March 20th – Masterclass in Music for Film at EICAR

March 4th, 2013

USC program director and associate professor of practice in scoring for motion pictures and television (1998-2012), is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music and USC. Brian has been working in the industry as a composer, orchestrator, musician, engineer and producer. Some of his feature film projects include Rushmore, The Rugrats Movie and Get Bruce working with the likes of Mark Mothersbaugh and Michael Feinstein.

rushmore_ver1 rugrats

He has composed and produced music for episodic television including The Proud Family, King of Queens, Starting Over and The Love Chronicles, as well as composing additional music for the VH1 feature film Play’d.
He also scored and produced the musical score for the off-Broadway theatrical production of the comedy The Godfadda Workout. Brian’s work in mentoring and building relationships between educators and industry professionals recently created several workshops in music for film, including a collaboration with Marco Beltrami (2-time Oscar nominee) and ASCAP on a Tommy Lee Jones film, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” (SONY Pictures Classics), Thomas Newman (American Beauty), Harry Gregson-Williams (Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia) and, with the support of BMI, a special seminar in “mixing for composers” featuring 4-time Oscar nominee, Dennis Sands (Alan Silvestri, Danny Elfman).



Besides performing as a live jazz musician, Brian produced the music and performed live at the first Rhythms+Visions / Expanded + Live event in April 2011 with touch designer artist Scott Pagano. Original audio-visual compositions were performed to “Mechanisms”, “Parks on Fire”, and “Modulating Architecture”.


Before moving to Los Angeles in 1997, Mr. King was the owner of a recording studio in Atlanta working with such artists as REM, the B52s, The Indigo Girls, Medeski, Martin and Wood, John McLaughlin and the subdudes with Bonnie Raitt . During this period, a large part of Brian’s work with the Blue Wall Studio focused on building relationships within the artistic, business and educational communities of Atlanta. Some of these included • Record Companies – Daemon, Sky and Relativity • Local Radio Stations – WRAS (Georgia State), WREK (Georgia Tech), WKLS (96.1 FM) • Internship Programs – The Musician’s Institute, Georgia State University (WRAS) • Local Film and Music Studios – Whoa Films, John Keane, Tree Sound, Bill Allgood, Southern Tracks, Doppler, and Dallas Austin Studios


Before formulating your posts, read over these questions below – they may serve as a catalyst for topics and questions. I will read over your responses prior to arriving on March 20th…

• Whenever I meet with filmmakers, I’m always interested in knowing about your personal experiences, meaningful musical influences and/or musical skills or training (maybe you play an instrument, sing in a choir, participated in a drum circle, played in a band with a sibling or friend, or just love listening to music, etc.) Please let me know a little bit about your experience with music.

• Do you think about music when you work with images, or at any point in your creative process. If so, do you create a temporary music track for your project?

• What do like most about music with image  – can you describe this in terms of melody, rhythm, energy, emotion, storytelling, etc.?

• Can you describe an experience (good or bad) that you’ve had working with music for one of your projects?

• What is your experience in working with music technology (music software, sample libraries) – have you had the chance to work with live musicians?

• Is there one thing in particular you’d like to know about the music making process? For example;  How to find a composer? How to communicate, collaborate with a composer or music producer? What is the difference between a composer and a music producer? Music budgets & licensing, etc.?

Using the “Leave a Reply” box below, please feel free to post responses, as well as questions you may have pertaining to any aspect of producing music for film. Additionally, I will have previewed a number of EICAR student film projects before the class meeting (see list below) – should any of you have questions or comments about music in any of these projects please include them in your post.

