Last year, I was approached about writing some music for a short comedy called ‘Copy That’ that was being made by the young and talented director Kingsley Hoskins. The film is about a photocopier with slightly special powers that transforms the lives of two office workers. You can watch the film here:
Kingsley had found a quirky wind band track of mine on the audio network site Uncertain Measures and wanted to develop a score along those lines. Due to both to time issues and the film’s ‘shoestring’ budget, which ruled out recording with live instruments, I suggested an alternative approach:-
This was to effectively construct a score for the film, by carefully selecting a group of my own tracks from the audio network library and reshaping the versions by editing to get a homogenous and ‘specially composed’ feel to the whole score. One of the big advantages of this approach was that, the film would benefit from music that had been recorded with a top flight London orchestra and in one of the best studios in the world (Abbey Road). High production values and quality are at the core of Audio Network’s ethos, which means that as a composer it really is possible to do things properly. It seems a real paradox that when watching much of mainstream television you can tell where a programme changes from specially composed music to audio network production music because suddenly you’re moving from hearing samples to listening to a live orchestra.
Anyway work started assembling cues for the film. Much as with a ‘specially composed’ project, there were the same discussions about where the music should go and what it should achieve. I assembled a shortlist of tracks for each scene, from which we could choose what was going to be edited and reworked. Uncertain Measures was an obvious starting point and was used to introduce the copier and to underscore its’ unexpected influence in the last scene. In a short film such as this, where all the action takes place in the office, we tried to keep an intimate feel to the music selections and chose tracks that largely shared the same tonal centre (A), thus making transitions between them smoother and adding to the general sense of homogeneity.
The dialogue scenes with the copier were an exercise in editing between the underscore version and the full mix version of Devious Thoughts so that the melody naturally came in and out of the texture in sympathy with where the dialogue was placed. With audio network adopting a policy of releasing many differently mixes of a track, with the same structural template, there’s often this kind of flexibility in instrumentation once one lines up the various versions in pro tools.
In the last scene (the confrontation) I used two different but nonetheless thematically related tracks (The Plan and Revenge is Sweet) and switched from one to the other as the scene builds in intensity. The Plan is a slightly furtive pizzicato version of a melody, which is also featured in the full-blooded tango that is Revenge Is Sweet. This kind of thematic transformation of mood with related material is exactly the sort of technique one would employ in specially composed situations and so to have production music in that form gives the music editor really powerful tools to successfully mimic that process.
It was fascinating as the composer to be in the music editor’s shoes for this short project. We, as production music composers are constantly aware that we must spend considerable time doing alternative endings, loop sections, quicker builds, cut-downs, stings on each track as a tool kit for the editor, but it was gratifying to discover first hand how useful that is. When that is combined with a real understanding of how the music is structured and put together, it’s amazing how malleable the music can be in it’s reshaping to fit with picture.
Copy That was the:
WINNER – Creativity Award at the Forster Film Festival, 2015
WINNER – Gold medal award at UNICA Film Festival, St Petersburg, 2015
WINNER – Best Comedic Short Film at The Short Film Awards (SOFIES), New York
WINNER – National Film Festival for Talented Youth 2015
WINNER – IAC Diamond Award at the British International Amateur Film Festival 2015
WINNER – Best British Entry at the BIAFF 2015
WINNER – Best Amateur Filmmaker at the BIAFF 2015