Please Note: This is NOT a post about whether or not you should put specific songs in your script. For an answer to that question (Hint: Don’t do it!) please see the inconspicuously titled – Put Specific Songs in your Script?
What do you listen while you write?
In a 2011 episode of “The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell,” Mitchell and the director of DRIVE, Nicholas Winding Refn. have a quick and fascinating conversation on film, art, and fairy tales.
Give it a listen if you haven’t already – The Treatment – with guest Nicholas Winding Refn
There’s a great breakdown of DRIVE’s use of fairy tale archetypes mixed with violence, but what really stuck with me was Winding Refn’s discussion on how he creates a soundtrack for each movie he makes. Usually, one artist represents the entire film.
He finds the tone of the film by absorbing music of the same mood. The music gives him that feeling, and he stays with it through the process of creating the movie.
I’m completely on board. Not to get too poetic, but there’s something magical about music that transforms our inner landscape the way few things do. It shapes us, molding us into a state wrapped around a single emotion.*
Screenwriter and blogger John August has also touched upon this subject (Step one: Make a playlist), saying that he creates a playlist for each script he writes. It’s a bit of procrastination, but at least it’s HELPFUL procrastination.
Again, these songs are NOT intended to be IN the script. They just give you the mood of the film while you are creating it.
I’m currently writing a campy horror-comedy, and to nail the tone I’m listening to a lot of Lady Gaga. Yes, Lady Gaga. Her dancy, sometimes strange, sometimes eerie songs are exactly the tone I’m going for. There’s definitely a FEEL to it – the feel I want my readers to experience when they’re reading the script.
Sure, tone is just one piece of the puzzle, but it’s such an amorphous, complex thing. So why not do what John August, Nicholas Winding Refn, and yes, Script Doctor Eric do?** Create a soundtrack for your script.
Get in the mood.
*So I got too poetic. Sorry!
* Not putting myself in the same company as those two, just saying the rest of us can do it too.