– As The Days Went By
– BFFs
– Death of a Tune
– Deception
– Dice
– Faithless
– Fragments d’une Jalousie
– Nightwatch
– Un Adultere
– Une Cadence Rompue


The masterclass will also include a segment on how music & sound design work together in the film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”. You can download a copy of the PDF with notes from the director, about the music  and other aspects related to the production of the film. I hope you will download the PDF and take a few minutes to read his notes…

DOWNLOAD PDF for document on “Beasts of the Southern Wild”




ORIGINAL BK MUSIC ~ lots of samples from various projects

14 Responses to March 20th – Masterclass in Music for Film at EICAR

  • Ammar says:

    I am Ammar from MFA2 🙂
    1) as for my experience in playing music, all what I remember that my teacher in my childhood used to let me play the piano in the music class, I don’t think he used to do so because I was good in it, but because I was the most polite student (at that time of course LOOL).. 🙂
    So my experience actually is only in Listening, I am all an ear hearing the music.
    What I most like to listen is the music instruments that’s used most in the arab countries, (the Oud “most popular instruments in Arabic music”/ The qanun “a descendent of the old Egyptian harp”/ The Nay “Farsy”/ The RiQ/ And the Turkish Buzuq).
    I do love hearing the piano too (of course when someone is playing it 🙂 )

    2) I do think about the music when I write my films, but the problem I don’t really know how to describe my feeling about the music that I hear in my heart.

    3) I love the music when it gives me an image to think of, a free space to dive in.. especially when it says things that we don’t necessary see.

    4) Well, the music composer of my film was good, except that it takes time until he start composing the music.. his way of composing is weird for me, even though Its logic.. He takes a long time just in thinking about the film, about the script that he read, and the cuts that he he told me he closes his eyes until he get the emotion in his heart, then he can easily compose it.

    5) I have many music instruments applications on my phone, I really like it, as I never had experience in playing the music, this applications give me the chance to touch this instruments..
    But I don’t have an experience in playing the music at all, except the piano story in my first answer 🙂

    6) I really like to know how I should communicate with my composer?
    How I could know if the music is good or bad? (I know for some part its a subjective point of view, as not everything related to Right or Wrong, music is one of the things that relates to the emotions, what I like is not necessary what the others like)..but what is the things that makes the music Better than others in our case in filmmaking?

    It’s the first time a professor asks us to write our comments and replies, it’s really a nice for me to read what my classmates thinks and what experience they had!

    Thank you and see you soon

  • Stefano Stroppa says:

    Hello Mr. King

    I’m a BFA1 student from Italy.
    I don’t have much experience in music.. my very first dream since when I was in primary school was to learn how to play the keyboard, I’ve never started and I regret it, but as of some months ago I tool up the harmonica and I’m learning and I must say I love it..
    Anyway I’ve been always surround by music since I was born, I was always music when I was growing up in my house and I’ve my uncle that is a compositor and music researcher working at Ircam here in Paris with who I always like talking about music.
    Anyway, when I started off high school my passion for movie soundtrack raised up more and more every day, and now I cannot but listen to soundtracks (Zimmer, Thomas Bergesen, Howard, Horner, Ramin Djawadi and all of them), or however music in general (like Simple Plan, Blink182, AmyMacDonald and Coldplay, Sprinsteen, The Script,..) when I’m writing some project (most of the time a script) or doing something at home (even the simple stuff as shower, or cleaning and such). With no music I’d not bee able to work on.

    As for working with music technology, I must say I don’t have experience at all, as I can’t count playing around with Garage Band some four years ago

    I think music is one of the most important element in a film. When we watch a film with friends, there’s something behind the fact that we’re watching the same film, that gives it a really subjective aspect, and this is due to the soundtracks that surrounds the entire movie. I do have to thank the arrival of the sound, as I think soundtracks really help to increase our degree of involvement in the story and to give rise to emotions. I would like to cite a quote by a famous compositor, one of my favourite, Howard Shore, who speaking about the role of the music in cinema says: “It’s the music that immediately washes over the audience like a warm blanket and reminds them that they’re ‘home’ again.”
    Thanks to the music I consider films as one of the best way where we can dream and lose ourself in the movie for a while, and the more the music surrounds you, the more the film itself will be impressed in your mind long after you get out of the cinema.
    During a film we are fastened each other together by these feelings and emotions that hardly can be expressed verbally, and even though they are different for everyone, they turn out to be the best bond we all have to share what we are watching.
    And so here comes my first question, from the point of view of the director that has to call the compositor: how you, director, can express and tell the composer the emotions and feelings that are so difficult to express verbally, so I mean which is the best way to tell your composer the kind of music you are looking for for your movie?..

