Posts filed under Filmmaking

Spotlighting Charles Post's Banff Finalist Film: 'Sky Migrations'

In the world of filmmaking, music can be key for setting apart amateur productions from  professional ones.  As we discovered in our Sound Lesson series with Kevin Matley, original scores play a bigger part than most audiences realize, ultimately establishing an immersive environment. 

While our Original Music Team is constantly crafting music to guide such creative projects, Marmoset also equips filmmakers with cinematic, licensable music that's readily available from the searchable catalog. And when the right song matches to picture, a film's story is powerfully punctuated.


In the case of renowned ecologist and filmmaker, Charles Post, storytelling became a useful tool crafted from his journey as a field scientist. Growing up in Northern California, Post was regularly surrounded by nature, fascinated and intrigued by  the changes natural environments undergo — his attention specifically piqued when a group of fish faced rapid and sudden decline.

"This kind of pushed me down this path of realizing our ecosystems were existing because we let them exist, or are in peril and decline because we let them." 

After returning to UC Berkeley for graduate school, Post wrestled with his intentions in the science community, seeking out a different path where he could apply his knowledge and expertise.  "My first day of graduate school, for better or for worse, I knew I didn't want to be a field scientist," says Post. "And the reason why is because I was noticing my peers who spent so much of their life working on these scientific questions and trying to find ways to inform policy — and how the public engages with science and the outdoors — I noticed there was this huge gap."

When Post dug deeper, he began identifying the trouble area his fellow researchers frequently faced: there was a disconnect in how their work was being communicated. 

"I also realized I probably wasn’t the most passionate empirical scientist," says Post. "I was more excited about telling the story of science to people. And that kind of sparked the conversation."

  Woodward, Lowe, and Post stand atop the brow of New Mexico’s Manzano Mountains in the last rays of light on the last day of filming for  Sky Migrations .

Woodward, Lowe, and Post stand atop the brow of New Mexico’s Manzano Mountains in the last rays of light on the last day of filming for Sky Migrations.

Post explains how in his field, currency is essentially how well one understands a place — leveraging visuals, like photographs and video to convey observations best. Seeing this as an opportunity to lean in, the researcher began sharpening his storytelling knife.

"In order to be a good scientist, you have to communicate what you’re finding. So for me, it quickly became visually dominated, thinking about how can I tell these stories?"

Navigating down this creative path with academia in the background, Post began exploring more opportunities to help other scientists share their findings through effective mediums like documentary filmmaking and social channels. In a way, the endeavor opened up a platform where exciting yet often overlooked discoveries could be easily accessible to all walks of life.

In Sky Migrations, a documentary directed by Charles Post, Max Lowe and Forest Woodward — the film follows an epic journey of migrating raptors. While there's plenty of gorgeous footage showing up-close rare visuals of the soaring subjects themselves, the heart of the movie is the narrative and how it unfolds; the story invites the audience in, delivering information that prompts a lengthier discussion on conservation. 

As the film unfolds, so does its emotional stirring soundtrack — including "Looking Back" by Philadelphia based The Earth & Arrow. The title card's personable graphics and guiding music set up the documentary's mood, everything feels lighthearted, approachable. It's a journey that prompts curiousness and hopefully even proactiveness. 


Sky Migrations is currently in the Banff circuit and is being showcased in the "Adventure Without Limits" program throughout the United States. Check out the festival's full rundown here. Catch a viewing at Revolution Hall April 13 - 15, 2018 or Cinema 21 on April 20-22, 2018. Snag some tickets and more viewing information here

Posted on April 5, 2018 and filed under Spotlight: Artists, Filmmaking.

Eyes On Our Visual Content Team

Josh and Kristen Visual Content Team.jpg

If you've visited Marmoset's homepage, you may have already discovered the "daily office life" film playing across the top banner. Perhaps you've stumbled upon the  2018 reel we just released or seen the short films highlighting the creative artists of Marmoset — like our recent one debuting the personal story of Luz (from Y La Bamba). If you haven't caught onto these "subtle" clues, we're hinting at how much visual content can illustrate a company's brand, to paint the big picture. 

