Professorial Platform: Jan Harlan

Page 1

PROFESSORIAL PLATFORMS PROFESSOR JAN HARLAN LONDON COLLEGE OF FASHION 21ST JANUARY 2009


PROFESSORIAL PLATFORMS PROFESSOR JAN HARLAN Music As A Scripting Tool: How To Get A World Class Film Score For Very Little Money

Rootstein Hopkins Space, London College of Fashion 21st January 2009


Professorial Platform Lecture Series University of the Arts London

Music As A Scripting Tool: How To Get A World Class Film Score For Very Little Money

Special thanks to Professor Alexander Baillie, Cello. Thank you also to Warner Brothers, MGM and Miramax for use of their images.

ISBN  978-1-906908-03-4 Printed in England by PMS Printers Limited, January 2009

Professor Jan Harlan Visiting Professor, University of the Arts London


SCRIPT

D OTECTE

HT PR

IG COPYR

Music in film is a big topic – that is for filmmakers. For those who are not film-students and potential filmmakers, editors or producers, the topic might be rather secondary. As a film-audience, of course, we are all a vitally important link in the whole chain of film making.

Professor Jan Harlan

Music has probably a much greater role to play in how a film is

Visiting Professor, University of the Arts London

received than you might think since music works often through the sub-conscious.

IGHT R Y P O C

The purpose of my talk is to demonstrate how a world-class film

D OTECTE

PR

score can be obtained or constructed with little money and why music should be part of the script, if at all possible, and can in some cases drive the story forward.

I am not a film-historian or musicologist. My knowledge and Professor Alexander Baillie features in Jan Harlan’s film about

experience in this area are gained through the practice of looking for

the Dvorak Cello Concerto, a film Jan made with Katia de Vidas. Jan

and finding music suitable for specific film scenes. It is a topic I have

Harlan and Alexander Baillie are presently working on a film around

been involved with for over three decades.

the first Brahms Sextet and are also planning a film around the Royal Scottish Youth Orchestra rehearsing and playing the Lutoslawski Cello Concerto, with Alexander Baillie as the soloist.


Young and first time filmmakers are often in a terrible bind here: the music they love, the music that inspires them is often simply unavailable to them. Famous songs, pop tunes, contemporary music they like, can be unaffordable. Also, to hire a good and experienced

D E T C E T T PRO

film composer may not be possible for a first time filmmaker working with a very limited budget. Not knowing where to go, this can result in filmmakers compromising artistically with their film. As a jury member, I see a lot of first films at international film-festivals and observe poor choices of music in otherwise well crafted films.

H G I R Y COP

Platoon (Still), 1987, directed by Oliver Stone

Š MGM


T H G I OPYR

C

D E T C E PROT

A Clockwork Orange (Still), 1972, directed by Stanley Kubrick 10

Š Warner Brothers 11


SO WHAT’S THE SOLUTION? Learn from the masters! Not only did they very often use great music which is in the public domain, it was very easily obtained or recorded

SOUND TRACK

and they used it as part of the script and elevated it out of mere background or atmospheric dressing into a pivotal part of their story

1.  (CWO) Electronic Purcell - Still Henry Purcell

telling. And all this was often achieved for very little money. These

2.  A famous song as ‘A Member of the Cast’

skills and knowledge, a filmmaker needs to have, particularly at the

3.  Evolution as part of Creation

beginning of his or her career.

4.  (Motorbike) Silence! 5.  (2001 Poster) The Unknowable with Richard Strauss 6.  Silence: An Important Part of Music 7.  Telling the story with an Image 8.  Daisy, Daisy Give Me Your Answer Do

I will demonstrate through examples how famous filmmakers have made great music choices with economy in mind, like Ingmar Bergman, Carlos Saura, Stanley Kubrick, Anthony Minghella to name just a few.

9.  The Great ‘Ludvig Van’ I will demonstrate how a great piece of music in the public domain has been used as a pure scripting tool, artistically heightening a silent scene of a huge military battle and saving at the same time the great expense of building up a realistic sound track.

12

13


I will show examples where a simple piece of great music in the public domain is used to describe a character, to establish a place and time, and to bring in a further character and plot development into the story naturally and logically. In my example this was all achieved at the same time through one piece of music. My topic of

D E T C E T T PRO

music in film is intertwined with the skill of scripting and film making in general.

I want to demonstrate how music can often deliver the substance of

H G I R Y COP

a scene to the audience more efficiently than words could ever do.

Music can be the wings that make a scene fly. Music can complement a scene. It can also distance the audience from what they see, making the scene stronger. Music can create the decisive rhythm of the film, it can add and even be the climax. I will illustrate in my examples how music can be the pivotal part of a film-script.