    I didn’t answer in order to all the questions, but I hope I managed to give an answer to most of them also giving my opinion about what I think about music in cinema.

    Looking forward for your masterclass



  • Kyrylo Sopot says:

    ˙ Hello, my name is Cyrill. I am BFA1 student. My biggest musical inspiration is the works of Michael Nyman, Phillip Glass, Goran Brehovich and No Smoking Orchestra. I love music very much and always in search for fresh tunes and new discoveries. I like very much the electronic music of the Knife, Caribou, Kordan, etc. I started to play guitar recently, would love to learn some wind instruments and synth.

    ˙I do. (it moves my images a lot even being only in my head in some abstract form many times)

    ˙Rhythm and composition are always very important to me and apply both to images and sound as I do not quite separate the two and prefer to believe in the common roots of their nature. Moreover I am fascinated by slow and powerful space music with which I can imaging the collisions of planets and birth of stars

    ˙ I worked on one project back home in Ukraine and after finishing the visual part of the movie we came to my friend composer and asked her to play a score for this movie. We explained her the idea about the music we would like to use. Incredible fact was that she did not even finished to watching the movie, while her fingers started to play and we recorded an incredible improvisation that later became our score for the movie. Then we could not stop her from playing and were enjoying the music evening for the next hour or so, it was just brilliant.
    I would like to know about music budgeting, rights, licensing and communication in this business. I would also like to hear interesting stories and working moments from music industry.

    Thank you!

  • Valentin Pittard says:

    Hi Sir!
    I am Valentin Pittard, BFA 1.

    1) I don’t really have a background in music. Although i did have music classes when i was younger. But nothing much.

    2) I do think about it and a lot. But when editing i don’t have the soundtrack that’s why i try to think about it and imagine how could this be. One of the thing i do is to put the music i’ve already heard, which is close to and play it.

    3) for me the most important part of music it’s the emotion that makes you feel. When the image and the sound are perfectly in sink it’s a incredible feeling.

    4) I’ve done a project for an ad in tv and put a music without doing anything on and it matched perfectly! In every senses.

    5) I always have someone who does a track for me.

    6) I’d like to know more about rights. And yes, the budgets, the difference between the composer and the music producer. What is the process, do you compose when everything is done with the music ?

  • Marco Velez says:

    Hello Mr. King,

    I’m Marco Velez. I’m in MFA1 majoring in Directing and my minor is in Editing.

    1. I don’t have a huge musical background. I played the drums for some years when I was in high school and a bit in college. I played in a couple of cover bands, I know a bit how to read musical sheets but most of the time I learned the songs that we covered by ear.

    2. I definitely think about music during the script stage because it informs me the mood of that particular scene or sequence that I’m working on. It’s not a temporary music for the film but this practice puts me in the mood for my writing. I also sometimes communicate with the other departments with the use of music since I think it can convey sometimes better the rhythm I’m looking for camera movement, the mood for the lighting and the set and even sometimes for the mood of the characters throughout the film or in a particular scene. Whenever is possible (depending on the actor) I give them a mix-songs CD so I can communicate things I can’t express with words. Some other practices that I do is that I listen to music on my headphones on set if a scene has a particular mood which I want to put myself in so I can direct the scene according to that mood.

    3. I prefer the use of music in film when it helps to set the mood or the emotion of a scene or the film. I think the music is well placed when it helps the audience to be inside the movie and forget about all of their problems without the music being too present. When the music combines perfectly with the acting, with camera, with lighting, with the sets, it creates the sense of true storytelling.

    4. So far, in all of my projects I have used already composed music (from classical to indie-rock bands) so I do a lot of research during the whole process of making a film so when I get to the editing room I have choices to try. They are not necessarily the same ones that I used for writing the screenplay, or the ones I used on set. When I have been the editor for other projects, I usually bring my ideas for temporary tracks for the films according to what I’ve discussed with the director before about mood and rhythm.

