The world has a lot of talented people that we don’t know about because Social Media in general loves to undermine the ones that truly can make a difference. As we all know, hard work, effort and commitment are not rewarded on the internet simply because humans by nature are not attracted by these qualities in this make-believe world. They want the „Shocking news”, they want to know about all the drama that’s happening and they don’t want to hear/read about anything that might be inspiring or healthy for their mental state. Cuz…why would they, right?
I’ve been working on Social Media platforms for a while now and what I’ve learnt is that anything that has the potential to do good, especially when it comes to art and artists will get buried in the depths of the internet with almost no chance of getting out of there. So I said „Not on my watch” because this is making me frustrated and I’m not even an artist. Social Media needs an extreme makeover and most importantly, we have to shift our perspective towards the news and people who can inspire us.
It’s already been established that one of my favorite things about what I do is to discover new talented people or people who have great potential to do amazing things, but don’t have a huge platform yet. Another thing I’ve learnt while working with Social Media is that any artist needs all the help/exposure he/she can get because the algorithm is not on their side. This is where I try to help.
Not too long ago I shared a post where I encourage anyone who’s an artist/business owner/entrepreneur or knows someone and is interested in an interview to hit me up or recommend someone. And this is how I got to know about Allen Constantine, a contemporary film composer, producer and sound designer for film and TV productions. Just so happens that a friend saw my post and she wrote to me „I have the perfect person to recommend to you”. And she was not wrong.
Reading every piece of information I could, I learnt that Allen started to compose music at the age of 9 and since then, this has become his passion and main focus in his career. He graduated from „University of Music Theatre and Arts”, which gave him a better understanding of the cinematographic world.
Allen has many years of experience in the Music, Film, and Television Production Industries, composing music cues and has partnered with ArtFx School for short movies such as (Meanwhile, Unknown, Sayonara) and with directors Nick Wall (Retribution, GAIN), Florin Danilov (Echoes), and Vlad Păunescu (Live).
Because this world is all so new to me I was very excited to talk with Allen about his work, the process he follows in order to create music and the struggles of this field.
Here’s the entire interview.
What mindset do you need to have in order to compose music for a film? Can you wake up at any hour and start composing or do you need a certain state of mind?
Fear is the mind killer!
Paraphrasing that, I find the mindset to be a very important process in my line of work and in art in general. Maintaining a proper balance between the emotional state an artist can sit in and the real world, makes it a really hard task.
The more you lean into the creative process, the more you are freeing yourself from the „chains” of doubt any artist has and just by doing that, that’s when the imagination kicks in.
I look at music as a „ghost” that is always present in my life! One frequency can actually take me to different worlds, at any hour, changing my mood in an instant. Once you accept that „ghost” to be part of your daily life, that’s when an artist can daydream!
What are the top three challenges as a contemporary film composer?
Patience, Time and Commitment.
Starting with patience, which to my opinion is the root factor of any creative process, can be really tricky as you will need to remain calm and calculated while you are slowly reaching for your goal.
Patience also involves a lot of acceptance and tolerance and although for the majority of artists this is one of the most hardest tasks of all the three, it is also usually easier to have when there’s something in it for you. To me, accepting and tolerating connects me with my body and mind, eliminating my negative thoughts.
„The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” – Leo Tolstoy
Time and Commitment on the other hand, are the follow-up ingredients of an artist’s journey. We as humans have these elements in ourselves, the hardest task is controlling them properly before „time” runs out.
Anyone can achieve artistic mastery but that will require a regular commitment to building skills over a long period of time.
In general, we tend to underestimate ourselves as we don’t realize that we are mastering the „time” concept in our daily lives. Our hearts have beats, we walk in different time signatures, we dramatically change tempo all the time just by blinking at a higher or lower speed.
Just by understanding these principles, we could educate ourselves to look at music and sound with a different understanding.
Commitment is an act, not a word. – Jean-Paul Sartre
Do clients/partners in this line of work know exactly what they need for a certain project? Or is it a back and forth conversation until both parties agree?
This is a question to which I did not find a proper answer as of now.
Through my career, I have worked with many different clients and partners and everyone is different. Some of them know exactly what they want to hear, others can not explain what they are hearing, they are feeling it.
I totally get it. Art is difficult to explain. The emotional impact art has in humans is different from one to another. Let’s say you adore a melody you heard last night in a local pub where a band played. You really enjoyed it a night before, but today, when you’re looking at the video you just shot, all of a sudden you may not feel it quite as intense or not at all. Maybe today you didn’t have the necessary mood for it or your state of being is not so relaxed.
