Scoring Your Film to Perfection: An Interview with Emilee Boher

In addition to pairing sound and picture  for all types of creatives every day as a Music Supervisor at Marmoset, Emilee Booher has a long history of filmmaking that is all her own. Combining her passions for filmmaking and music, Emilee shared some wisdom and advice for filmmakers looking for that perfect song. 

What obstacles come with choosing music for your films?

Emilee Booher: From logistical to creative obstacles, there are a lot of hurdles that come with choosing music for films. Logistically, some of the more common ones are working within the limits of the project, which isn’t always easy or fun. You can dream up the ideal piece of music for a project and realize it’s way over your budget, or the artist or composer doesn’t want to license it out. This can all be especially frustrating if you’re under a tight deadline and trying to find music quickly.

I’ve found with myself and other filmmakers that thinking about music as early as possible in pre-production is hugely helpful. Establishing a budget up front, thinking about the sound you want, allowing time to search for licensable ideas, maybe even choosing the music before starting the edit — these are all things that take some stress off later on. I also think educating yourself on music licensing, how music libraries work and all of the possibilities available to you is also really beneficial. 

The creative side of choosing music comes with a whole other set of obstacles. There’s so much music out there. Spending hours searching for options can be exhausting and sometimes makes it difficult to decide which route to go. I like to find a variety of possible songs with different feels, tones, tempos, instrumentation, etc.  This is because the editing process can be the most telling part and can completely change your thoughts on music. You can have a track picked out and realize as soon as you see it to picture that it’s not going to work. It’s always a good idea to test out some curveballs. More often that not, they can pleasantly surprise you. In the end, if the music doesn’t give you that goose bump feeling we all know when we see a great pairing of music to picture, then it’s probably best to keep looking for it! 

And if you think something is out of reach, just asking can get you a long way!

Do you have a preference between original and existing music? 

This depends on a few different factors. Each method has its place in soundtracks, but involve pretty different processes. Original music is great for having something unique to your film or if you want to create a project-specific theme. It’s also great for making a piece feel whole and intentional, since an original piece will form to the scoring points of an edit. 

On the flip-side, existing music can also be very useful. If you’re on a quick timeline or have a very small budget, there’s a lot of possibility with something that’s already out in the world. It can also bring a different feel to your project. Sometimes you might want a track that is made by a real band or something that is instantly recognizable. These are some of the most powerful syncs in my opinion. The music is authentic and able to exist on its own, but takes on a whole different life when paired with picture. That’s how some of the best soundtracks are made — the ones that really stick with you and make you listen to a song in a whole new context.