Continuing the series on using temp music while editing, I have another example to present: When I use movie soundtracks as TEMP for my projects. When working on projects like THE MEXICAN AMERICAN WAR and ANDREW JACKSON (History Channel), I knew that the show was eventually going to be scored by a composer. And while I did ask the composer for all the music that he had that might fit the theme of the show. I did get a few tracks, but I needed more options. This is when I turned to movie soundtracks.

For MEXICAN AMERICAN WAR (MAW), I used music from THE ALAMO, SOMMERSBY, GETTYSBURG, MASTER AND COMMANDER and AMISTAD. Some of the music was too orchestral, and some too soft. But I did end up with a good selection to work from. For ANDREW JACKSON, I tried to use some of the same music, but also found a few good tracks from WE WERE SOLDIERS. But then I also relied on some of the original music scored for MAW and other new music from the composer.

When I submitted the rough cut to the network, I was told the music wasn’t right…not “exciting” enough. And this is one of those notes you can expect from the network…music notes…on temp music. Stuff that will be replaced. They want to make sure that you use the right kind of music so that the composer can score something similar that matches the feeling of the music you are using. When I asked what kind of music they wanted…and please give a specific soundtrack if they could…they came back with PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. So I incorporated the high tempo music in battle scenes, and it worked well.

There are two dangers to using this scored music as temp. One very real, and the other just annoying. The real danger is that you are using music that was composed by a very high end composer who used a full orchestra to achieve that score. And your composer, while they might be good, they aren’t in the same league as John Williams or Hans Zimmer. And most likely they won’t have a full orchestra, just a keyboard, or more, with high quality (hopefully) samples of these instruments. So the score won’t sound as good as that highly produced multi million dollar soundtrack.

The annoying danger is that as the editor you now relate this music to your project, and not the movie it came from. For example, PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN, DEAD MAN’S CHEST. I used the music from this movie BEFORE I watched the movie. And being the editor I heard the tracks from that score over and over and over in relation to scenes that I cut. So when I did go see the movie, and the Kraken attacked the ship, I was distracted…HIGHLY distracted because I used that track in the battle scene when the British charged the American trenches.

Same thing happened to me when I worked on the Disney Channel series EVEN STEVENS. We did a final movie for the series finale and that had the family of some tropical island in a hidden camera reality show. We used music from SIX DAYS, SEVEN NIGHTS and DINOSAUR and half a dozen other sources. Again, I hadn’t seen DINOSAUR, so when I finally did, I hear the music of the Stevens’ arrival on the island over this opening scene of this dinosaur egg being carried halfway across the world.

Tip…use music from movies you have already seen. Unless that music is so closely tied to a movie that you cannot use it as temp without picturing Batman escaping Arkham in a cloud of bats. That is another danger. And again, tied to the use of music from one show in another…like me and the producer being unable to use music from the medical docu-drama in the show about rituals.