Posts tagged #Scoring

What Makes A Good Story?

Field Notes Interview #35: Zachary "Zippy" Etzel, Story & Heart Filmmaker

In any form of art and expression, there are key elements in crafting a compelling story. Pacing, clarity, tone, emotion and connection to name a few. Our good friends at Story & Heart are here to help people weave and tell amazing stories. Though community building and insightful, educational tutorials and tools, they're bridging you and the story you want to tell.

When you meet and interact with Filmmaker, Zachary "Zippy" Etzel, you leave inspired. His stories and films are engaging, approachable and full of character. Capturing a wide array of landscapes, from the expansive backdrop of the wooded PNW, to intimate interviews with diverse voices. We chatted with Zachary about what a good story means to him, his relationship with filmmaking, the role of music in storytelling, and the exciting new developments happening with Story & Heart and the Academy of Storytellers.

M: Who are you and what do you do in the world?

ZE: I am Zippy. A rural farm boy from Oregon. An energetic enthusiasts of filmmaking, coffee, cameras, travel, storytelling, bicycles, collaboration, adventuring, dinosaurs, helping people, Saved By The Bell, and breaking into song. At Story & Heart, I’m a connector. I get to spend my days bringing filmmakers together—it’s amazing.

M: What's the first story that you remember?

ZE: I’m not exactly sure, probably something from my Mother or Grandfather—both impressive storytellers in their own right.

My Mom was an Airforce brat, and lived in many places growing up, most notably Okinawa (Japan) during the late 50’s, not long after the War, and the atom bombs. She would talk about the Japanese culture and her experiences as a child there. It seemed so exotic, foreign, far away, and awesome, like she had lived on another planet. My tiny child mind was always blown.

As well, my family has deep roots in the small town I come from—our family farm homestead (which is still in operation) was established in the 1890’s. When the family gathered at said homestead, which was often, my grandfather (who was born in the farmhouse) would regale us with stories from growing up on the farm, and our ancestors (his grandparents / parents / aunts / uncles) whose photographs are still present all over the old farmhouse.

This is a shot my grandfather regaling me and my cousins as kids. I think he was telling us about the time he met grandma, while picking apples. 

This is a shot my grandfather regaling me and my cousins as kids. I think he was telling us about the time he met grandma, while picking apples. 

It’s hard to remember what the first story was that he told me, but one of my favorites was about a weathered old guitar he used to play. It literally looked like it had been sitting in the barn unprotected for decades. Once when I was roughly six or seven, I asked him why he didn’t get a new one. He explained that guitars don’t realize they’re guitars for the first 50 or so years that they’re guitars, they still think they’re trees. Only after they’ve head time to “break themselves in” and become used to the idea of being a guitar do they start to truly sound they they’re suppose to, and find their voice. It stuck with me. I told my music teacher at school this, and he looked at me like I was mental.

M: What makes a good story?

ZE: Stories are how we relate to each other as humans, and make sense of the world we live in. If you think back to history class when you were growing up, you’re essentially learning stories. It’s similar many times in music, songs in of themselves, are essentially stories.

A good story makes someone feel something— good or bad, whether it’s because it’s relatable, bringing to the surface something that’s already there, or whether it’s new, touching you and opening you to challenges, introducing you to new parts of yourself, and feelings that you’ve never experienced before. These stories stay with you.

Thinking about the stories that I love, and why, it’s because they’ve touched me, and I still carry them with me.

I distinctly remember sitting in the theater watching Twelve Years a Slave when it came out.  At the time I was part of a team working on documentary about modern day child slavery, and during this process I’d been experiencing some pretty heavy stories and topics. This coupled with the story of Solomon Northup, during a less than savory time in US history left me in sort of a pile of myself at the end of the film.

Sunrise time lapse shoot at Smith Rock, Oregon. 

Sunrise time lapse shoot at Smith Rock, Oregon. 

A more lighthearted example is one of my favorite books of all time, High Fidelity (with a pretty good film adaptation). I worked at a record store in my early and mid twenties, and the characters, conversations, and discussion (or arguments) in the book felt like they were pulled right out of my day to day life slinging albums! I had lived more than a few of those pages. I’ve read the book a handful of times, and whenever I pick it up, I still get wrapped up in it. Like catching up with and old friend over coffee.

M: What is Story & Heart?

ZE: We’re on a mission to help storytellers tell amazing stories through collaboration and community. A bit more tangibly, we’re a story-driven video licensing platform and filmmaking community full of passionate like-minded storytellers who learn from, collaborative with, and encourage one another.

