Done When it’s Done

Dave Business, Cracked Up (Blog), Creating, Music/Audio Leave a Comment

A while back, I closed up a project that I’d been working on for a few months.

Well, actually, it was more like a couple months shy of a year.

I had the pleasure of working with a director / producer team that I hooked up with back in Toronto. They were just graduating from film school and had me score their short film – I believe it was their final project. Fantastic story and production.

This project was fantastic and also showed how they’d been growing and developing.

The BIG difference between this and other projects was that there wasn’t a hard-and-fast deadline. The guys wanted to “get it right” and didn’t mind doing a few iterations to find the sound that they were looking for.

Blank Canvases

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 10.15.31 AMIt’s actually really rare to have an opportunity like this (I’ve never had one before).

Typically, I’m called upon to score projects in a pressure-cooker situation. It’s needed:

  • Soon
  • Really Soon
  • Yesterday

The guys had a vague idea of what they wanted in terms of mood and texture, but it was essentially Cart Blanche. All in all, I thought it was quite an interesting exercise. I feel we dove into more of the collaborative side of the relationship between a filmmaker and composer.

The Good

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 11.18.52 AMIn the end, I feel we got it “right” … on a number of levels:

I was able to let things gel and actually make more objective musical decisions about the score. With a tight deadline, you’re usually scoring by the seat of your pants. It’s more of a get it done as well as you can and move on to the next cue.

The composition process was more iterative – there was opportunity to cross-pollinate ideas from section to section and cue to cue over time. As the film and music got to sit together and “stew” we all had the opportunity to see how things from different points in the score would develop elsewhere.

I felt more invested and connected in the project. With most scoring gigs, you experience such an intense burst of time where you dive into a project, work really hard, and then you’re done. It’s a fantastic rush of creativity, but compared to the time the director has had with the media, creating the music is a drop in the bucket.

The Not-So-Good

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 11.19.00 AMI can’t leave you the impression that I saw this process through rose-coloured glasses now can I?

There were a couple of cues that experienced the “I don’t like that rock… bring me another” dilemma. I’d go down a creative path and we’d go back and forth, trying to adjust and mould it accordingly… only to get the axe and start off in a new direction.

I obviously wasn’t working on this project full-time for months on end. There were other projects that I’d start and finish. I found the ramp-up to get back into the mind-set for the film became tedious at times. I remember being a kid and not thinking twice about seeing a TV show of film multiple times. I lost that “skill” somewhere in my teenage years.

Lack of deadlines allows procrastination to fester. I’ll be the first to admit that without deadlines, other little projects and whims seem to pop up with increasing frequency. Getting “on task” was an exercise in of itself. Not fun.



I can’t really recall how we decided that we were “done”, but it happened. I think we had a Skype conversation one day where we couldn’t really think of anything else to comment on, tweak or fix.

I liked the process and I didn’t like the process.

There was a “wisdom” I remember from my suit-and-tie days that alluded to a Ying/Yang kind of phenomenon. Decisions made by groups are typically going to be better than ones made by individuals. The downside is that making group decisions are incredibly slow and inefficient.

You can’t quantify quality of art, but I guess you could question whether or not it was “worth it”… I think so.

Would I do it again?

We’ll see.

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