Mark Watters is a six-time Emmy Award-winning composer and conductor and has worked in the Film and TV industry for over 30 years. He served as the Music Director for the 1996 Centennial Olympics, as well as the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. He is a former President of the Society of Composers and Lyricists, and most recently scored the oscar nominated disney short, “Get A Horse”, and has been involved with the “Have a Laugh” project to restore and re-record 60 classic Disney shorts from the 30s and 40s.
Mark has a wealth of knowledge for both composers and directors, and in this episode covers everything from scoring animation, to sketching, to characteristics that will make you successful.
Topics covered in this episode:
- The differences between the Disney and Warner Brothers style of animation music.
- How the process of scoring has changed over the last 30 years.
- How scoring animation worked in the 30s.
- The one skill Mark wishes he had focused on that would make scoring much easier.
- When filmmakers should start thinking about music for their films.
- Mark’s tip for sketching quickly and why sketching is a key skill for composers to have.
- A characteristic that all successful composers share.
- How music makes you accept the absurd reality of animation.
Tips and Quotes
The Challenge of Being a Film Composer
The challenge for the composer is to write it in a fluid way so that the audience doesn’t think that you manipulated the music in order to hit certain things whether it be a tempo change or a meter change, or something – that it just have a flow to it, so that the audience thinks that you wrote the piece of music and they animated to it.
Solid piano skills make composing easier
I wish my keyboard chops were better. There is hardly a week that goes by that I don’t wish that I had rethought my lackadaisical approach to piano.
Music’s Role in Film
Music asks the audience to put on different glasses and watch with a different viewpoint.
On Being a Good Filmmaker:
Any filmmaker worth their salt is going to be very much aware of the power that music has, and be very careful in how they make their film. The more amateurish ones are don’t think about music until they finish shooting. They say “The music will save this,” or “Music will complete this.” Terrific filmmakers are thinking about music before they turn on the camera.
On Composing For Film and TV:
Make it look effortless. Imagine yourself a brain surgeon – you don’t want your brain surgeon to act like brain surgery is a big deal.
Sketching is a real art form, and the ability to do it, and do it quickly is key to working in this business.
- Mark’s Tip for Quick Sketching: Put on a timer for short periods and set a minimum number of bars required for that time. i.e. 10 minutes = 4 bars.
On Figuring Out the Film’s Musical Language Before Scoring Scenes:
Come up with the musical vocabulary for the film first, and then work it into your score.
Spend a little bit of time doing just pure composing.
Advice for Composers Trying to Make It:
Move to Los Angeles.
You have to be willing to compose in a wide variety of styles.
Advice for Directors:
Bring the composer in as early as you can.