Our community members earn a passive income through licensing their footage, learn and teach all about about filmmaking at our online school (more on that below!), work on collaborative projects together (everything from community projects to prime time broadcast TV features), and bounce ideas and challenges off each other in our discussions area.

And on the flipside, storytellers in need of stock footage—agencies, creatives, non-profits, etc—now have access to beautiful story-driven footage crafted by crazy talented filmmakers. And when they can’t find what they’re looking for, our worldwide community of filmmakers is available for custom projects.

M: What is the Academy of Storytellers?

ZE: This is exciting! The Academy is our recently launched online film school! It’s a space where filmmakers from all different backgrounds and experiences can come together to teach and learn from each other about the craft and business of filmmaking.

The idea is taking the knowledge and skill that each of is holding inside of us, unlocking it, and sharing with one another. That’s what the Academy is on the most basic level. And not just the success, but the failures as well, because there is so much to be learned in those. People are always afraid to fail, but when someone who may be newer to filmmaking sees a filmmaker they look up to being vulnerable and admitting their own struggles and failures, it makes you realize it’s just a matter of stretching yourself and growing. It inspires you to keep going.

It’s been incredibly humbling and inspiring at the same time to see people embrace the Academy, and hear the overwhelming positive reactions. To get an email from someone about how the Academy has changed their filmmaking path, and feels like it’s been worth more than film school is heady stuff. I think again it goes back to basic idea of helping people. By saving people hours of scouting, searching, and sifting, and creating a central place for people to connect, learn, and share ideas, it makes the learning curve much shorter, which in turns empowers them to get out there, shoot more, better hone their craft, and in the end tell better stories.

Helping someone else be successful, makes you successful. It’s incredibly exciting to share in others’ triumphs.

M: What’s included in the Academy?

ZE: The Academy is a different approach to teaching and learning. It’s collaborative education, with various filmmakers sharing the how and why of what they do best. This allows you to learn multiple viewpoints and philosophies, and take what you connect with and apply it to your own shop.

The other really great part is that our educators are all active members in our Community, which makes it much more of a personal conversation. You can ask Joe Simon, Gnarly Bay, or Stillmotion a question about your business and get an honest and thoughtful response back from them.

Shooting at Tanner Creek falls outside Portland, Oregon.

Shooting at Tanner Creek falls outside Portland, Oregon.

And it goes even further than just being tutorials, it’s a complete eco-system with screen flows, graphics that outline concepts, live webinars, downloadable resources, templates, discussions, and I’m really pulling for us to get a goat as well.

But seriously, it’s huge!

Barriers have been removed, and under one roof you can find all the relevant information and resources you need to become a better storyteller, and in addition to the resources, are others, just like you, are engaged and there for the same reason. There’s something amazing and inspiring that happens when you find “your people”, and we want to give that to as many people as possible.

M: What kinds of tutorials have you made?

ZE: From beginner to advanced lessons, we cover topics from pre-production to post-production, some of which include: Storytelling and Story Structure, Cinematography, Lighting, Directing, Sound Design, and Business—yes, we have lessons and discussions all about the business of filmmaking, including day rates, how to find great gigs, marketing tips, etc.

The Academy’s goal is to tackle all topics that would help you to grow and excel in the filmmaking industry. However in the spirit of community and collaboration, we always keep our ears open to suggestion for new tutorials ideas and topics, and thus new content is driven directly from the community— what they want to see and learn about.

M: How does music play a role in compelling storytelling?

ZE: It’s a storytelling tool, just as important as lens choice, camera movement, lighting, etc. When used properly, it’s almost like it becomes it’s own character in a piece.

I spent six years as a music supervisor, which led me to a term I call the Goldilocks rule. Meaning you don’t want the music in your piece to be too hot (overbearing and distracting), and you don’t want the music to be too cold (unnoticeable or poorly matched), it’s all about making it “just right”.

Shooting in 8 Degrees at Minute Men Park, Concord, Massachusetts. 

Shooting in 8 Degrees at Minute Men Park, Concord, Massachusetts. 

Going back to what I said earlier about songs themselves being stories, you are using these (or portions of these) stories to help influence, massage, and tell yours. Which is why it’s so important to be intentional with how, when, and why you use music in a piece, as well as making sure that you're choosing a song that help push the story your telling on screen in the direction you want it to, not just choosing a song because it’s hip or well known.

