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The Importance of a Good Score

Written by (2023-2024) Student Board Member Ariana McCants

One of the most significant pieces of any film is its score. Many filmmakers treat the scoring of their film as an afterthought, which is an unfortunate oversight. The fact of the matter is: the most critically acclaimed films would not have risen to such acclaim, had they not have had a great score to accompany them. A great score can elevate a film from being good to being unforgettable. 

Composer and Music Producer Hans Zimmer

Consider Hans Zimmer, one of Hollywood’s most innovative musical talents, as an example. Zimmer has crafted scores for over 150 films. One of his best works, in my opinion, is his score for ‘Interstellar’. His blending of traditional orchestra with electronic elements worked wonders in this film. The music not only supports, but enhances the film’s emotional and thematic depth. His use of the organ is particularly noteworthy; it adds a cool, spacey quality that aligns with the film’s unique exploration of space.

Another good example of this is the ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. Howard Shore scored these films, and adds an epic, emotional depth that aligns beautifully with the visuals. Conversely, films with less impactful scores or generic soundtracks often miss the opportunity to make it resonate with the viewer. This is because music has the ability to convey emotions that visuals alone cannot. A score should be integrated in a way that heightens or underscores the emotional tone set by visuals. Subtle, melancholic music, for example, can add depth to more poignant scenes and convey the feelings meant to be conveyed.

Ideally a composer would be brought into the project early enough to understand the vision and rhythm of the film. Christopher Nolan, the man behind Interstellar, does this in his collaborations with Zimmer. When composers are brought on early, this allows for the score to be developed in tandem with the editing process rather than after the fact. Because the editing process determines the pace and rhythm of the film, the score should complement this. Fast-paced scenes might benefit from a more intense score, whereas slower, more contemplative scenes could have a more nuanced musical piece. That being said, it is not imperative that you have a composer score your film. In the modern era of filmmaking, there are plenty of great musical options online, ranging from free tracks to licensed pieces. The key is knowing what you’re looking for, and having the drive to find the perfect piece that resonates with your film’s vision. To quote John Williams, “sound is 50% of the movie-going experience.”