Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Call for submissions: CFC's Slaight Music Residency

The Canadian Film Centre recently announced the Slaight Music Residency, a program for composers and songwriters to develop their craft in the writing for the screen. They are now accepting nominations for the program. For this first session, there will be no tuition.

The Slaight Music Residency is aimed at composers and songwriters looking to break into the onscreen world, and will support four musical artists (two composers & two songwriters) per session. Applicants must be nominated by an established songwriter, a Professional or Gold Member of the Screen Composers Guild of Canada, established film/television/documentary director/producer/showrunner, music supervisor, or music executive.

Candidates must have experience with Logic Pro. Composers must have experience scoring at least two of the following: a feature, short film, commercial and/or television program (drama, documentary, lifestyle); while songwriters must have at least two songs commercially exploited either in film or television or released by a record label or have a publishing contract.

Faculty for the program will include Mychael Danna who has composed soundtracks for films such as Moneyball, (500) Days of Summer, and Little Miss Sunshine; and Jim Cuddy of the band Blue Rodeo, whose songs have appeared in many films and television shows.

Canada has a strong tradition of music, not just in the rock/popular music scene but with composers such as Mychael Danna, his brother Jeff, and Howard Shore. This is an excellent opportunity to build on this tradition.

Film music is an under-appreciated aspect of filmmaking, even with filmmakers. Most directors will unfortunately take their time to learn about every aspect of filmmaking except music. Too often, they will just slap on their favourite songs (e.g. Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson) whether or not the choices are suited to the characters or situation, or they will use a temp score and just ask the composer to mimic the temp, thus ensuring a generic and derivative result.

Good music, however, can save a film from disaster, but the composer must be trusted and given their freedom. Two famous instances of this happening are with the films Psycho and Jaws. Hitchcock was disappointed with the results of Psycho and ready to send it straight to television, but Bernard Herrmann asked to have a crack at it, and ignored Hitchcock's instructions such as leaving the shower scene music-free. The budget only allowed for an 18-piece string orchestra and yet he devised an unforgettable score to accompany the film.

With Jaws, the test screenings were disastrous because audiences thought it wasn't scary at all since you didn't see the shark until the very end (the result of cutting around an uncooperative robot shark). John Williams said he could fix that, and when he demonstrated his two-note theme to Steven Spielberg, Spielberg thought he was joking. But the let Williams do his thing and his resulting score created the incredible tension that made people think Spielberg was brilliant for not showing the shark more.

The deadline for nominations is July 27, 2012 at 5pm EST. The first residency will take place from September 24, 2012 to June 2013.


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