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Music in Filmmaking - Sheffield DocFest 2011

By: Juliette Squair
Date: 14 Jun 2011

Sheffield DocFest
Just back from a highly successful visit to this year’s DocFest.   Audio Network held two music rights workshops, “Clearing Rights and Creating Revenue” hosted by our Rights Manager, Simon Anderson and guests, lawyer Andrew Baker from Rights TV and Glyn Middleton from True North Productions.   I was delighted to chair our panel debate, “Making Music Work in your Film:  Drive the Narrative”.

Making Music Work in your Film
Our aim was to provide an environment for creative networking and I believe our panel was a prime example of this.   Producer of award winning film, ‘Erasing David’ Ashley Jones joined us, as did expert sound designer, Dennis Wheatley and director Jez Lewis, whose socially motivated debut feature ‘Shed your Tears and Walk Away’ has won many plaudits.

With such an esteemed panel, it was enlightening to hear how these guys worked with their film music as they explained the process to the packed Adelphi Room.

Erasing David
For ‘Erasing David’, a documentary that explores how easy it is to just disappear off the face of the earth, leaving no paper trails, Ashley explained they wanted composer Michael Nyman to do the music – not daunted, they approached him and by coincidence, loss of privacy was a pet hate of Nyman’s and he was delighted to support the project.  Ashley’s top music tip?  Don’t think anything’s out of reach!  

The Bengali Detective
Sound Designer Dennis Wheatley was a revelation.  The way he thinks about sound taught all of us a thing or two.  Sometimes, he said, it really is more to have less.   It’s imperative to think about sound and music as part of the film from the beginning.  Working on the More4 documentary, “The Bengali Detective” he went back to India after filming and recorded authentic sounds of the area to work alongside the chosen music clips.   His top music tips?  Think of the microphone as another camera lens and plot an audio board as well as a storyboard.  Simple but powerful.

Shed your Tears & Walk Away
Film-maker Jez Lewis whose debut feature was the harrowing and compelling, “Shed your Tears and Walk Away” about untimely deaths in the beautiful Hebden Bridge area of England where he grew up,  said idealistically he’d made a list of great commercial music to use in the film.  Then he worked out his budget. Which eventually limited him to the use of just one commercial music track which he complemented by the use of some high quality production music.   Jez’s music tip – be realistic!

Music Choices in Film - Do they drive the narrative?
Personally, I think film-makers are in a strong place nowadays, they have lots of high quality music choices to suit their budgets and yet they need to be mindful of music rights and clearance issues.   It was a privilege to learn how these directors worked with music and whether they felt the music did drive the narrative – Ashley and Dennis did, but Jez felt it was the other way around.   What do you think? 

The audience stayed behind to chat as Audio Network then hosted another of their successful networking drinks.  A really stimulating afternoon.

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