Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing

Arts & Literature

Can Music Hurt Your Indie Film?

Music has always been a key component of filmmaking, at least since sound became part of films. In fact the first feature film with sound The Jazz Singer was about music. Today as Independent filmmaking gains popularity, music remains as important as ever in this business. However, films don’t always gain in quality from music. In some cases, it can hurt an indie film if applied randomly or not very artfully.

Over the past year, I have seen quite a few short indie films including two sent to me for feedback and some streaming on indie film websites or channels. The common thread of weakness by my assessment of these movies was counter-productive use of music in each. While the music itself wasn’t bad or of poor quality, it was used in a few main ways that negatively affected the movie’s viewing experience.

indie film background music

In one movie, for example, the same background music kept playing throughout the movie. It seemed whoever in the filmmaking team – director, producer, editor, or anyone having a say in the music – made the decision didn’t care whether the visual on the screen was a romantic dinner of the lead characters, a car chase scene, or regular dialogue exchange between any characters. The music kept playing. When I pointed that out with the comment that it took away from the movie’s quality, the filmmaker who sent me the movie for review was actually surprised. He said the music was the part of the movie that cost him more than other aspects of production.

Another short indie film sent to me for my feedback was less extreme in its use of music. It spared some scenes from the score it would play in the background. But where other sounds were not in a scene, you would hear the same music used as a filler. The filmmaker didn’t realize that in some scenes you need other natural voices without any music or other overriding sound that takes the viewer’s attention away from the scene’s natural setting. I couldn’t help notice that a few of the scenes would have been way better if the filmmaker had chosen silence to augment the impact of the visual on the screen. Silence is a powerful medium of contrast that can amplify the emotion the scene can convey to the viewer.

Some people create good music and are eager to use it in a movie. What they need to realize is that not every piece of music goes well with every movie or just with any scene in a movie. You need to make a good aesthetic match between the visual and the sound to create impactful scenes and win positive feedback from your audience.

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