    5. I don’t have any experience working with music software (besides doing sound editing on Final Cut Pro) but I’m planning to learn how to use Pro Tools in the near future since I’m interested in improving my skills of communication with the Sound department (design, mixing, scoring), and maybe someday do the sound design and score my own films. I am very inspired by this filmmaker called Shane Carruth (Primer, Upstream Color) whom writes, directs, edits, does the sound design and scores his own independent films.
    I have “copied” sound libraries from people I’ve worked with and I use that for my projects. And I have never worked with live musicians for any of my projects.

    6. I would like to talk a bit about how to communicate to a composer about the mood that I’m trying to convey in a scene and/or a film. I would like to know what is useful to say and what’s not useful to say to a composer. If we talk about a general feeling or something very specific (like what instruments I would like to listen).
    Since I have used pre-recorded music in my projects, I have dealt with some music licensing before (from really independent artists to established ones) but I have never had to pay the fees since it was always a short film and they have helped me waiving the fees, so I would definitely be interested in listening to music budgeting and licensing.

    Thank you. I look forward for your masterclass next week.

    Marco Velez.

  • Greg Arch says:

    Hi Mr. King,

    I’m Greg, a Fast Track student focusing on cinematography and screenwriting.

    1) While I never got very good with playing instruments (guitar, piano, and trumpet), there was always music in my house when I was growing up. There were many days spent with The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and Chicago blaring out of the speakers, and often my dad would turn up the amplifier as high as he could and play guitar. And since I got my first CD player I’ve developed the habit of listening to music at any socially acceptable point of the day. Silence is a rare thing for me to hear.

    2) I always write with music in the background. If nothing is playing, I get lost thinking about why I’m not listening to any music. Also, I make tracks of songs as I’m thinking about the mood of the particular story I’m writing or shooting, and listen to it anytime I’m contemplating it.

    3) For me the most important part of music with an image is emotion. When the two match up perfectly and really hit you with a feeling it’s an incredible thing.

    4) I don’t have much experience working with music for my own projects, except I synched a song with a short documentary (cutting with the music, instead of adding it at the end) that ended up being pretty easy. I guess that was a good experience, then.

    5) I have virtually zero experience with music technology (playing around with Garageband a few years ago doesn’t count).

    6) I’m curious about your opinion and style of composing when it comes to working with the image vs. working with just the story, or maybe something totally different that I haven’t thought of.

    Thank you, I’m excited to hear what you have to say.


  • Zoe Denis says:

    Hello Mr King,

    I am a first year student (BFA1)

    1) I started playing the drums at the age of 9 with a teacher, but I soon realised it was easier to learn on my own, and thus mainly learned by ear. I was in a band for four years; we did covers (mainly punk rock and rock) and had 10s of concert at school events. Then I moved country and had another band. We would compose our own songs, and switch instruments to figure out the right tunes. I taught myself how to play the keyboard and I now compose. Apart from that..I’d love to learn how to play the ukulele!

    2) I always think about music when I work with images. Music inspires me a lot and is a key point in my creative process. I have a couple of playlists for different activities. For example, when I write, I listen to film soundtracks, and when I clean my dishes, I listen to Rock ‘n’ Roll… (yep.)

    3) It really depends on what I’m seeing or what the story is. Although it’s very music-video-like, I love it when music is synchronised with edit points. Of course I think the rhythm and energy of the music should mirror the emotion and story of the images and emphasize their meaning.

    4) Copyrights really suck sometimes.

    6) That is something I am currently trying to find more about. I just know a couple of software that could let me record directly from my keyboard to my computer (it’s something I’m currently trying to do). Apart from that, nothing really.

    7) I am just curious about the moment at which the composer should be called. Is it before the project is edited? Or after? What is the best moment to call in a composer?

