Score: A Film Music Documentary

Synopsis: A look at the cinematic art of the film musical score, and the artists who create them.
Director(s): Matt Schrader
Production: Gravitas Ventures
  7 wins & 2 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
93 min



[MARCO BELTRAMI] The piano we built

for this movie "The Homesman,"

the problem with this

is that it's out in the elements,

and it disintegrates.

But I think it's a noble

death for a piano.

The wind is a big

feature in the movie

and we thought that it'd be great

to be able to tune the wind.


It sounds really amazing.


This is part of the fun

of experimenting.

You know, you figure

this stuff out.


One interesting

thing that happens

is the sound travels

through the wire

faster than it travels

through the air,

so you get this reverse

echo, which is really cool.

You don't even have to put

any effect on the sound at all.

I mean, you can hear it

all the way down in the valley.

It's more than just the concept

of doing something cool

that nobody's done before.

It's more fun.

Samurai's Death

here, on the hill.



When you hear "Rocky"

Everybody in the audience

knows what's going on.

The composer is a storyteller.

Music has the ability to shape

and in some cases alter

or even subvert what the filmmaker

is communicating.

The score is the heart

and the soul of the film.

Film music can make an exciting

scene more exciting.

We call it "emotion lotion,"

because we can make you feel

anything we want you to feel.

It's being able

to communicate on a level

that they can't

tell in pictures.

Great film music can elevate.


Getting strong now

moving on now

getting strong now


has always been

a part of the cinema-going


as far back as 1895 when

the Lumire brothers

were experimenting in Paris.

In the earliest

days, it is true,

music was thought

of as something

to cover up the noise

of the projector.



films were never silent.

There was at least a pianist

in the smallest Nickelodeons,

and sometimes the bridge

between them was a theatre organ.


[BILL FIELD] There were

many theatre organ makers,

but the one that produced

the most organs,

and is thought to be

probably the best

is the name Wurlitzer.

They showed how a person

could bring to life

the movies that were

otherwise quiet.


They either did a score

that was printed for them,

or they improvised

and created their own.

They were made part

of the moviegoing experience.

[MALTIN] A number

of people had toyed

with the idea of scores

in Hollywood.

[BURLINGAME] Max Steiner's score

for "King Kong" in 1933

was a landmark.


"King Kong" came out,

"Wait a second. Orchestra

music in a movie?"


[DAVID NEWMAN] The only reason

he was able to do it

is because the movie

wasn't scary.

It looked kitschy and stupid,

because it was so It

was kitschy and stupid.

But then he put that music in.


It completely changed the movie.

It made it frightening.


[BURLINGAME] People had

not done that before.

It was really

the first major score

that demonstrated conclusively

the power of music in film.

Alfred Newman came from

New Haven, Connecticut,

an iconic figure

in the history of film music.



A sound that favors

horns and woodwinds.


[DAVID NEWMAN] My father

was Alfred Newman.

In 1930, he came to L.A.



He was at 20th Century

Fox for 20 years.

The Fox logo arguably

the most famous logo ever written

It wasn't written for Fox, it was written

for Goldwyn and it was rejected.

And then he used it for Fox

and Darryl Zanuck loved it.

There was nothing like that orchestra.

I'm talking about rubato.

It means "slowing down and speeding

up in an expressive way."

You would never read

a line of text like,


to the market today."

"I went to the market today."

You'd have a you'd have

a structure of a phrase.

That is so uber

important in music.

They became expert

at making that musical.

That helped define what we know

as the classic Hollywood sound.

[JOHN DEBNEY] A spotting

session is the first time

we all get together,

look at the movie,

and decide where

the music's gonna go,

and what type of music

it's going to be.

All movies, the first 20 minutes

are too slow because we're

laying pipe.

So we want the music to be

something but not crazy.

The goal of a spotting session

is to have a dialogue

with the composer

that you've probably been postponing.

I've done my work,

I've done my design,

I've cast the movie,

I've shot it.

We've done all our beautiful


we've done

all our super-brilliant editing.

Now it's going through and trying

to communicate

what I've heard in my mind.

[NARRATOR ON FILM] Ah, mothers.

Mothers are our rocks.

So it says "Open Road Pictures,"

then we're going to cut

to possibly not the front door

but a shot before the front door

- that establishes the house.

- [DEBNEY] Got it.

[TREVOR RABIN] Spotting,

to me, is really important

because it gives me an idea

of what the director's looking at

and what he's looking for.

- Something that's peppy right away

- [DEBNEY] Peppy, yep.

And then we come here

and we slow down.

Kind of settle on that.

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Matt Schrader

Matt Schrader is an American filmmaker. He is best known for writing and directing Score: A Film Music Documentary (2016) and for his Emmy Award-winning investigative journalism for CBS News and NBC News. He has been nominated for various awards and won three Emmy Awards. Score: A Film Music Documentary received overwhelmingly positive reception and was one of 170 films considered for the 2018 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The film won eight awards at film festivals and made $101,382 at the US box office before releasing as the #1 documentary on iTunes for four weeks straight. Schrader is executive producer of the weekly Score: The Podcast, which interviews leading composers in Hollywood about their craft. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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