The Four Components of Great Filmmaking: A Musician's Perspective

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Field Notes Interview #30: Glass Wands, Marmoset Artist

Perspective is a powerful thing. Musicians and filmmakers alike can lend great insight into each others crafts. The extensive musical career of Brooks Tipton (aka Glass Wands) has given him great insight into how he conducts himself as an artist and the art that surrounds him.

In his recent collaboration with filmmaker, Preston Kanak in his film Embargo, Tipton's track "Anchor" added an ethereal element of reflection that elevated the compelling nature of the visuals. 

We chatted with Brooks about his artistic process and how music plays a role in his four components of great filmmaking.


M: When did you start writing music?

BT: I started out playing guitar with friends in high school but quickly found my voice through the piano. I haven't had any formal training so I just sort of threw my hand into it and started sculpting out little pieces here and there. I was always sort of writing towards something (an album) but didn't have a clear vision for it until about 7 years into playing. I had been busy focusing on playing keys in touring bands. My experiences with playing in other peoples bands helped me shape my vision for Glass Wands. Touring bands: Unwed Sailor, Chase Pagan, Bear Colony, Colour Revolt, Thursday and Secret Sisters.

M: What does a day in the life of a working musician look like for you?

BT: When I was younger I had a sense of urgency to "make it" in the music business as fast as I could. With social media, it felt like there were so many bands and artists forming all at once that everything sort of blended together. There was a glaze spread over music scenes that felt like nothing could stand out. It felt pretty hopeless in a lot of ways, to be original and have a voice in music. I was very fortunate in joining bands that were able to stand out on their own and make their mark in music. I knew that eventually I'd want to see Glass Wands take shape and (hopefully) be able to stand up on its own. I've taken a different approach than I thought that I ever would. I'm focusing on my craft and the ideas more than the business side of things. I have a great record label out of Memphis called Esperanza Plantation. Having a great team has led us to avenues like Marmoset. Publishing is so important to artists like myself to get out there and be heard. As an instrumental artist, I love the idea that someone else can see my music as part of their vision and take the shape that they need it to be. I am still a touring musician with the Universal/Republic group The Secret Sisters. When I'm home, I focus on getting ideas and trying to stay true to those ideas. If I can capture the idea in a recording, then I've done my job. I have a screen printing company that supplements my income and allows me to etch away at my songwriting. I'd like to try my hand at scoring films, but I really like the idea of making a large body of work over time that can be found by the right artist for the right thing they need it for. That's a magical moment!

M: What role do you feel music has in film?

BT: I think that great filmmaking has four main components: The Idea (the writing/choreography), The Aesthetic (the actors/visual aspect), The Music, and finally The Capture. If the idea is pure enough with all these other elements combined, it will be a great film. The music can be as sparse or big as you can get, but if it's placed right, it can make the film work.

M: How do you feel your song complimented Embargo?

BT: I felt that "Anchor" was a great selection by Preston Kanak for Embargo. When I wrote this piece, it worked as a solace place that I could go to. It was kind of like putting in ear plugs in the city and just moving through to witness everything in silence. There's a power in that silence. You can see things more clearly whether it's bright, upbeat charged scene of people having fun to construction workers hard at work in their craft to someone having a fight and being sad. I think the song allows the viewer to be a witness to these striking images of Cuba. There's so much depth packed into Embargo. It moves fairly quickly from scene to scene giving the viewer a glimpse into the vast scope of the Cuban culture. The song worked well at making all that feel seamless.

M: What are you excited about for the future?

BT: I want to be as creative as I can and always be challenging myself in whatever ambitious ideas come my way. I'm excited to always move closer to figuring out how to harness the idea, to see it through to its end. The more we throw our hands in, the better we get at articulating our art and ultimately ourselves.