Music does not have to be ‘correct’ and be true to a place or time. It can, but it doesn’t have to. A filmmaker is completely free in his choice of music like a painter is in the choice of colour.

Casablanca (Poster), 1942, directed by Michael Curtiz © Warner Brothers

14

15


D E T C E T T PRO

H G I R Y P CO

2001: A Space Odyssey (Still), 1968, directed by Stanley Kubrick

16

Š Warner Brothers

17


There are no rules about how music must be used other than ‘it has to work’, if it is used at all. Silence is so much better than the wrong music, which may intrude and distract. If music is used in a scene, it has to be like a connecting cable between the image or action on the screen and the audience – and the current flowing through this cable is our emotion.

D E T C E T T PRO

I want to stay away from any academic analysis or theoretical observation. I want to give practical advice and hope to help young filmmakers, who are about to tackle their first low budget feature. There is a treasure-trove of existing music in the public domain,

H G I R Y P CO

literally thousands of compositions, most of which are unknown to those I am usually talking to at film-schools. On the other hand, there have always been filmmakers, amongst them some of the greatest, who took full advantage of these treasures. I repeat: Let us learn from them.

The English Patient (Still), 1997, directed by Anthony Minghella © Miramax

I was very lucky in having had a great teacher in Stanley Kubrick, who was most particular in his choice on anything that had an impact on his films. He was very musical and knew a lot of music. He certainly didn’t depend on anyone making suggestions, but

18

19


he was open to suggestions and liked the process of throwing an idea back and forth. I worked with him for thirty years, and music, researching music, suggesting music, was a feature of my work with him from the very beginning.

T H G I R Y P

CO

D E T C E PROT

I want to show you how another master like Ingmar Bergman used a piece of chamber music to create atmosphere and to replace narration or dialogue. He introduced the audience very effectively, through sound and images, to the place and time of his film. The music was repeated throughout the film to bridge over time gaps and to remind us what was, and to sharpen our mind in expectation of what will be.

Every film-student will have to find out how important it is to 2001: A Space Odyssey (Poster), 1968, directed by Stanley Kubrick

make the right choice of music, which serves as a bridge between

Š Warner Brothers

chapters, adds to a scene and lifts it. They will also find how difficult it can be to obtain and afford the rights to the music he or she loves.

20

21


For a young filmmaker, financial and legal considerations are often paramount. They are at the centre of his choice of fitting music to a film, or rather, fitting the film to music, which is surprisingly more often the case than not. If a great piece of existing music is chosen, the film will usually be edited to fit the music, as can easily be demonstrated.

Music can be a central dramatic element, almost a character in a film. It can be used as a so-called Leitmotiv with different moods and arrangements or be just atmospheric background.

D E T C E T T PRO

H G I R Y COP

I wish to show examples of big and successful films with excellent and expensive music tracks. I will demonstrate how the same quality and effect could have been achieved using a much more economical alternative without sacrificing anything. It is here where I wish to convince young filmmakers that the study of European Chamber

The English Patient (Still), 1997, directed by Anthony Minghella Š Miramax

Music is essential in order to gain the freedom to choose and not to be forced into a poor choice.

22

23


D E T C E T T PRO

H G I R Y P CO

2001: A Space Odyssey (Still), 1968, directed by Stanley Kubrick

24

Š Warner Brothers

25


The degree of satisfaction with a film and the enjoyment experienced by an audience will in many cases be influenced by the music – and the likelihood of recommending a film to friends will equally be influenced by it. The so-called ‘word of mouth’ effect is essential for the success of a film. No advertising can overcome

D E T C E T RO

IGHT P

COPYR

bad word of mouth – and great word of mouth can send a film skyhigh. This is a trivial commercial thought, I know, but I am usually talking to film students who intend to make a living as well as produce or make good films.

If a great song or good music can be incorporated into a film script, it is an advantage, no doubt. It is not always possible, depending on the story. But if it is possible to work with a song or music, in general a filmmaker has a better chance to succeed.

At the same time, music should be used sparingly and only where A Clockwork Orange (Still), 1972, directed by Stanley Kubrick © Warner Brothers

26

and when it really serves the film. To resolve this potential conflict is an important part of the art of film making.

27


D E T C E T T PRO

H G I R Y COP

2001: A Space Odyssey (Still), 1968, directed by Stanley Kubrick

28

Š Warner Brothers

29


Many of my examples will hopefully convince the listener of this banal truth.

Sometimes music has little to do with the story but it may have all to do with how to tell a story on screen, how to create rhythm, how to create an atmosphere, and most of all with how to move an audience.

30


32