Transcript of 'Video 5a – Composing for film 1 '


Hi, my name is Me-Lee Hay, and I'm a composer for film, theatre, TV, and dance.

You can hear my works on Netflix, and Channel 7, SBS1, and Channel 10. And I've also written works for the planetarium, which is 360 degree cinema domes. I've done a tonne of short films as well, and off the screen I also compose for theatre such as Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney Dance Company, PPY, and also Sydney Festival.

Also, I've done the band scene and the rock and roll scene in Sydney, and I'm currently in a post-rock electronica band called Sonori, based in the Blue Mountains.

I studied in AFTRS doing screen music in graduate certificate of screen music, and I've also trained as a classical pianist doing my AMSA and cello doing CMAS.

Right now, I'm working on a feature length documentary called 'Finding her Beat', which is produced and directed by Emmy Award Winner Dawn Mikkelson and Keri Pickett.

It explores the journey of professional women Taiko players in an industry that is predominantly male, and where women weren't even allowed to play Taiko drums as early as 20 years ago.

It's really important to use motifs and thematic development when composing for film.

It really draws the stories together, and you'll hear in 'Finding Her Beat' that I've used a particular theme when exploring the main characters of the 2 women, the 2 mums.

For example, in the opening of 'Finding Her Beat', you'll hear this melodic theme that I've used in this scenario, the acoustic bass when we first see the characters of our documentary.

And then at the end of the film when we see Josie in this big finale moment of the big concert, you'll hear this is the same theme being brought out again, but in a slightly different instrumentation.

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The most important thing for me, first and foremost when I approach a film, is elevating the story.

It's always coming from the point of the story. It's not about what I want to achieve as a musician, well it actually is a little bit, but it primarily needs to come to support and elevate a story and collaborate with the director and your team, into making that story one voice.

So when I drill down from cue to cue, I compose what I'm primarily seeing on the screen. So, particularly on that scene. So, perhaps I have to determine the function of that music in that cue.

So for example, I might be writing in terms of the point of view of a character, their emotional perspective, or there might be 2 characters, but there's 2 very different emotional perspectives.

So, which character do I want to try and elevate? What emotional sense do I want to elevate for that character? That's often in discussion with the director, of what you want to do.

Another common function is montage.

In that documentary as I had spoken about earlier, 'Finding Her Beat', all the characters have come together from the whole world, and they've joined and are having their first big communal dinner in their accommodation.

And we're seeing lots of incidental conversations there, and the function of the music in that scenario is to join all these different scenes together and create a general sense of excitement and anticipation.

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Welcome, and please eat!

So that's what we would call a montage scene, so that's a different function. And finally, when composing for, or when you're writing each cue, I also like to know where I am in the film in terms of the story arch.

So, perhaps I'm in act 3, and I know in act 3 I want it to be big and bombastic, so I will drive the music more to support that story.

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Last updated: 18 November 2022