By Tiffany Unscripted of Your Film Review
I always believed the soundtrack is one of the most important features of a film. Not only does it set the tone, it can convey a mood during important scenes. From inspirational to heartbreaking, the soundtrack is undeniably important to a film’s success.
I had an opportunity to speak with Tom Getty, who composed the soundtrack for America Has Fallen. We chat about his favorite soundtracks and the importance of music. Check out the interview and my ten picks of the hottest soundtracks.
What inspired you to score music for film?
I’ve always really, really liked film music, and music in general, and I’ve always felt it’s one of the most crucial elements to a successful movie.
Doing the music for a movie is really getting at the soul of a movie!
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I draw a lot of inspiration from film scores. My favorite as a kid was the soundtrack for Die Hard: With a Vengeance by Michael Kamen, and The Fugitive by James Newton Howard. I must have created thousands of movies in my mind just based on those scores alone.
The Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2 used classic rock and pop, and was a huge hit! How important is a good soundtrack for a movie?
Music is so much to a movie. I personally think it’s pretty much everything. So many movies are great, notable, BECAUSE of the music and how it’s used in a creative way.
That sequence in Goodfellas where "Layla" is playing and Scorsese is "pushing in" on the meat truck, the doors opening, showing the one gangster frozen solid, DeNiro laughing. Then they play that song over the credits. It’s everything. When it comes to movies, music is king.
Let’s talk about the essentials of creating music that drives emotions. Many may not know the process. Could you take us through it?
Casting music for a movie, or scoring it, creating it out of nothing, is all about reading the subtext of the movie. It’s listening between the lines—to the story and the acting. Hearing what the whole piece is actually trying to say.
A great director or composer looks at a scene, a movie, sees a lot of action and drama, but he or she is recognizing something behind the image, realizing, "Oh, this scene claims to be about this— but this other thing is actually happening."
Think John Carpenter scoring that one scene in Halloween where Jamie Lee Curtis is walking down the sidewalk, books in hand. On the surface, it’s just some girl going to school. But the music highlights all this unseen evil that’s swirling around her, in the trees, in the falling leaves, behind the window of the Myers house.
The director knows what he wants to say with his movie: evil endures and it can come from anywhere, at any time—and it’ll always be that way. That’s movie music composing!
What has been your most elaborate music production?
Doing the score for America Has Fallen has been my most elaborate music production. It was my first official scoring job—thankfully, I was the one that had hired me. So I could make mistakes, take my time, explore, learn through trial and error. I gradually learned a lot.
I have a tremendous respect for anyone who engages in any kind of elaborate music production—film, videogame, or otherwise. It’s elaborate, worrisome work where you’re never quite sure what’s clicking, what isn’t. And then there’s mixing the tracks. And mastering them. Much respect to actual music professionals!
Is it a challenge to compose music for fiction or non-fiction?
From my limited music experience, I feel like it would be a challenge to compose music for anything that’s supposed to illicit some kind of emotion from a viewer.
You get into the business of: "Well, what kind of emotion should they have?" and "What’s the piece’s point of view?"
What is your expectation for any soundtrack you compose?
I want the soundtrack I compose to unpack all of the materials that went into creating the contents of the movie. "Unpack" meaning you bring everything that’s on the screen alive.
Because without the music, nothing is going on. Dead air.
Could be a $300 million dollar movie playing on a screen. But if there isn’t any music, or there’s no kind of "unpacking" done with the subtext of what you’re seeing on screen, the whole thing is for naught. So I would always expect that the music unpacks all of the hard work everyone else put into it.
What is the most important advice you can give to the aspiring sound composer?
I’m just a movie director composing music out of necessity, so I don’t have a career like Brian Tyler or Hans Zimmer. But I can say this: Learn the form of the music of the types of films you like.
If you want to do action, I’d get a hold of as many action scores; find the sheet music or the MIDI data, look at what notes are hit, look for patterns in the chord progressions, the instruments used, and really get good at it!
And practice those scales! Then, the networking part will be easy. So many directors out there NEED music. There are more directors than there are composers, so there is much demand for your service! Just practice those scales!
Tiffany Unscripted has been the Managing Editor of Your Film Review for over two years at Occhi Magazine. She manages a small team of writers that cover all genres of movies, including writing featured articles on trending topics. In addition to writing, they cover live events, such as film premieres and screenings in Cleveland, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Silver Springs.
She especially enjoys the opportunity to meet emerging talent who enjoy sharing their passion, journey, challenges, and success with our readers. You can learn more about Your Film Review at OcchiMagazine.com.