'Where does it all come from?' You may be pondering. 

The creative forces behind these projects are the talented Josh Brine, Visual Content Director, supported by producer extraordinaire, Kristen Mico, Marmoset's Visual Content Intern. 

With the dream team's extensive background in filmmaking and producing, they're undoubtedly equipped to handle anything thrown their way: from tight deadlines to creative road bumps. But what's it like jumping on a plane after filming in one city, only to then hop on another plane to film elsewhere — all within a 48 hour turnaround? 

This is the reality of our Visual Content team next week when they jetset to Treefort Music Fest to film Sol Rising in Boise, Idaho, before starting the second leg of filming in Los Angeles for the creative production of MUNNYCAT

Pink convertible.jpg

It's a nonstop production, which means there's careful planning involved to ensure filming is seamless. It's something that requires a producer's foresight and anticipation that anything could go wrong — like knowing to have a backup when the pink convertible booked for the shoot gets wrecked in an accident (we didn't do it). 

With moments like this to keep our Visual Content team on their toes, we know their adventure will be anything but boring. 

Besides running around during location scouting or tackling the shot list, there remains that drive to ensure successful production — "I always look forward to having fun with our artists; getting to know them more and bringing something to life we have worked on together for months prior to production," says Josh. "Oh, and the margaritas. All the margaritas."

Stay tuned on our Instagram for a surprise guest takeover in the next week — we'll be highlighting Josh and Kristen on their travels, along with the amazing artists they'll be collaborating with. 

Posted on March 23, 2018 and filed under Filmmaking, Spotlight: Marmoset.

Crafting Original Scores with Kevin Matley

Kevin Matley Composer Marmoset

What goes into constructing a heart-achingly beautiful movie score? The type that tips an already emotional scene into "sweating from your eyes" territory. To craft something of this nature, there must be a harmonious understanding between the director's vision and the composer's score, both working together to create that moment. 

Even if you haven't viewed this year's selection of Oscar nominated films, you may be able to recall a past film solely from its iconic theme or soundtrack. Remember Titanic? Aside from earning almost every award under the sun, the film's orchestral score became the highest-selling score in history.  Atop this already noteworthy achievement, the film nabbed Best Original Dramatic Score that year — along with Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. 

 Film composer and Sound Designer, Kevin Matley

Film composer and Sound Designer, Kevin Matley

But at the end of the day, what makes an original score this kind of impactful? To explore this topic, we reached out to one of our go-to film composers and Sound Designer, Kevin Matley. An ADDY Award winning Sound Designer, Matley is no stranger to deconstructing a scene to deliver cohesive, clever, and cinematic sound. 

With his expertise, Matley breaks down this year's Best Original Score nominations, sharing his approach to crafting meaningful scores, and how to "jump the shark" within your own creative process.


Marmoset: What we really admire about your approach to writing scores is how you view the big picture: how sound can contribute to the overall story. When looking at the nominations for Best Original Score, which one stands out specifically for notably building up (or supporting) the story unfolding on screen?

Kevin Matley: That’s a tough call. I’d have to go with Dunkirk. At times gratuitous, Hans’ score took the intensity of the film three floors up. If you removed his score, it would view as a bunch of people waiting on a beach and some others in boats and a plane. Fair to say it would not have nearly the same impact.

That’s not to say that what the other composers added to their respective films didn’t elevate their stories or bring them further to life. It’s that with this specific genre and the direction the film needed to go, Hans took it further than the rest could have.

However, Dunkirk doesn’t have my vote for the win due to some of the synth textures, which felt a little too EDM for the picture at times. I will say, I’m incredibly jealous of the ambient swells in the beginning. An amazing sonic landscape to open the film.

Do you have a prediction on who you think will take home the little golden statue?

