Online Master's Degree Course

Professional Film Scoring Skills 1: Collaboration and Communication

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Authored by Jeanine Cowen, Alison Plante

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Course Code: OCOMP-577

Next Semester Starts January 11, 2021

Level 5 - Degree Only

Level 5

This course focuses on maximizing the composer’s relationship with a director or producer. We’ll explore different collaboration and communication styles, as well as how to manage the process of a collaboration from being hired through the final delivery. You will work with student filmmakers to gain experience collaborating directly with a client and managing a working relationship. Business skills for film composers are also covered, focusing on contracts and rights, and working within a budget.

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By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Present a director with suitable demos
  • Revise and rewrite themes for a director
  • Present cues to a director and receive and interpret feedback in a positive spirit
  • Anticipate the steps of being hired to score a studio picture
  • Develop strategies for how to aesthetically and stylistically approach a film
  • Negotiate fees and contracts
  • Interview and take a meeting successfully
  • Navigate power struggles between producers and directors
  • Make effective use of a budget for a package deal
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors Request Info

Syllabus

Lesson 1: Seeking Work

  • The unique value of music
  • Seeking work
  • Understanding what a filmmaker is looking for
  • Curating and presenting demos that get attention
  • Assignment 1: Create a Demo Streaming Playlist

Lesson 2: Demoing for a Gig

  • Communicating with a potential client
  • Working to a script
  • Generating a score concept
  • Assignment 2: Create a Demo Piece to Respond to a Given Script

Lesson 3: Developing Your Business  Mindset

  • What is a business mindset?
  • What is the value of my music?
  • Business types/structures
  • Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset
  • Assignment 3: Research and develop a film composer business case study

Lesson 4: You’re Hired! What’s Next?

  • Working with temp tracks and references
  • Working with a workprint
  • Managing meetings with the filmmaker
  • More than a handshake: how to put a frame around the work with a deal memo
  • Assignment 4: Complete a Deal Memo

Lesson 5: Starting the Collaboration

  • Writing to your resources
  • Themes and textures
  • The first delivery
  • Contracts: part 1
  • Assignment 5: Produce an Initial Set of Thematic or Textural Concepts

Lesson 6: From Spotting to Scoring

  • Spotting: a dramatist’s approach 
  • Spotting: roles and process
  • Starting to organize and keep track of your score
  • With so many people in the room, who do I work for?
  • Assignment 6: Submit a set of spotting notes and cue matrix for your short film

Lesson 7: The Complete Sound and Music Canvas

  • Sound collaboration
  • Working with dialogue
  • Working with SFX
  • Source music & songs
  • Assignment 7: Score a scene from your film

Lesson 8: Finalizing Cues

  • Responding to critiques
  • Conforming cues
  • Budgeting for package deals: live, in-the-box, or hybrid
  • Session planning
  • Assignment 8: Budget for a full-day recording session

Lesson 9: The Scoring Session

  • Session best practices
  • Rough mixes
  • Contracts: part 2
  • Musician paperwork: union/non-union 
  • Assignment 9: Do the paperwork for the session in the week 7 assignment

Lesson 10: Other Professionals on the Music Team

  • Orchestrators and copyists
  • Music editors and music supervisors
  • Attorneys, agents & publicists
  • Networking
  • Assignment 10: Research three or more networking events

Lesson 11: Final Steps

  • Stems and delivering to spec
  • The dub stage
  • Revenue Streams: Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) and Royalties
  • Cue sheets
  • Lesson 11: Final submission of score

Lesson 12: Wrapping Up

  • Taking stock of your self-care
  • Archives/backup
  • Billing & taxes
  • Maintaining and leveraging connections
  • Final Discussion: next steps

Requirements

Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Must be admitted to the MM in Film Scoring degree program. Specific prerequisite skills for this course include:

  • Ability to connect with a film director’s vision and speak fluently in the language of film.
  • Readiness to take creative direction.
  • Openness to collaborate on interdisciplinary projects.
  • Critical thinking skills in approaching contracts and other business proposals.
  • Ability to score a complete media work using a home studio setup.
  • Foundational understanding of copyright concepts.

Students are expected to source a short student or independent film to score for the class project. Anyone unable to find a project on this term's timeline may use a film provided by the instructor, who will also pair up students in this situation within the class to serve the role of director or composer on each other’s projects.


Film Scoring Rig: Click here for the full software and hardware requirements for the program.

  • This course requires either studio headphones or monitors, but having both is highly recommended.

After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Student Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact support@online.berklee.edu for any questions.


General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in live chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of  Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software (available in the course when joining your first chat)
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal Microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection

Instructors

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Author

Jeanine Cowen Professor of Film Scoring at Berklee College of Music, is a frequent lecturer on the topic of music technology and new media industries. She is an active composer, music producer, and technologist, working primarily with sound and music for visual media. Jeanine studied at Northwestern University as a classical percussionist and graduated with a dual degree from Berklee College of Music, in film scoring and music production and engineering. Her graduate coursework focused on interactive design and game development at Savannah College of Art and Design. Jeanine has worked on development teams at the Education Development Center, Inc., Turning Point Software, and Turbine Entertainment. Her compositions can be heard in a wide variety of art and media, in works that include the documentary The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo, the critically acclaimed off-Broadway play Rapt, and Midway Games’ MMORPG Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar. Her work as a percussionist can be heard on fellow Berklee composer and music technologist Stephen Webber's Stylus Symphony. Jeanine served as an active advisor to the Alliance for Women Film Composers during its founding.


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Author & Instructor

When Alison Plante was appointed Chair of the Film Scoring Department at Berklee College of Music she became the first female chair of a collegiate film scoring department, before moving on to head up the online program. Her scoring credits range from documentaries for PBS and the History Channel to national television ads, independent films, live action and animated shorts, theater, and multimedia museum installations for the Smithsonian Institution and the Harvard Museum of Natural History. She is also the founder of her scoring business, Treble Cove Music.

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Plante’s composition honors include the Janet Gates Peckham International Award for Excellence in the Arts and the Olga and Paul Menn Foundation Prize. 

A native of Concord, Massachusetts, Plante studied at the University of Chicago and the University of Cambridge. She also plays keyboard and wind instruments; performed for three years in a gamelan, a traditional ensemble of Indonesia; and has conducted for both orchestra and choir. Read Less

Questions?

Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at advisors@online.berklee.edu.

We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

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