I also think it’s interesting how music can play a role in influence, even when it’s not appearing on the screen of the final piece. There are times when I’m shooting something, and I’ll have a song stuck in my head. Sometimes it’s something that I already think would work well with the piece I’m shooting, and other times it’s just a nagging catchy tune that won’t go away. Either way, whether I’m conscious of it in the moment or not, I’m sure it influences the end product in some way.

M: What do you have planned?

ZE: To continue to build the already incredible community that we have. More sweet collaborative projects, and films, and helping as many filmmakers as humanly possible. More fun, in person meet-ups, ice cream socials, bike rides, and hopefully lots of goat pettings.


How Music Can Help Shift Perspective In Film

Field Notes Interview #34: Ryan Bouman, Filmmaker

For filmmaker, Ryan Bouman, his work is about sharing stories we don't get to see and hear very often. His films for non-profit organizations take him around the world documenting powerful experiences. In his recent project, he went to Uganda to film DuncanAfrica, a collective of guitar makers that teach apprentices to make acoustic instruments and teach them to run their own business overseas.

Through this film, we get to see how the creation of instruments transcends language and creates powerful experiences and communication between people that moves beyond words. Using the track "Enjoy The Calm" by Marmoset Artist, Drew Barefoot, Bouman captures the emotion and sense of place and the stories told therein.

We chatted with Ryan Bouman about his recent film and how music played a critical role in conveying the complex perspectives throughout it. Read on...

M: When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

RB: As a kid I made a video for a class geography project in grade 7, and bought my first video camera and iMac with Final Cut Pro in high school. It grew as a hobby. I think I always wanted to be a filmmaker, but never saw a path that worked for me to make it happen. After attending a workshop put on by Capture in Minneapolis, I saw the path that I could start on and was given the necessary skills to get me started.

M: What’s you favorite moment of the filmmaking process?

RB: It’s those first moments in post-production. I will usually pick a music track that fits, grade a couple of my favorite shots or sequences, and watch how all of our hard work is really coming together.

M: What do you think defines a filmmakers voice?

RB: I would say, your perspective, which is always changing. The edit is where I really see it come out. You get to choose (to an extent) how you tell a story, what you say, and how you say it.

M: Do you always have a clear vision in mind when filming?

RB: I try to, but I think the vision always changes as the film begins to come together, and I love that about it. I love that I can be surprised while editing. I think it is essential to get as clear a vision as possible before shooting, let it go, and let yourself be surprised.

M: How did this project come into form?

RB: I heard about DuncanAfrica 4 years ago, before video production was my full time career, and more of a hobby. As a guitar player I was on board and excited about what the organization was doing in Uganda. I met with DuncanAfrica founder, Jay Duncan and we discussed the possibility of creating a film. However, financially it just wasn’t something that was going to work at the time. Fast-forward 3 years later, and I had been hired by another non-profit to shoot a promo in Uganda, and the DuncanAfrica school was only an hour from Kampala, where I would be finishing my trip. I decided to book my flight home for 3 days later, take it on as a passion project, and make it happen.

M: What are the different variables that come into play when filming in another country?

RB: Oh man, there is so much…especially when going to certain parts of Africa. I remember one time we stayed in this little compound in the bush in Ethiopia where I was given an electrical wire through the window that was connected to a generator that would only run for 3-4 hours each day. I got shocked multiple times, but it was the only way to charge my batteries. You have to pack all of your essential equipment as a carry on and pray your checked baggage doesn’t get delayed. You have to pack really smart. In some of the places I have gone, it is pretty rare to see white people, so you get a lot of attention. I have missed good shots because everywhere I turn there is a group of kids jumping in front of my lens, so excited that I am there. You, pull out a drone and all hell brakes loose. There’s a lot of logistical stuff to keep in mind to.

M: Tell me about magical moment when filming?

RB: Walking into the DuncanAfrica shop for the first time, I knew it was going to be something special. It was in the evening, the lights were off,  and I could see the sawdust glowing in the window light as it twisted and moved in the air. I could not wait to get started.

M: What did a typical day of shooting look like?

RB: I was staying at a little motel a mile away from the shop. I would get picked up each morning by a “Boda-boda”, or Motorcycle taxi. The driver would tie up my main camera bag to the front with bungee chords and I would sit on the back holding a monopod and carrying another sling bag on my back. We would drive through the beautiful landscape, past small communities, to the shop. I was shooting raw video on my Canon 5D Mark III, so I would shoot for an hour and then sit down for an hour, to offload and review footage to make sure that I was getting exactly what I wanted. In the evenings I would hike up to the top of the hill to get a few landscapes of the countryside and nearby city.

M: Were there any happy accidents when filming?

