I don’t know how many of you out there have tried to add music to a movie, but it ain’t as simple as throwing in a couple of rock tunes and seeing what happens. In essence, it’s turning out to be one of the most challenging things we’ve done, and that includes almost getting struck by lightning in the real Pink House yard (as well as putting my fist through a Mexican restaurant soap dispenser and lacerating my wrist I forgot about that one).
Anyway, a fine line separates a great scene with a great score from a great scene made utterly unwatchable by a cheesy music cue. You can see bad music cues all the time just by turning on Cinemax after 1am or so all those straight-to-video erotic thrillers starring Shannon Tweed have god-awful synth moments covering up lame expository shots.
You need to keep the cues short and snappy, but do too much of this, and you get the bass-zapping goofiness of “Seinfeld.” Or even worse, those stupid clarinet riffs from “Cheers.” And by all means, avoid songs with words unless you plan to make some larger point, something I’ve never seen a movie do successfully save for the In Your Eyes scene from Say Anything. Frustratingly, it’s easy to grow weary of a song or orchestral riff that goes on too long in the background, but if you change it up too often, your movie feels emotionally messy. You could try to do without music entirely, but then your 85-minute comedy will seem like a 4-hour documentary on Bulgarian shepherds.
I was told many years ago that audiences will forgive almost anything visual, but the true mark of a student film disaster is bad sound. We were very careful with sound during the Pink House shoot, but now that clean livin’ has caught up with us: the party sequences seem to happen inside a vacuum. It’s fascinating how even the slightest tweaks of ambient noise can supercharge a scene it definitely makes one more aware of noise in real life. Every time you rustle your shirt as you turn in your seat, every time you lay your hand to rest on the table: these things make noise, and they’re generally not caught by the microphone during a movie. You have to add all that shit in later, and believe me, it’s tedious.
Thankfully, today was about actual songs. I decided long ago to be pretty good at a shitload of musical instruments rather than be great at any one, and it’s a decision that has paid off in the studio and at parties (my piano version of “Someone to Watch Over Me” is definitely B-minus, but then again, you get it for free). Today I laid down guitar, drum, piano, bass and violin tracks that can act as scene segues, or even as a character’s identity (for instance, we’re thinking an evil solo violin will accompany Heather Matarazzo whenever her antagonist Charlotte is onscreen). It can be a stop-gap measure before my mom writes a real score, something that can’t happen before our Sundance submission deadline on Oct. 2. This 11th-hour push also forced me to get an optical cable that runs from the digital 8-track recorder through the Edirol UA-30 and straight into the iMac through USB, which is pretty sexy for closet dorked-out music spastics like me. I know I’m late to the optical cable party, but how cool is that thing? There’s actual red light coming out the end of it!
my cramped studio