    Thank you,
    I look forward to the master class,

  • Gonzalo Hernández-Vallejo Fernández says:

    Hello Brian

    Im Gonzalo, from BFA1

    My experience in music is pretty small, I played 3 years of clarinet when i was in the school, but as I was pretty bad i cut. I Sang in the school choir aswel, and I still love to sing when I’m not in a situation when i disturb… A great friend of mine is Orchestra director in Spain. When I meet him in cambodia a couple of years ago he was preparing a choir with many children to sing the song of joy ( I think thats the name in english) So i took his place for one week in the music class he was giving to children in order to have time to prepare better the choir. Apart from that and the 2-3 hours of music I listen every day that’s all my experience

    Life without music would be an error and as film is life without the boring parts, I think music is one of the fundamental pillars of a film, can say without words the feeling, the dinamism of the moment and the possible future of the next scene. That is why I always thing about the music when i write a ficion scene. I didn’t made any film yet, but for sure when I make one I’ll get the perfect music for it. I cant create anything for the feeling i want to show, but I think i can inspire th feeling and mood to the musician, so he/she with the aid of the images could create the music I want

    In my opinion, the music gives that magic background of dinamism, mood and energy to the action. Of course, it depends on the music and the scene, there is not always the same objective when you put a song into a scene.

    When I said that i didn’t made any film was true, but I had today an experience during a photo roman exercise I present today during a workshop class and the thing, is that was a drug dealing scene made by photos i took yesterday. Nobody like it some because of the clarity of the story some because of the editing, but nobody said nothing against the music. I used Puss the button, Max by Henry Mancini, and save my ass. The rithm of the cuts and the mood, of the melody said more than with the images!

    I dont have any experience working with any music library, software or real musicians. I’m really interesting in know this tools, as about music rights and how to get them in order to make a good work and create what I really want. I would really know too how to use the music in a film, saying this in the way of when put the music, when, if I have the chance to work with a composer, ask him or her to create the music. According to live musicians, I have a project which include a street musician and I would love to use a real street musician to do it, so If you can give me any advice I would be soo happy and gratefully.

    About the process of creating music im pretty interested, as about rights, licensing and how to find special rights to show in festivals etc

    I would like you to thank you for coming to our master class, I think that you have many things to say and to teach to us. What would be Scorsese’s, Woody Allen’s or Kusturika’s film’s without that unique way of creating the mood with music?

    Gonzalo Hernández-Vallejo Fernández

    P.S. : I loved Beast of the southern wild soundtrack, gives that happynes and brave to the film in that southern way. Bravo

  • Clara says:


    I am Clara from MFA2 majoring in Editing. I don’t have much experience with sound mixing and I think it is important for me to know it.

    1.Music is a big part of my life. I played piano for about 8 years but then I dropped it. Most common reason, I had a bad teacher and I lost my enthusiasm progressively. I used to sing in a choir as well, that I stopped too. But I can’t be sitting in a room and not having music on.It is more important for me than film even.

    2.I have a photography background and the reason why I am here today doing a masters in film is because of wanting to mix image, music and sound. Not that it wasn’t enough for me to express what I wanted only through still images but I got curious to learn other ways of doing. I never yet composed anything, only tried it once for a small exercise and I have enjoyed making it a lot.

    3.It is like an introduction, sometimes it adds, in storytelling, in emotions, it’s a whole different world that let us hear sounds that sometimes could be unknown to our ear. It can make us imagine images without seeing them in real.

    4,5. No I haven’t had any experience in that.

    6.I don’t know much about it. But I’d love to discover it.

    Thank you and see you soon!

  • Nicky Elliott says:

    Hi Brian, I’m Nicky from Fast Track.

    1. I have no real experience in music myself. I wanted to learn piano as a kid but mum never got around to organising the lessons. That’s odd really as she was a wonderful pianist and I grew up with a baby grand in the house. I tried to learn guitar in my 20s but didn’t get far. My brother and dad are both pipers so childhood was kilts, malt whisky and bagpipes. For me personally my biggest musical love was/is the Beatles and I’ve been involved in musical theatre in Australia for the last six years. I’m happy to say my own kids are learning instruments and our house is a riot of saxaphone, guitars, keyboards and flute.

    2. Yep. Music changes everything. I have to try not to plug the music in even before I start cutting.

    3. I like the subliminality of music to guide us through a story. I was cutting a personal project of a trip to the Somme battlefields and the quiet little piano track turned it into the saddest thing I have ever cut… But the song itself wasn’t actually sad, just pretty and thoughtful. The alchemy is fascinating.