RB: Maybe it’s not an accident, but the photos on the fridge…they were a perfect way for me to introduce the viewers to two main characters who I was not able to get any footage of - Jay Duncan, the founder, who was home working from his Canada based shop, and Mwesige David, the first student of the school who had passed away from cancer. They were sitting beautifully on the fridge right next to the window on an overcast day, I didn’t have to adjust anything.

M: What’s the most nerve wracking part of filming?

RB: For this film it was certainly the interviews. I was by myself, shooting in RAW on the 5D, with two 64gb cards that allowed for 8 minutes of record time each before needing to be offloaded. I had to set up my shot, let the camera run, sit down beside it, conduct the interview, stay present with the person I was talking to, and then pray that they stayed in frame and in focus, and that we could get the right moment all within 8 minutes. It worked out pretty well. 

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

RB: I think that if your content (your visuals, narration, sound effects,etc) is what you are saying, then music is how you say it. I think it is a balancing act between how much the music is driving the film. If it is driving it too much, then you end up with viewers who might feel like they should be excited or moved by something, but don’t know what that is. If you don’t let the music drive the film at all, it has the potential to feel boring and loose people. The absence of music can also be a powerful tool that often gets overlooked, but can be very useful if used the right way.   

M: When do you know that you have something ready to show the world?

RB: I don’t think I have finished a film yet and thought, “everything about this is perfect!”  I have to get to a place where I am proud of my work, the client is really happy, I see what I might do differently next time, and then move on. Otherwise I will never get to tell that next story.

M: What’s coming up?

RB: Shooting for non-profit organizations, and development organizations is something I have been fortunate to get to do a lot of over the last year. I just returned from Haiti where I shot a film for a development organization that employs Haitians to build water filters for those needing them. That should be done soon. I am also working on a project that focuses on the wild horses of Alberta. 

Field Notes: An interview with Katie Reardon

Photo courtesy of    Ben Sellon

Photo courtesy of Ben Sellon

It's only a matter of time until producer, Katie Reardon becomes a familiar name in every household. We're here to speed things up a bit.

Reardon's films are original, playful and downright striking. Her work captures a sense of beauty all around us that is often unseen to the naked eye. We had the opportunity to collaborate with her and our friends at Wieden + Kennedy on the Seven Wonders of Oregon campaign, a series of short films showcasing the natural treasures in our beloved state. We also recently finished a project with her and the great folks at AKQA on an animation for Nike+. Now immediately onto the next project, Reardon is a skyward rocket in the filmmaking community, and she's not stopping anytime soon.

We managed to catch her between shoots for an interview about her experience as a filmmaker, the need for more female directors and how she uses varied soundtracks to capture diverse imagery in her films.

M: When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker and producer? 

KR: I started out working on short films and music videos with my amazingly talented friends down in LA. I remember at one point while we were filming Red Moon, a short film about a Russian werewolf submarine captain, I looked down and I was holding a clipboard, a power drill and I had some werewolf fur scraps sticking out of my fanny pack and I was like, "Yeah, I think I found my career path." 

M: What's your favorite moment of the filmmaking process? 

KR: I love that moment when someone on the set up-sells themselves, throws a curveball. When the PA comes up with a funny joke, when the set designer gets used as talent, when the account guy suggests the winning music track. We've all got secret creative tricks we should let loose. Sets are good for that. 

Photo courtesy of  Chantal Anderson

Photo courtesy of Chantal Anderson

M: In such a male-dominated industry, what's your production experience been like? How can things progress and change? 

KR: I've been really lucky to have a lot of female producers in my sphere so far to learn from and look up to. I've been told the production world is male dominated, but then I see all us boss ladies hustling and making rad stuff and it all just makes sense to me. A producer is there to run shit, facilitate a cool set vibe, not be a jerk and have some tricks up your sleeve. A lot of females in the creative industry carry those traits, so producing is a rather natural role for females in that respect.

What I don't see enough of though are females getting the directing roles on set. That's where the industry needs some serious progress. I think it's still a bigger challenge for everyone to fully trust woman creatively. The creativity trust fall that comes with hiring a director is a big one -- following someone's artistic instincts and trusting their humor and taste and style -- I think that's a harder thing for men (and women) to default to woman's role in their minds since systematically we are taught to think of women as followers. Pushing into the producing and executive producing roles has been a byproduct of that mama bear, multi-tasking, peace-keeping mentality that a lot of us women have instinctively which has made a lot of progress for the industry. But that's not enough. We need to support young females in the arts to value their own unique styles, not just draft off their male counterparts trends. That's how we are going to make more females the lead tastemakers in the industry. I mean, can we talk about how sick it would be to see a Nike World Cup ad directed by a female? It would be something new for sure and that's good for creativity in general, not just women. 

