Matt Schrader is a documentary filmmaker who graduated from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. He would become a three-time Emmy Award winning news producer and documentary filmmaker. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter fund, Schrader’s documentary Score! A Film Music Documentary has been made and will come to select theaters from Gravitas Venturas on June 16th.
World Film Geek had the chance to talk to Schrader about his experiences on the film.
Thank you Matt for talking about Score: A Film Documentary. I got to see the film and as a cinephile, it was a really great film that tackles something some never really talk about today when it comes to films and that’s the music.
Well, thank you so much! And yeah, what’s up with that? Part of the reason why we jumped into is we wondered why there wasn’t a movie on film scores. It’s such a powerful thing. Music creates stories in every film that you watch. Yes, there have been featurettes on the music but that’s just bits and pieces.
I didn’t have a sense of what narrative the composer brought, like what does a composer do (laughs). Do they present the music to the director? Do they follow the director? So, we took a chance at that. I left my job in news and we met with some composers. They started telling us some interesting stories. We started to realize that we had an interesting documentary on our hands. It’s been a fun ride.
I understand this was started on a Kickstarter fund. How long did it take for everything to get together once you succeeded?
We started several months before we launched the Kickstarter, and the Kickstarter enabled us to finish the film. All in all, it was about two years that we worked on the film. And the reason why it took that long to finish the film was that, well they don’t tell you this, but the composers will be working on five or six projects every year. So, they need time to decompress between different projects.
They are under stress and when you have a director who tells you, “this project cost 300 million dollars”, and they don’t like how it turned out, the music has to be amazing. Sometimes, the movie is great in the first place, so the pressure is like, “how can I not ruin it through the music?” But, there is a lot of pressure. There’s a lot riding on every film score and we thought it would be really cool to guide into that as much as we can and try to sit in with composers. Talk about what’s in their heads. We didn’t think it would take that much time.
We actually waited about twelve months to reach Bear McCrary, who I felt was a really important person in the film and television composing world. Because he’s done some interesting things with his music that other people wouldn’t try. He brings a powerful approach and was working on TV shows when we approached him. And he was like, “I don’t barely have time to sleep. I don’t know if I can do any interviews because these shows are going on.” And I remember there was a lot of pressure and we told him we would wait as long as it takes for him.
Luckily, we did get to him and with a lot of composers, we had to find time to be able to flip into their studio and set up the cameras and microphones. We would have an hour, an hour and a half of their time. That’s maybe a third of their day. And we ended up with about sixty interviews and most of them ended up in the film. It was definitely a worthwhile effort but it took some time.
Who are your favorite composers or film scores?
Yeah! Well, for me, picking a favorite score or composer is like picking your favorite child (laughs). Because we really plunged into how these different film scores have different approaches for the different kinds of films. It’s an incredibly traverse world of different kinds of music used in film scores and we started to realize that those different styles worked with an audience. It causes you to look at different things on the screens. It causes to feel different things at different times all based on the music.
So, I see films a lot different than I did a couple of years ago but I will say my personal favorite that I will say is definitive is E.T. That film is an uplifting experience and it’s like a concert. It’s just great story that rolls along with the music and it’s that last eighteen minutes of the film. We don’t have many films like that and the reason that it worked here is because Steven Spielberg changed a few things and allowed John Williams to complete this musical idea. And you have the director and the composer working together. It was an amazing collaborative product and it only worked because they both were able to trust each other. So, I think I would say E.T. is my favorite film score.
Did you experience any difficulties during filming or during post-production?
I would say the organization of this was very tricky because we had sixty people. So, you’re wondering like “how are we going to make this into a ninety-minute film?” Does everyone get a half? I mean, how was that going to work? The original idea was to have five or six composers and that was it. It was going to focus on five or six composers.
However, we soon realized that we could get a cross section of this film composer industry if we interview a lot of people and allow them to be the voice. So, we made the decision not to use a narrator because we wanted to hear from the actual composers making the music. If we can possibly share their word, it would be more interesting that something that narrator would say. So, we tried to interview as many people as we could while giving a really good explanation of how different things in this process would work and the different influences in the industry.
And it took us a long time to edit. I think we spent about six months in the editing room and trying to make different things work. There was very little crossover with the shooting, but really it was us trying to make things work. And trying to make that pacing work. There were so many pieces that we had to find a way that would make us satisfied, but yeah that would have to be the most difficult thing about the film. To have every single edit and to make it work for the bigger picture and that’s difficult when you have 300 different pieces of media that we were pulling from and all different camera angles and stuff. Eventually, we started to find our way.
Finally, do you have any new projects in the works?
Yes, we do have a couple in development. I can’t really say anything about it as details are still being worked out. However, we hope to have everything clear in the new few months. What I can say is that it will be about the audio industry, only it is not related to films.
Score: A Film Music Documentary is coming to theaters on June 16. Anyone who loves movies and music will definitely get their fix with this documentary. Thank you again Matt for talking about the film.
Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure!
A special Thank You goes out to Katrina Wan PR and Matt Schrader for making this interview possible. For more on Matt Schrader, check out his Twitter page.