I’d really like to see Jonny Greenwood take it. His score is by far the most creative without distracting from the story. However, Alexandre Desplat is my guess for the win. He seems to be an award magnet. Although an incredible writer, a few he’s won were a surprise not only because of the quality of the composition, but also the others in contention we’re far superior. Greenwood’s score was elegant, haunting, and leaps and bounds more creative than the rest.

While John Williams is arguably the best score writer of all time and the Star Wars themes arguably some of the best ever written, the new cues he wrote for The Last Jedi were not his best. However, I have grace for him given what he was working with. The movie was pretty bad.

Also, I’m really surprised Three Billboards was nominated for best score. I would have put Blade Runner in the mix far before that one.

Has there ever been a particular project where you saw the finished score and thought about how you would have approached the project differently?

Every project I work on. I think I’ll always be chasing the perfect score and I hope that never goes away. My dangling carrot is that my standards are far higher than I can achieve. It drives me insane but also motivates me.

Without bagging on any writers specifically, I’ll say I’ve seen countless films with poorly timed or unimaginative music. But I know very well that this line of work can have a lot of cooks in the kitchen. Sometimes directors, music supervisors, producers, and other people working on a film can have really bad ideas, and as much as the composer— or even the director for that matter — fight for what’s best, they end up going with what upper management  wants. You can have people that might have a lot of money invested and those guys tend to have the least desire for risk. They want something safe and innocuous that will sell. I get it, but when we’re making art sometimes you have to take a risk and step out on a ledge a bit and do something dangerous.

In the end, I’ve learned you to have grace for the composer rather than blame them for something that might not have been their fault.

How do you deconstruct a scene as the composer? Are there any variables that influence your approach?

It varies tremendously depending on my talks with the director and how we see the vision of the film. Assuming I have all my themes and palette decided upon, I first think about how forward or inconspicuous the music should feel. Sometimes we have to communicate a loud statement with the music. Other times we have to be out of the way and fluid so as not to distract the viewer and give a more subconscious account of the emotional undertone. This is a very delicate balance that I will be learning to walk for the rest of my career.

Next, I think about how ironic the music should be and ask: Is this hopeful section meant have a sad tone that tells the weight of the whole story? Should this scene have an underlying sense of hostility even though there’s humor in the dialog? What is the picture saying in respect to the story?

Then I mostly concern myself with what’s surrounding the scene and the overall temperature and color we’re trying to create based off of the story. I tend to zoom out a bit when tying scenes together. A lot can happen in a single minute of film, so I try to think about what the spirit of the film is and how it pertains to these shots that need music to tell that part of the narrative.

I learned this years ago when I paused a film to reload my ice cream and check on my cat. When I came back and hit play, for a second I forgot where I was in the film and I noticed the music didn’t fit the scene at all. I was really struck by this. It was loud and aggressive over people having an intimate conversation. I saw that in context there was a sense of instability and aggression surrounding this brief moment of two people calmly conversing and I realized that sometimes it works really well to just plow through an emotional valley to keep the overarching emotion intact and move the story. In context, you wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

The reality is, it’s all a giant Tetris puzzle that I have no idea how to solve until I watch the final product and think about how much better I could have done.

Are there any well-known composers who you view as trailblazers in the film industry? Do you borrow or happen to have any parallel techniques you both utilize?

It’s with a very heavy heart that I say Jóhann Jóhannsson. Jóhann was one of the trailblazers I followed with great admiration and respect. It’s not often that one of my favorite films includes one of my favorite scores. Sicario and Arrival are among the few I could say that about. His use of abstract soundscapes and outside the box composing has inspired me countless times and will continue to for years.


Thank you to the thoughtful genius, Kevin Matley for sharing his knowledge in the second part of our 'Sound Lesson' series. Stay tuned for our next upcoming lesson as we continue dissecting the intricacies of creating flawless music and scores for the big screen. 

Original Score Marmoset Kevin Matley
Posted on February 26, 2018 and filed under Marmoset, Filmmaking, Music.