PS: I hope we are asking the dudes this same question. It's a conversation for everyone.

M: How did the Travel Oregon Seven Wonders project come into fruition? What direction you were working with? 

KR: Wieden + Kennedy has had an amazing, long standing partnership with the Travel Oregon work. As an Oregonian girl, I was really excited when I got assigned to the job. Partnering with the creatives, we dug through the scripts and immediately could tell that this spot needed a really amazing director and crew. We ended up teaming up with Christian Sorensen Hansen. His style really naturally had this sense of exploring and adventuring. You can see when you scope even just his Instagram account -- this dude loves to scramble up rocks and get weird shots and hunt down that perfect sunset. He was a dream to work with and the crew that supported him was nothing short of amazing. We all basically were in boot camp/summer camp together for two weeks driving all over the state shooting these spots. Eating every meal together, camping out, staying at random motels... it all was one huge adventure that left me with nothing but respect for the crew. 

M: Favorite moment during the project? 

KR: This project was a long line of adventures. Filming a rad little kiddo running around in the Painted Hills, holding my breath when we sent our camera crew riding strapped on to the maintenance cart of the sky tramway on Mt. Howard at Wallowa Lake so we could get the perfect ariel shot, fascinating and/or freaking out every visitor at Smith Rock when we filmed the rock climbing scene with the mini drone camera rig, and then rigging up the camera to a helmet strapped to our PA so he could jump into Crater Lake for that epic shot in the Anthem film. A random little moment that feels special just to me though was when we were filming at Trillium Lake for the Mt. Hood video and we needed a shot of an empty canoe on the lake, so I volunteered to be shoved out into the lake while I was laying down in the bottom of the canoe. I remember watching the snow trees circling the sky and thinking to myself, "this is the most surreal experience. I can't believe this is my job." 

M: Were there any happy accidents during any projects? 

KR: Not really an accident, but an interesting coincidence from the shoot was that we were filming at many of the same locations and almost nearly at the same time as the Wild feature film. Our crew kept getting asked if we were "that Reese Witherspoon movie shoot?!" I'd just laugh and motion to us rag-tag dudes eating beef jerky out of the back of an SUV and say, "Do we look like we're with Reese Witherspoon?"

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

KR: Music was a huge part of this campaign. Having Eric D. Johnson from the Fruit Bats on board to score all the seven Wonders videos was a huge asset for us. Eric's style is so varied it really gave us a ton to play with to get a strong score for all this different videos. Oregon is such a diverse state, so there really wasn't one sound that worked for all the regions. We needed that variety of Eric's style so that we could have ethereal sounds in the snowy Mt. Hood scenes along with a western vibe in the Wallowas.

Photo courtesy of  Chantal Anderson

Photo courtesy of Chantal Anderson

M: When did you know that you have something ready to show the world? 

KR: When you're in post production, you're always pretty nose-close to the project by that point. No matter how great it is, you've just been starring at it for so darn long it's hard to see where you are at and if it's ready for the outside world. But then, if you're doing it right, there's this magic moment when everyone gets really excited again and you know you are on to something and the project is really close to being done. On the Seven Wonders project I remember this happened twice with the Anthem spot. Once when we were editing the Crater Lake jump scene and finally discovered Bryan John Appleby's "Boys" track. It had the most epic pause and then explosion of emotion, just like that shot had. I remember the Creatives and our director/editor, Christian Sorensen Hansen, all looking at each other with the biggest grins when we dropped that track to picture. It was perfect, no questions asked. That's when I knew we were really close to having something ready for the world. That same feeling happened again when we got in to do the mix at Digital One on that Anthem spot. With just the right wooshes and poignant silences and then bursts of water noises, that moment in the film just got bigger and bigger. It still makes me smirk every time I watch it. 

Photo courtesy of  Chantal Anderson

Photo courtesy of Chantal Anderson

M: What's coming up? 

KR: My dude and I are heading out to North Carolina to see our good buddies that run the record label Hometapes and collaborate with them on some projects. We are going to be shooting some new promotional photos for the band Sylvan Esso. Their music is so perfectly fresh and smart and dance'y -- it's going to be really fun to see what evolves on set with them. 

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Have a film about your home state?

Share your film with us at and we'll choose our favorite to feature on our journal next week. The winner will be awarded with awesome prizes including the new album Murmurations by The Parson Red Heads and an Instrument beer koozie.