Happens to everybody.
Going back to your question, the most effective way is communication and as long as you’re explaining in different ways, by giving examples, references, by having long discussions can actually pin-point the key elements until both parties are satisfied.
Communication works for those who work at it.- John Powell
How much time does it take to create/compose music for a film? Why?
This is a really good question and people should really know the answer to this.
There are many aspects for this question to have a „right” answer. It really depends on the director’s notes, the producer, complexity of the score, how many final minutes of music will be in the film, etc.
Let’s take for example a short film, which usually lasts for about 10 to a maximum of 40 minutes, according to the latest 91st Academy Awards Rules. Anything longer than that will fall into the feature film category.
Depending on the above mentioned notes, the score could settle in at 20 minutes of music, more or less. Usually for a 20 minutes score, it would be wise to either double or triple the amount of minutes of music, so I’d say around 60 minutes of music has to be written. Writing more music with multiple variations on the main theme can actually help the director.
Now, composing the score is a critical and detailed task that involves the „Patience, Time and Commitment” as well. Music should be built around characters, around scenes in a way that it’s not too obvious to the viewer but rather balanced.
Music in films is a very important factor and most of the time it’s actually more important that the actual picture. You could listen to a score by itself and just imagine your own film with your eyes closed, right? What about watching a film that has no music in it? Can you hear the music? Most probably not!
From a percentage point of view, I always thought that the score or music has a 65% rate in a film. It’s just the way I look at it. That does not necessarily mean that the visuals can’t take advantage. To conclude, it needs to be a win-win from both a visual and an audio perspective.
In music, what is very important is temporality of space and length, based on the breathing space the director gives the music within the film, by separating the music from various elements of reality, like noises, dialogues… That’s how you treat music properly, but it doesn’t always happen this way.
Music is often blamed, but it’s not its fault. – Ennio Morricone.
Before you start composing the music for a film, do you often know the backstory? Do you have a script you read so you can get an idea of the movie itself?
Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I’ve had a few projects in my career that required music and there were no specific requests. The client only wanted to have something emotional, or mysterious that could work for the film. In most cases, there is a script involved and just by reading that, a composer can have a glimpse into the director’s mind.
In other cases, the director usually wants to have a conversation with the chosen composer before the screening, so that they can spot the different scenes and discuss the musical approach.
„A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later?” – Stanley Kubrick”
If you had to choose, what would be the project you’re most proud of?
Funny question. Thanks for asking.
I can never choose a project or music I’ve worked on just because I care for all of them in the same manner. I guess it’s like having a lot of children. You can’t actually love one more than the other.
All the projects I composed music for are really special and unique. Each and every one of them has its own story, it’s own character.
I love all of them!
What are the top skills someone needs to have in order to succeed in this line of work?
Focus, Creativity, Obsession
The way I see it, as a film composer or artist in general, you would need to be „obsessed” with what you do.
And by obsession I mean dedication and a lot of hard work. I love taking a frequency and building on it until the point I think it’s „perfect” and although perfection is impossible to achieve, we could only strive to be better in our lines of work.
We have a strong „creator” basis in our DNA. We like to build, we like to pursue unimaginable things, we like to explore. That’s what you also got to do in the music world. You have to express yourself as much as possible, to experiment with your thoughts.
You need to listen to as much music as possible, it doesn’t matter which genre. All music is music. Orchestration and arrangement is fundamental.
„Music is liquid architecture, architecture is frozen music” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
How would you define being creative or original as a film composer?
Simplicity is the hardest achieving form in any domain. One must practice and experiment by all means.
In music, I think that having an understanding of how the instruments work is the key to understanding yourself.
You breathe and you know that your lungs are there to help out! The same goes for playability. Learning as many instruments as possible is really essential. Just go out there and pick any affordable instrument and just resonate with it. It will resonate back!
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. – Leonardo da Vinci
What/Who inspires you when you create/produce music?
Life has its own powers to get inspired from.
From the moment you’re brought to this world, you scream, therefore you produce and convey sound without even knowing it. Your eyes open and you get inspired by all the natural beauty.
I get creative just by listening to the birds chirping, trying to understand their form of language, the wind blows and whistles beautifully and sonically in the background, I find all noise appealing and pleasant to the human ear. Just try evading into this captivating world of sound and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Creativity is contagious, pass it on. – Albert Einstein
Do you see yourself working in another field?
As for your last question, I could never see myself working in another field, not because I could not pursue it, but because the one I’m already in reflects exactly who I am.
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. – Pablo Picasso
Sursă foto: arhivă personală.