I don’t know if this is a true story. Richard Burton was playing the lead in a comedy on Broadway. Before making his entrance he told the stage manager, “Tonight, I’m gonna make ‘em cry”. He went on and, as promised, he brought the audience to tears when they should have been laughing.
With the greatest respect to the ghost of Richard Burton, film music can also evoke tears, tension, fright and every other conceivable emotion. Speaking of ghosts, I’ve sat many times on an empty Fox scoring stage wondering how Joseph Mankiewicz reacted the first time he heard Bernard Hermann’s main title of “The Ghost And Mrs. Muir”. Did Mankiewicz break down in tears? I’ve watched that film numerous times and still cry when the final music cue enters. Today, a director hears a mock up of the score long before it gets recorded – all of which strangely leads us back to Richard Burton.
The temp music editor can have a profound effect on setting the emotional and musical tone for a film long before the composer sinks his teeth into it. In an admittedly dangerous comparison, the temp music editor can play Richard Burton – so long as the director loves what is provided by way of temp music. The good news is the music editor can feel the power Burton had. The bad news? It doesn’t last long, so don’t let it get to your head. In fact, the best temp score retains its value with yesterday’s newspaper. On the brighter side, one good job leads to another. With the tasks of pleasing a difficult director, not alienating the composer, and keeping the studio happy – why would anyone want to edit temp music? I will provide a lengthy introductory answer, but first, welcome to SCOREcast!
It’s a privilege to be the music editor contributor. My goals are: To provide some working advice on the politics, the creativity, and the inner workings of music editing. If I run out of sage advice I may write war stories about the good old days. My specialty is temp music although I have worked with some of the finest composers in the business. I hope to keep the material as interactive as possible, therefore comments and topic suggestions are most welcome.
If it helps me to admit, or the reader to know, I am without the impressive music degrees that many of my peers hold. In short, I am an autodidact. I have played guitar for many years and also compose. I’m not the smartest guy on the block, but I’m pretty good at my job. Marc Shaiman once dubbed me “An idiot savant”. From Marc that was a compliment, though surely he would joke otherwise.
When I started apprenticing I had one mantra: Make money. Although raised in the film industry, I was the proud kid who didn’t want to follow in his father’s writer-producer footsteps – until I got a look at one of his pay-stubs. (Told ya I wasn’t the smartest guy on the block.) Up to then I had so many jobs I could qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records. I was married and supporting four kids while working at Ralph’s Warehouse in Compton. (And that was a good job.) The day I saw his earnings I begged my Dad to get me into the his business. He called Rocky Moriana Sr. who he knew from the Paramount mail room where they had begun their careers. They made a trade; me into the Editor’s Guild, and Rocky’s son into S.A.G.
As an apprentice I made more money than I had ever made in my life. For a few months the mantra was good. I worked ninety hours a week rewinding reels, preparing fill leader for the various sound and music editors, and running heavy hand-carts of film from one end of the studio to the other. It was grunt work, but I enjoyed everything about it. If I could only figure out what all those editors were doing. There was no Wikipedia.
After several months, with no inspiration other than money, I became discouraged at the relentless assembly line. The epiphanic day occurred when I sneaked onto the Fox scoring stage and watched Jerry Goldsmith conduct “Alien“. I fell in love with movie making and though I was raised in the business, I saw it in a fresh light of creativity and magic. How lucky was I to breathe the same air with those great musicians? I am still excited to sit on a scoring stage, or cut a music cue and see it on a fifty foot screen.
Why one would want to edit music? You tell me.