Field Notes: An interview with Filmmaker Randy Warren

Stories evoke an emotional response, something we carry with us long after the credits roll down the screen. The filmmaking of Randy Warren tells stories that not only instigate strong reactions, but are calls to action to actively participate.

Warren is a filmmaker with Advocate Creative, an agency that works with nonprofits, capturing compelling stories of organizations doing incredible things around the world. We've had the honor of collaborating with Warren and Co. on a few different projects and love the work that they're doing.

We got a second to catch up with Randy right before he headed out to Honduras on another shoot. He chatted about his influences, working in remote areas and the importance of using "real" music in film.

M: When did you start filming?

RW: So I have the cliché story of always wanting to make movies as a young kid, starting with my grandparents old Super8mm film camera, experimenting with lego stop-motion. When home video camcorders came out, I shot dozens of tapes, making homemade music videos, comedy sketches and shows with my friends. I remember trying over and over to get an edit right by hitting record on the VHS VCR, hitting play on the Sony Hi8 camcorder and dropping the needle on the turntable all at the same time.

M: When did you know that you wanted to be a filmmaker?

RW: I was always a huge music fan, and I used to love music videos - making them, watching them. It seemed like the ultimate art form, because it combined both music and visuals and there seemed to be no rules. I remember watching some Hitchcock movies, like North by Northwest and Rear Window, and just being spellbound by how you could tell a story with no words. I was a pretty shy kid, and I always loved story so I thought, hey, I could do that. 

M: What's usually your favorite moment when working on a film?

RW: That’s hard to say. My least favorite moments are when I have to work alone. Collaborating, whether in PrePro, during the shoot, or even in the edit is so rewarding. If you’re lucky enough to find the right creative partner(s), then you’ll be able to see firsthand the difference two or more minds can have on a project versus being limited to only your own. I’d have to say I love shooting the most, mostly because I’m active. And I do enjoy the hunt for the right composition, even when I often miss the target.

I’d have to say I love shooting the most, mostly because I’m active. And I do enjoy the hunt for the right composition, even when I often miss the target.
— Randy Warren

M: How did you get involved with Advocate Creative?

RW: I was working full time with an amazing non-profit org called Nuru International with my creative partner, Doug Scott. I would travel a few times a year to Kenya for filming, then edit out of my house the rest of the year. While we were on staff, we kept getting asked by other non-profits who was doing the creative for Nuru, and if they could hire us. We had a growing passion to go and help other unique non-prof's, so in 2012 we launched AC with the goal of using creative to help innovative organizations spread their world-changing ideas and grow. We have had some unbelievably amazing clients and it has been rewarding beyond words.

M: Have there ever been any happy accidents when filming?

RW: So I accidentally dropped a thin slice of potato into a pot of boiling oil and out came something… delicious. I know that I’ve had some accidental shots that have worked out in the edit, but I can’t think of anything specific, sorry. 

M: How do you feel music plays a role in filmmaking?

RW: I'm actually way more passionate about music than filmmaking. I've always dabbled in playing, writing, even recording on a 4-track cassette recorder since I was in junior high. I feel like music has the potential for actually doubling the impact of a story’s impact. It doesn't just add, or complement the visuals. I feel like it adds 200%. (Trust me, it's that new math.) I’ve thought that ever since I was a kid watching Raiders of the Lost Ark and ET. At rare times, I feel like the music can almost rise above the soundtrack and almost act as one of the characters, like in There Will Be Blood

I feel like music has the potential for actually doubling the impact of a story’s impact. It doesn’t just add, or complement the visuals. I feel like it adds 200%. (Trust me, it’s that new math.)
— Randy Warren

M: What's your process of finding a soundtrack to a project? 

RW: Sometimes I will think of a band or artist that I feel matches the feel of the story. And occasionally, we'll even go after an original artist and pay for synch-rights. It used to be you'd license "canned" production music that specialized in creating music that sounds like specific artists, but that always felt a bit cheapened. And it was never as good as the real thing. But nowadays, there's such great indie artists that are getting the exposure through sites like Marmoset, that unique compositions and dynamic styles are creating a much better and bigger palette from which to choose a soundtrack from. I used to always love looking for the “Sigur Ros waveform” - songs that start small and intimate, then slowly build over time to a triumphal anthem. But almost always, I’ve editing a piece of music a ton to fit the structure of the edit, repeating measures, jumping to another section, etc. So I, more often then not, look for songs with lots of dynamic sections that I can pick and choose for different parts of the story. And often, we’ll use more than one song if the one track doesn’t match the whole story.

