particular process whilst the film discusses motifs (such as those in Close Encounters & Lord of the Rings) and other music theory in simple but passionate terms.


Historically we see Alex North’s A Streetcar Named Desire revolutionary music as well as John Barry’s swinging big band scores (James Bond). Giving further context, current Bond composer David Arnold adds no spy film would feel like one without similar style which is the same for Morricone’s iconic sounds of Spaghetti Westerns.


From the toy piano in the intro music to the TV show Rugrats to orchestral pieces, no style is left uncovered and there’s fun to be had as the composers run through their strangest instruments in a montage of the weird and wonderful.


We are told “There’s no such thing as the wrong way to do something” as the diversity of music styles and the iconic films they are from are interrogated. Drums of Mad Max: Fury Road give way to segments about the science behind music. One of the most interesting parts describes the physiological response within the brain, followed by Moby’s “air molecules” analogy.


As Randy Newman fawns over Gerry Goldsmith we get the arrival of John Williams and his incredible splash of Star Wars and Jaws in the 70s. His rediscovery of classic orchestral scores (e.g. Superman, Indiana Jones) saw a revival of the medium leading all the way to his Duel of the Fates choir at Abbey Road.


If there was one flaw it would be that we only briefly get a piece of the history/composer before we move on to the next. Many of the explorations of genres, individual composers, music history and instrumentation go by so quickly, it can be a little frustrating. Each one alone could have entire documentaries of their own dedicated to their part but it’s a small gripe in a mostly fascinating piece.


Taking us from the need for music to cover up noisy projectors at the turn of the 20th century to Trent Reznor’s experimentations in his Oscar-winning The Social Network sound design, SCORE is a comprehensive documentary covering all the major players in over 100 years of movie music. Although brief at times, it barely misses a beat and if you’re not reaching for your LPs, CD shelf or Spotify account after watching this then I’m not sure you have any right to call yourself a film fan.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Mar 31 2017 03:39PM



Jam-packed: Ten things to do at Flatpack Film Festival


With this year’s Flatpack Film Festival leaving us spoilt for choice yet again, it’s not a question of if you’re going, it’s more a question of how you’re going to fit it all in. If only someone could write a handy guide of the Top Ten events to help you get ‘packing…


Ordinary Heroes. The Victoria, Saturday 8th April

A selection of real life stories with a feelgood factor. Featuring Fish Story, which reeled in the audience at the Flatmates Taster. Centred on an old Gran’s tale, Charlie Lyne’s story investigates the opening of an Anglesea marina where there’s something fishy about all the guests.


Off the Beaten Track, The Electric, Friday 7th April

An animated series of surreal shorts where there are no rules. Highlights include the brilliantly bizarre Bloop’s Birthday from Julian Glander and the amusing yet bitter-sweet Victor and Isolina, where Director William Caballero juxtaposes his grandparent’s account of their break up with clay-mation renditions of their antics.


Hyperconnected. The Electric, Sunday 9th April

Shining the lens on our digital selves and our infatuation with friends, followers and filters. In particular, Peter Huang’s 5 Films about technology aims satirical silliness at our obsession with gadgets and devices and flips the camera’s gaze onto our own behaviour.


Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape. BMI, John Lee, Friday 7th April

Director Zach Taylor’s look at the emergence and the resurgence of the humble C90. With talking head interviews from Henry Rollins and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore as well as inventor Lou Ottens, this is a must for anyone who remembers (or wants to know) why the cassette and the pencil are inextricably linked.


Aural Aesthetics. BMI, John Lee, Sunday 9th April

This assortment of sonic shorts features a packed playlist, including a mesmeric promo for Bonobo’s No Reason and a Bowie homage in the form of a reworked The Man Who Fell to Earth from Finnish visual artist Mika Taanila. If you feel that the music video is a lost art, then this could be the screening to restore your faith.