    4. See above

    5. I haven’t really worked with sampling etc but have shot live musos with audio on my little Zoom H2, and ditto with live theatre.

    6. haven’t thought about this one yet in any depth. 🙂

    Thanks for taking such a proactive approach to Masterclass… What you are doing here is a great idea.



  • Emma BFA3 says:

    Hello Sir!
    Here are the responses to your questions:

    1/ Music had a heavy influence on my childhood. From an early age I was trained classically (clarinet/piano/school choir) but as I grew older I branched out, teaching myself how to play the guitar and record my own songs. My house was always filled with a variety of music.

    2/ Whenever I am working creatively music is involved. Like most people, I have songs that remind me of places and people and evoke strong feelings about a variety of situations, which help to write and create.

    3/ I like the ability music has to push a story forward, to add to the image and enhance the message.

    4/ I did one project in which I tried to use a part of a song, rather than the full thing. I found it very difficult to choose and cut the song without it sounding really obviously chopped up and unfinished.

    5/ I’ve recorded some stuff using a 4 track, some using garage band and a very long time ago used a studio, with myself and my friends as musicians and recordists.

    6/ I’m very interested in sound design and would like to know more about how one gets into that, as well as licensing on famous songs.

  • Karim Bekdache says:

    Hello Mr. King,

    I am pursuing my master’s degree in Production at EICAR and looking forward to the workshop. Please find my answers below.

    1) Other than loving music in almost all of its genres, I unfortunately have no music background.

    2) During the creative process I often think of music. I play tracks that fit the project I’m working on to get inspiration sometimes and to try to imagine how the final outcome of the film is going to be after the original music is added.

    3) What I like most about image and music is how they don’t seem as two separate entities (when the work is done well of course) when we watch the film.

    4) Unfortunately, in most of the projects I worked on in the past I had very little to do with music.

    5) I do not have experience with music technology at all and haven’t worked with live musicians on a film project.

    6) I would like to know as much as possible about the entire process and especially about budget and licensing since I’m a production major.

    Thank you and see you soon.

  • William Van de Walle says:

    Hello !
    My name is William, I’m in MFA1

    1)I’ve an autodidact with instruments. I play piano and drums mainly by ear or by watching people playing because I can’t read music sheets. I like every kind of music.

    2)I have to admit that I have problem imagining images with music when I write for a movie because when I listen to a nice music or track, I imagine automatically a music video clip. I hope this masterclass will help me for this.

    3) I will take Ludovico Einaudi to answer that. I think all his music would fit perfectly in movies. His music brings me the same emotion i can have when I watch a movie.

    I don’t really have an experience in working with music since my main goal is to be 1st AD.
    However I love writing in my spare time and I wish to know more about music and how to bring it into a script.

    Thank you !

  • Grace Van Holle says:

    Hello Mr. King,
    Responses to your questions:
    1) I grew up with a grandfather who sang Opera, an uncle whose profession is playing the Organ, and a dad who simply loves playing the piano. Other than that I have no musical background, nor can I carry a tune to save my life, but music helps me think, it helps organize the chaos in my head. Classical music was always played in my house, although at first I hated it, now whenever I need to concentrate it seems to be the only cure against procrastination. As well as Jazz and most importantly for me Bossa Nova.

    2) Absolutely, it’s different every time. Whatever I am working on, their might be a specific genre of music I like to listen to. Usually, the song I heard first when I thought of an idea or a project starts, tends to be the genre I keep with until it’s done. I wouldn’t necessarily say I make a music track because I feel that way there’s less of a chance of being inspired by something completely new. If I make a track then that ends up being the only songs I listen to.

    3) Music and image just make a perfect pair, it helps build energy and rhythm which essentially makes you feel. Emotionally, the pair can hit you faster then words. And I look forward to knowing what it wants to make me feel. Thats what I like most about music with image.

    4) Nothing in particular other then applying it to a film and not understanding why it’s not syncing to the footage and then spending hours trying to figure it out.

    5) Very little, and no.

    6) All the questions listed!

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