It used to be you’d license “canned” production music that specialized in creating music that sounds like specific artists, but that always felt a bit cheapened. And it was never as good as the real thing.
— Randy Warren

M: When do you know you've found the right one?

RW: As much as I love music, I do have a hard time finding just the right one. I'll often have a 2-3 options that I love. Occasionally, it will be perfect and just feel right, but often I rely on my team-mates and creative director to have the final say. A project is always always better when you have more creative brains involved vs. just flying solo.

M: How do you feel music can be misused in film?

RW: I’ve seen some non-profit promotional videos that have really sad and repetitive music to help the viewer feel more sad. And in some ways, I’ve been guilty of that in the past, but you never want it to be obvious, and especially not cheesy and repetitive. A lot of times, it comes down to the final mix. Sometimes I’m distracted by music in a video because it’s mixed too loud. 

M: What are you working on now? What's a project you're excited about coming up?

RW: Our team has the ambitious goal of producing videos for each of the ten different organizations that are nominated for The Tech Awards in San Jose. It’s kind of like if The Oscars and the Pulitzer had a baby, essentially Silicon Valley honoring the use of technology to benefit humanity. We have two months to produce, travel, shoot and edit all ten. We split up in to two teams to tackle five videos each. My team just got back from traveling 27,000 miles, across two continents in 16 days. It’s super challenging but a ton of fun.

Inspired by Randy Warren's work, we have a call to action for you. Tweet, comment (below) or message us a story of a time that you performed a selfless act of charity. We'll choose our 5 favorite stories next week and send our Side By Side vinyl to the winners.





Field Notes: An Interview with Camp4 Collective's Tim Kemple

Field Notes: An Interview with Ben Allen of More Like Georgia

Guest DJ: Timple Kemple, Filmmaker + Co-Founder of Camp4 Collective

Learning to listen // Terry Rayment on how filmmakers misuse music in film

Terry Rayment is many things: Director, Filmmaker, founder of LA-based Eskimo Creative Studio, and the person who might have the answers you've been looking for.

Backed with an impressive body of creative work for clients including Microsoft, Lincoln Motor Co., Poler and Steelcase, Rayment is no stranger to balancing the needs of his clients while keeping his own voice. A lot of this comes down to the music he chooses. 

We had the chance to chat with Rayment and got to know a little more about his directing process and the musical pitfalls that filmmakers struggle with.

M: When did you start filming?

TR: I remember in 4th grade I found my dads VHS camera and I would just tinker around and make mini movies with tha...just kidding. I didn't actually start moving images together until I was probably 18 or 19. I wanted to do something creative with my life so I dipped my foot into a lot of areas: design, writing, photography, art, illustration and filmmaking — I found I was quite horrible at most of those things besides filmmaking, plus it got me the most excited. I had a small stint in university and then started working for an advertising agency in Chicago when I was 20 years old. I convinced them to hire me because I made a lot of spec stuff in my free time that looked somewhat believable.

M: What's usually your favorite moment when working on a film?

TR: The last 15% of the edit process. This is the point where a lot of very talented people lose faith due to revisions or they've spent too much time with the project and they are not in love with it anymore. I believe there is value in just forcing yourself to see something through no matter any of the outside consequences — be it client or personal.

M: How did you get involved with Eskimo?

TR: I started Eskimo on January 1st, 2011. I think everyone starts their own company/collective because they feel like either something needs to change or they feel like they need to bring their voice to the table, right?

M: Have there been any happy accidents when filming? If so, what's one that stands out?

TR: I've worked with the same two cinematographers for over 5 years — Mike Berlucchi and Hunter Hampton. Not to be funny but I feel like every shoot with either of those guys is just one big happy accident.

M: How do you feel music plays a role in filmmaking?

TR: Being cavalier about your music selections is the quickest way to disconnect your audience from the film. The way music serves a film is a fine line between serving the emotional tone on a silver platter and being too ambiguous that the viewer doesn't know what you're trying to say. Most of the time, music is more important than the visuals, I believe. Some of my favorite little spots I just open up on Vimeo, hit play, and then close it and listen to the story unfold like it's a radio show or something.

M: How do you feel music can be misused in a film?

TR: When you use a song or track just because you like it, or it fits your taste. A lot of times we have to remind ourselves that we are the customer or the viewer this really needs to appeal to. Although we are hired to make things with our voice, taste and input, we are always cognizant of the fact that we are not the people that are going to view this. That said, the music needs to serve the project and not your own personal taste, you know?