The Art Life. The Electric, Sunday 9th April

Over 90 minutes, Lynch recounts pivotal moments from his childhood and his highly influential career whilst also indulging in his pursuit of painting. Sure to be of interest to both the obsessed and the uninitiated, this documentary helps to uncover the mystery behind the man.


Eraserhead. BMI Lyttleton, Saturday 8th April

The Lynchian weirdness continues with the iconic Eraserhead. Forty years after its initial release, Lynch’s debut feature can be seen and heard like never before. A live reworking of the score by French synth duo Cercuil promises an alternative aural perspective for those familiar with the original.


Eyes without a face, The Old Rep, Saturday 8th April

Highly influential even today, this is the 1960 story of a scientist whose mission to restore his daughter’s beauty forces him to take extreme measures. Surgically removing the faces of other beautiful women, French director Georges Franju’s Eyes without a Face brings shock and gore to the festival.


Happy Together. Patrick Centre, Saturday 8th April

This family-friendly collection of shorts is perfect for the miniature film fan. Suitable for those 4 and above, this series focuses on friendship and colourful characters. Quack Fat, in particular offers something retro for the parents too, featuring a complement of come-alive cassettes, a Walkman and VHS tapes moving to the music.


Bunch of Kunst + Q&A. The Electric, Thursday 6th April

Christine Franz's debut feature follows Nottingham Punk Hop duo Sleaford Mods on the road as they garner mainstream attention and are catapulted from playing the pubs of Notts to the John Peel Stage of Glastonbury. For Franz, this is a homecoming screening and the former Birmingham student will hold a Q&A session after the film.


If you make it to any of the above, be sure to let us know what you think. Flatpack Film Festival runs from the 4th till the 9th of April and full details are available at http://flatpackfestival.org.uk/festival/programme/


Robb Sheppard



By midlandsmovies, Dec 14 2016 05:25PM

The Importance of Sound in Film!


Making a short film, or any film for that matter can be a lot of amazing fun. I recently made my most recent short film called HUNGRY. A wicked, humorous, little piece on the greed that is rampant at Christmas. Here is how I came up with and developed the sound and music in the film.


So the way I work is that in the very beginning of preparing to shoot the film, when I am still writing the script actually, I start to listen to music that I like. I listen with the sole purpose of getting a feel for how this particular song will go with the film. I use each song that I like or think might go well and imagine how it will tell my story. Here is an example…in “HUNGRY”, the story takes place at Christmas. So I was constantly listening to holiday songs, wild versions, old-fashioned ones, newer versions. The one I came up with was of a child choir singing Carol Of The Bells.


This song was important in setting up the beginning of the film in 3 ways:


1. It is a beautiful innocent rendition of this song

2. It lulls the audience into the sweetness of the Christmas season

3. It also didn’t telegraph what was coming to the audience


I cannot tell you how important music or sound is in setting up your story or film. If you can do it right, then the whole film just falls into place. Another example of how much music played a part in my film is when the main character walks into the shop, the owner is listening to 1930’s jazz. The story’s background was that this woman has been alive for several hundreds of years, and this is her favorite music. Now you don’t actually see a 500 -year old woman on screen, that was just the back-story. But this music really helped the actress get the feel for what I wanted.


And her performance made the film. Another instance of how important sound was for me, was in editing.


My film is a horror film, and so I had a small creature. But because I was on a small budget, I couldn’t really afford to build a creature that could move in every way I wanted. So movement was limited. What I did tho, was to search a couple of free sound sites for sci-fi sounds, or dinosaur roars. It took me weeks to get it the way I wanted.


In order for the creature to look realistic, I had to use different sounds for each 2-second piece of footage that had the little guy in it. Each different sound conveyed a different want and emotion in the creature. It was incredibly grueling and difficult work. But in the end, the sounds and music are what really helped this film. In my opinion.


And when my main character was being eaten alive, sounds were so vitally important in conveying the horror of what was happening to him. And at the end of the film, when it is clear that the owner is in cahoots with the creature, or the creature is almost her mate, then the music that I put in at the end conveyed the craziness of this situation. So I put in this wild and crazy piece that makes me giggle whenever I hear it.


