Frequently Asked (FQAs)
WHAT IS A MUSIC CUE SHEET?
A music cue sheet is a legal document which lists all the music used in a production (including the original score created by your composer and any licensed songs), how the music is used, and who owns the copyright shares as it relates to the royalty collection for the use of this music. A completed music cue sheets is a delivery requirement with any distributor or broadcaster, and needs to be filed with SOCAN in Canada. Your composer may help you in filling out (and filing) the cue sheet, to make sure it is accurate.
WHEN TO GET A COMPOSER INVOLVED – WHEN TO HIRE?
There are three critical stages of a project when you should have a composer:
1. When you are applying for funding – Having a Canadian composer helps a production qualify for tax credits and secure other sources of funding as composer is one of the craft categories for calculating Canadian content.
2. In pre-production – depending on the needs of a production. For example, if you have a scene where you need an actor to play an instrument, it’s important to have the music written before the shoot! Likewise there are often moments in other productions where there might be a sequence which needs to be animated to music and getting a head start on this music is important to the team’s timeline.
3. During the editing process – A composer will want to have some time to complete research and create a pallette of sounds to be used in the film. Once the picture is locked, the composer is able to write music without the timing of the film changing and it is at this stage that they are able to complete their score. If you hire a composer early in the project, they are often able to provide music examples for a temp track from material they have previously written.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO WRITE MY SCORE?
Every composer has a different process and score production times may vary. On average it takes 5 hours per minute of music to write and program a demo for approval. In addition to writing a composer needs time to set up their template of instruments, music research, attend meetings and spottings with the creative team, make any changes based on feedback from the creative team, hire musicians, create music sheets for the musicians, supervise the recording session, final mix and master, attending final sound mix… A feature film may take a minimum of 1 month to complete, a tv series may take one week per episode. There’s no hard and fast rules so talk to your composer and create a schedule that works for both the creative process and meets your delivery timeline.
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MUSIC TO COMMUNICATE WITH COMPOSER?
Contrary to popular belief, filmmakers do not need to know a special musical language to communicate with a composer! In fact, most composers would prefer producers and directors not use musical terminology, but rather, speak in emotional terms in order to communicate their ideas about the film, and how they think music might enhance it. It is part of a composer’s training to interpret these directions and compose music accordingly.
It is often said that a score conveys at least 30% of the emotional content of the film so it’s very important that the screen media creator has a clear vision of their project and how dialogue, characters, performances, set design, cinematography, lighting, etc effect the emotional arc of the story. When discussing the emotion with a composer, try to use multiple descriptors and identify what to relate to on screen or what needs to be communicated to that is not shown on screen as well as key points in each scene where the emotion, action, or power shifts.