M: What's your process of finding a soundtrack to a project? When do you know you've found the right one?

TR: The first parameter I always try and check off when searching for a soundtrack is that it has to surprise me. If you start listening to a track and you can predict where the next :30 and :60 will go, I feel like you should maybe move on to another track. I feel like it's a very time consuming process, so that's why if we find a track we like, we just save it to a library and that keeps on building and building. I think you know you found the right one when it lives perfectly with the project and it surprises you.


A Soundtrack for the Extreme // An interview with Wes Coughlin and his approach to adventure filmmaking

Telling a story without words // An interview with Ezaram Vambe about his film "In Havana"

An Unexpected Story // Interview with Jordan deBree about the making of "Every Runner Has A Reason"

A (brief) History of Music in Film

Music set to picture has the unique capability of enhancing the emotional nature of the story, of setting the tone and mood to add depth to a filmmaker's narrative. But do you know how music plays into the history of film? We scoured musical timelines and histories to find out - and in the process found some pretty epic composer/director teams that made an impact on film forever. Check out our (brief) summary of music in film below:

So we know that the Lumiere Brothers premiered the first motion picture in 1895. The first music set to picture happened in the early 1900's, and that's believed to be for a few reasons:

1. Because the projectors that used to play the films were loud. Music played over film was intended to help cover up the sound.

2. Music added another dimension to the plot line, characters and story in the film that wasn't there when the film was silent.

The music then isn't like the music we have in film today, though - more often than not, it was played by one person on piano or by a string quartet and was either improvised or borrowed from classical music cue sheets that didn't always quite fit the story. That was until Birth of a Nation in 1915, which marks the first time a full orchestra played the music for the movie.

Audio didn't make it into a full-length feature film until The Jazz Singer in 1927, with the opening line "Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain't heard nothing yet," making history as the first synchronized audio to film. Just a few years later, in 1933, Max Steiner created what is believed to be first-ever original score to film, in which music matches the story. This was to King Kong, and Steiner went on to score hundreds more films, including more you might have heard of: Gone With The Wind or Casablanca.

Right around this time was when composers adopted the classical scoring technique, where a composer writes music with themes and simple, repetitive melodies called leitmotifs to trigger the audience's emotions. Music at this point was still largely orchestral and considered Western classical.

Later, in the 1950's, jazz music began appearing in film, which opened the door for other genres to become a part of film as well. One of the most popular movie genres around this time were spaghetti Westerns, backing Clint Eastwood or John Wayne...

One of the biggest composer/director teams of the 1950's and 1960's was composer Ennio Morricone and director Sergio Leone. The duo worked together on many films, including Once Upon a Time in the West, A Pistol for Ringo and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. Morricone's scores are noted for their sparse arrangements and unconventional instrumentation (he added things like bells, electric guitar and harmonicas into his scores). It is believed that his compositions changed the way composers wrote scores for Westerns from then on out.

While Morricone and Leone were teaming up to revolutionize the Western film genre in the 1960's, sci-fi movies and thrillers were also making their way into theatres. This is when one of the most famous composer/director teams was born: Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock.

We'll try not to fan-girl out about this duo too much here, but...this is a pretty awesome pairing. Herrmann, a New York born composer, made his name first by classically scoring the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds in 1938, and then by scoring Citizen Kane in 1941. But the late 1950's and 60's showed Herrmann creating more stark, dissonant scores. like the dangerous, shrieking violins of Psycho or the darkly ominous, orchestral soundtrack to Vertigo. Much of Herrmnann's work was uncomfortable in its sweeping intensity, creating an unsettling tone that might not have originally been there. Hitchcock famously wanted the shower scene in Psycho to be silent, for instance, but Herrmann disagreed.

Herrmann's experimental technique paved the way for composers like John Williams in the 1970's. Williams wrote the score to the little series called Star Wars and made film history with his two-note theme for Jaws. The classical scoring technique made a return during this decade, ushering in more theme-driven scores from composers of the time.

The 1980's and onward has seen a ton of advancement in musical scores. From the dawn of the synthesizer - which allowed composers to create a score entirely from their own, without an orchestra to back them - to stepping away from entire thematic soundtracks to more individual "song scores," the past few decades have produced many memorable scores, such as Williams' magical score to Harry Potter, Howard Shore's epic, sweeping soundtrack to The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Hans Zimmer's booming, ominous score to Inception.

Needless to say, with all of this history to build on and grow from, we're excited to see what comes next. What are some of your favorite music moments in film? Let us know in the comments below.

- Kaitie Todd