In conclusion, if you are in preparation for a film shoot, or if you are already in editing, then I cannot stress the importance of taking your time and getting the music and sound right. If you have the right style of music that brings your audience into your film, and the right sound effects if you are shooting a horror film, then this will improve your odds of this being a successful film. If nothing else, it helps your audience into your film, and it help in keeping them there. If you don’t believe me, go and watch the movie Brooklyn. The music in this film will bring you instantly into this world, and it keeps you there. Whether you like the movie or not!


John Montana




About The Author:

John Montana is an actor and filmmaker. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short film - HUNGRY at No Title Production Films


By midlandsmovies, Apr 3 2016 05:10PM

Midlands Movies Editor Mike Sales take a visit to the studio of Damon Baxter (aka Deadly Avenger) as the Leicester musician continues to put his skills to use on trailers for a range of Hollywood blockbusters.


It;s a sunny Sunday afternoon when I meet with Damon Baxter at Leicester’s Meatcure restaurant (great burgers by the way) to have a chat about movies, music and more with the talented trailer composer.


Previously working as a DJ at London nightclubs such as Fabric, Damon now splits his time between Los Angeles and Leicester, creating electronic soundtracks for movie trailers. No small feat coming from his small studio on a trading estate in the Midlands.


With the food going down a treat and a quick chat about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I ask him about his career so far.


“Well, I first got into the dance scene around 2000", says Damon, "and with the likes of Fatboy Slim, Propellerheads and Jon Carter, I helped push forward the ‘Big Beat’sound”.


I asked him if that helped open up many doors? “I got to tour the world but then eventually settled nicely into a Fabric Residency alongside Unkle and The Wiseguys”.


Did that give you the breakthrough you were looking for? “Yes and no. My Deadly Avenger sound emerged when I remixed bands like Manic Street Preachers, Elbow and The Charlatans”.


And how did that leap to movies? “My ‘Deep Red’ album had a track that captured a cinematic vibe and eventually that sound was soon being used regularly for adverts, TV spots and movie trailers”


From orchestral to synthesisers via dance, Damon utilises a wide variety of sounds to create compositions that have been used on huge tent-pole move releases such as Age of Ultron, Men in Black 3 and Transformers 4. From his record label Destroy All Planets, Damon says his compositions use enigmatic and sparse arrangements to capture audiences’ imaginations.


Now finished, we both get up and head to Damon’s rusty pickup truck - which he claims belongs to a friend - and one that he’s nicknamed the “Millennium Falcon”. The second Star Wars reference of the day that I had noticed, I then realise how that franchise was a window into Damon’s world.


We headed around Leicester’s awful ring-road (luckily the city’s successful football team were playing so the roads were clearer than most days) and arrived at an industrial estate just outside the city – one that I quickly recognise from having a band residential rehearsal room for 3 years at the same location.


After acknowledging the weird coincidence we enter Damon’s studio where I am greeted with a range of movie posters. Covering the hallway and adorning the walls of the studio space itself, I witness Damon’s love of movies from framed retro posters of Close Encounters and They Live to modern blockbusters like Transformers and a ginormous 6 foot poster of Kill Bill: Vol 1.


A studio that Damon built himself, this sanctuary is a neat arena to create inspirational music. And proud of place in the corner is a full-sized Star Wars Stormtrooper costume on a mannequin set amongst his key instruments of computer, keyboard and mixing tools.


Damon went on to explain his style. “I love to use weird sounds. One of the effects on the Transformers TV spot was me hitting a metal bar outside which I mixed and put through the computer to become one of the main trademark motifs of the music”.


Using a combination of styles, Damon is also having a clear out of his DVDs on this of all days with the majority of his huge collection of 500 movies about to be given to charity in a spring clean that is not only clearing his studio for an imminent move, but also clearing his mind for Summer trailer work. Just a few of his previous summer work has included Antman, Furious 7, Chappie and The Last Witch Hunter too.