Dissecting Sound with 'Dunkirk's Randy Torres

Randy Torres Oscars Marmoset

The sound & music production industry is a big maze of possibilities. At Marmoset, we’re no stranger to this, our own services digging daily into original scoring, music supervising, sound editing, and beyond. But unless you’re a filmmaker, a professional musician, or dabble in advertisement, these types of categories might not trigger a light-bulb or feel essential when making your own music. Nonetheless, like the nature of any industry, skills in one area can carry over into another role, setting you apart from your big competitors.

We’re not saying to go ahead and master special effects editing if you want to excel at composing, but it doesn’t hurt to understand how your team contributes to the big picture of sound — this isn’t a PSA “The More You Know” campaign, but here you go.

Since our friends in sunny Los Angeles are gearing up for the Oscars this month, we’re dedicating the next three posts to dissect what it takes to create cohesive, accolade-deserving sound and music. And what better way to get the scoop than branching out to Marmoset’s off-site collaborators, with their Swiss Army knives of TV & film expertise/knowledge.

 Sound Editor & Designer, Randy Torres

Sound Editor & Designer, Randy Torres

Randy Torres is a vastly experienced Sound Effects Editor and Sound Designer whose IMDb page is explosive with cool projects. We knew Torres would have more than a few interesting thoughts to share on this year’s Oscar Sound Editing category and nominations — along with sharing his own story as a professional Sound Effects Editor.

One of artist's recent, bigger productions was this year’s widely nominated Dunkirk, nominated for Original Score, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing (along with a slew of other impressive categories: oh hello, Best Picture). With great insight into the intricacies of sound production, Torres guides us through some important elements to note when designing and editing the soundscape for a project as prestigious as Dunkirk


Marmoset: It seemed that one of the biggest challenges with securing sound was the environment, to make the sound feel authentic, how does one begin to recreate that world in post-production? 

Randy Torres: Most, if not all, the sound effects that you hear in the film were cut in after production. The only recordings that we used from the location is the dialog and rarely some production props. 

Wind, noises, IMAX camera shutter, crew, modern environmental sounds (like jets, camera boats etc.) are really loud and hard to control — so most of the sound captured on set isn’t useable. We spend a lot of time doing our own recordings (on Dunkirk in particular) of the ocean, beaches, WW2 planes, old boats, ships, etc. That way, we have more control over how everything sounds and how it “plays” on screen. 

My boss (Supervising Sound Editor, Richard King) spent the most time collaborating with the director. He then relayed the vision and ideas to us — the sound editors. 

Sound editing can be so “behind the scenes," audiences may not even know how how good sound editing can make or break a film. In your opinion, what does it take to be a great sound editor?

In order to be a great sound editor, I believe there comes a good sense of taste. When you are “cutting” a scene with a bunch of doors, cars and backgrounds, you have quite a few options to choose from. All these recordings, while sometimes are recorded for that specific film, were mostly done at a different time and in a different space for a different project. 

Being able to sift through literally thousands and thousands of recordings to find that one door or one wave crash that you feel is interesting, exciting and fits the space and scene, can be a real challenge. Also, being open to feedback and criticism is really important.  

How did you find your niche in the film industry? When did you realize you had a talent and ear for mastering sound?

My background was in writing music, along with touring and studio engineering. That evolved into writing music for commercials and film trailers. After many, many years of being on that side of the music industry, I started looking for other opportunities (non-musical) where I could transfer over my background of  “audio technical know-how.” 

From there, a great opportunity came along to do post audio and sound design for corporate web videos, which turned into work on commercials, which then turned into audio post on reality television, then film. Most if not all sound editors have different career trajectories but most of them have a background in music. You just try to capitalize on the opportunities and hope they turn into other jobs.  

How do you pick your projects? Do you envision how you can contribute to the project from reading the script or do you prefer to wait until the picture is locked to decide if you’ll contribute to the project? Just curious if you gravitate toward specific genres or projects over another. 