“One of the things people may not know is that I’m not always told the movie I am working on so have some free range to create something new from my own imagination whilst providing the film company with something that matches their vision”.


“I also try to combine all kinds of music into a new format. Recently I saw the trailer for Midnight Special which was brilliant as it gave the music room to ‘breathe’ rather than a traditional multiplex feel. That’s where I see my style heading towards along with my love for both the past, present and future".


Damon will next be seen at the Alfresco Festival on 27th – 30th May in Tunbridge Wells and we chat about our joint love for movies and music. Laughing at various films in his collection – Steven Seagal appears to have been a big part of his life – we then move to music and I suggest he check out both Inside Llewyn Davis (with Poe Dameron & Kylo Ren for the Star Wars fan) as well A Mighty Wind, the mockumentary from the Spinal Tap guys.


I ask him what the next stages are for Deadly Avenger. “Well, I have reworked my own tracks for use in TV shows like CSI but would love to attempt a full movie soundtrack at some point”. A great goal for an immense local talent, Damon has also kindly submitted soundtrack remixes for our own Midlands Movies events using scores and songs from films and adding his own twist to help create a brilliant atmosphere at our theme nights.


Damon says how pleased he is when his music gets used in a big production but hasn’t forgotten the local with a further keenness to offer his services to local filmmakers free of charge.


“I think I can offer some technical advice and practical pieces of music to local filmmakers to help give their soundtracks and trailers a professional quality which can sometimes be very costly on low budget films”. And this can only be a great thing for Midlands filmmakers.


With that, and the DVDs finally ready for the charity shop, we head off to enjoy the rest of the weekend with both of us humming the great “Please Mr. Kennedy” by Oscar Issac, Justin Timberlake and Adam “Kylo” Driver in a weird but satisfying duet for us both.


Midlands Movies Mike


More about Deadly Avenger :

http://www.deadlyavenger.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/DeadlyAvenger

https://twitter.com/deadly_avenger

By midlandsmovies, Jan 2 2016 06:39PM

Midlands Movies Mike finds out about In Limbo, the new short film from Nine Ladies Film.


Shot in Wirksworth in July 2015, In Limbo stars such well known actors as Nigel Barber (Mission: Impossible 5 and Spectre) Bern Deegan, Rebekah Bowman and Rachel Prince. The story itself focuses on three friends who decide to go away for the weekend but none of them count on encountering the urban myth that is the Black Eyed Children.


Their dreams are invaded but they fight to save not only their physical bodies – which have been frozen in a trancelike state – but also their souls that wander alone trapped In Limbo. The film is written and directed by Stuart Wheeldon, who is based in Wirksworth (in Derbyshire) and he is joined by Director of Photography Geraint Owen. The film features music from local bands Blue Wallpaper Inc who play a mix of acoustic and funk fusion as well as Frank – an indie band signed to Soundhub records.


The film played at The Northern Light Cinema on the 4th 5th and 6th of October and accompanying those screenings was a 30 minute documentary about the making of the film by Chris Lobley. Followed by a questions and answers session the nights were a great success and brought attention to both the film and this independent boutique cinema that is tucked away in the Derbyshire Dales. www.thenorthernlightcinema.co.uk


The film In Limbo is the first film in a series by Nine Ladies Film with the company already having a second film scheduled for filming in January 2016. This film, “Visitant”, will be a horror film which explores the poltergeist hauntings in a rural townhouse. The film promises to show a newly married couple that move into an inherited house that are forced to battle their own personal demons as well as the Visitant that inhabits the house. “The film draws from real life experiences and promises to be both a narrative and visually challenging film”, says Stuart Wheeldon


Visitant will once again be written and directed by Stuart also and he is joined by the same production crew that worked on In Limbo. More information can be found about both films at www.nineladiesfilm.com


The trailer for In Limbo can be seen below:





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