Most of the films I’m hired on are because the supervising sound editor have been hired by the Studio, Director, Producer, post production supervisor, picture editor, etc. 

Richard King for example has done most of Christopher Nolan’s films (Dark Knight, InceptionInterstellar). The sound effects, dialog, sound design, Foley and mixing are done by a handful of different people who Richard has used through the years. 

With that said. the supervisors are the ones who will read the script, discuss vision and ideas with the director — then those ideas and tasks are divided out to the crew. I hope at some point I can evolve into a more supervisory role but for now I am thankful and happy to be editing for a handful of incredible supervisors. 

Who's your prediction for taking home the award for Best Sound Editing? 

Well, I hope that Dunkirk takes home Best Sound Editing (*wink*). My second choice would be Blade Runner.  


Stay tuned for the next chapter in our Sound Lessons series (Oscars Edition) next week, as we continue to dissect sound editing, original scores, and sound design. In the interim, we'll be crossing our fingers for the talented sound design team behind Dunkirk. And a big thanks to the supremely talented Randy Torres for weighing in — we have a suspicion Leo would be impressed. 

Leo impressed Marmoset
Posted on February 23, 2018 and filed under Marmoset, Filmmaking, Music.

Y La Bamba: Beyond Self, Music, & Tradition

Luz Y La Bamba.png

If a descendent of Hispanic culture, heritage, or lineage, one would immediately recognize what holiday entails placing calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls) upon a flowery shrine: Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. There's no other event quite like the multi-day tradition, as it marks an honorable celebration of life through loss — remembrance in recalling those who are no longer with us.  

This sentiment of searching, to trace one's beginnings, is what Luz Mendoza of Y La Bamba sets out to transcribe within Marmoset's latest artist profile video. It's inward introspection of understanding, respect for one's own journey. 

In the latest chapter of our artist profile series, Luz opens her story to us, a message thoughtfully constructed through a struggle of genuine exploration and forgiveness — for her to then fiercely embrace. This is a woman who does not relent, opening doors, even when some are tender, digging deeper into self discovery.

It then makes sense why it's essential to highlight this particular Y La Bamba performance that took place at Holocene on November 2nd. As with Dia de los Muertos, Luz equally shows there's a visceral beauty in life and death, in both past and present. Where we travel to, but also from where we arrived. 

Posted on February 20, 2018 and filed under Marmoset, Filmmaking.

"Origins" 2018 Reel by Marmoset Now Live!

We couldn’t wait any longer —we're happy to announce "Origins", Marmoset's 2018 Reel is now Live!

Where to even begin with which piece we find most spectacular... that might be a bit challenging. But if we were to give a business presentation on what to expect from the film, we’d start with a pie chart similar to this:

 

 

Not only a visual recap of 2017, “Origins”, the four month long production, represents some of the most notable and memorable projects Marmoset played a creative hand in — the title came about as a significant tribute to our music community. “This film is about where we come from,” Josh Brine, Marmoset’s Visual Content Director explains. “Many of us [Marmoset employees] are also musicians and artists, therefore understand our foundation.” 

The reel reveals some of the the creative super powers behind our team and of course, our artists. But most importantly, the films encapsulates the journey in which music can take any project. While we look onward with the new projects unfolding in this new year, this reel is our milestone for us as a creative music agency, our community, and family. 


Fun facts: 

  • For one of the scenes, we filmed at the Pittock Mansion in Portland, OR — can you spot which scene?

  • Around 26 people from Marmoset's family had a hand in making the film.

  • A part of the production was filmed at Soundscape Studios in Chicago, IL — some of their clientele in the past includes Chance the Rapper, 2 Chainz, M.I.A, Vince Staples, and Vic Mensa. 

  • Penske accidentally gave the crew a flatbed truck twice the size of what was ordered. It was too late to secure another smaller truck, so production ran with it!  It actually turned out funnier because of how ridiculously huge it is.

Posted on February 6, 2018 and filed under Marmoset, Filmmaking, Music.