Quinn Lubbe on composing music for film

Quinn Lubbe

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: Quinn Lubbe is an editor and composer, whose score for Modder en Bloed was nominated in 2017 for a South African Film & Television Award (SAFTA) in the category Best Original Music Score – Feature Film. Additionally, Lubbe has composed scores for Raaiselkind and Ellen: The Story of Ellen Pakkies, and edited films including Vuil Wasgoed and Wolwedans in die Skemer, as well as the TV series Getroud met Rugby and Hartland.

WHAT MAKES YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT SOUND DESIGN/COMPOSING?

Composing music for film is incredibly fulfilling because of the powerful impact that music has in supporting and driving the story. As a composer, you’re starting with a blank canvas with a guideline from the director and editor through reference music and discussions that you’ve had based on the offline edit. Although that can be daunting it is also very rewarding once you start creating music to picture and experiencing the impact that the music you’ve created has. Each project is also very unique, even though it may fall into the same genre as a previous project and this allows you as the composer to constantly change and grow.

HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO COMPOSING?

My dream was always to write music for film and television and I originally wanted to study music after school. By chance, I walked into the TUT Motion Picture Academy open day when I was researching tertiary institutions. I had studied music throughout my school career, but realised that in order to write music for film, I needed to understand more about the storytelling process. So rather than study music, I decided to enrol at the Motion Picture Academy at TUT. It was there that I was able to write music for some of the short films that were being made by my classmates and leaving film school with some of my work to show (although it was quite modest) definitely helped me to promote myself.

WHAT SOFTWARE DO YOU USE? IS THIS IMPORTANT FOR YOUR WORKFLOW/CREATIVE PROCESS?

I use Logic Pro to compose and mix in. For my sampled instruments I use EastWest Composer Cloud as well as various Kontakt sampled instruments. Logic is built for composing and although there are many DAWs to choose from, I’ve always preferred Logic because it is very stable. I’m also a Mac fan, and Logic isn’t available for PC. As far as the sampled instruments are concerned I think that EastWest’s Hollywood Orchestra virtual instruments are some of the best out there.

IS YOUR WORKFLOW PROCESS THE SAME ON ALL THE PROJECTS YOU WORK ON?

Although the workflow is usually the same in terms of viewing the offline and discussing the film with the director and editor, the process of creating the music can vary drastically. With each film being unique in its storyline, setting and characters, the music will reflect that and will call for different approaches in the instrumentation, orchestration and tone. Being a pianist, I tend to sketch a piece on the piano and then build it from there, orchestrating the different parts depending on what is needed for the scene.

DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT OR SCENE THAT YOU’VE WORKED ON THAT CHALLENGED YOU CREATIVELY AND UNEXPECTEDLY?

For Blood and Glory (Modder en Bloed), I spent an entire day composing a piece of music that on the piano worked really well with the scene. I then started to orchestrate it and when I came back to it the next day, I realised that I had composed a piece that would’ve worked well with a sweeping scene in a Disney film. Not quite ideal given the subject matter of the film. I knew that I had to start from scratch, losing a day’s work in the process, but sometimes it’s necessary to scrap something altogether, rather than try and salvage something that might take you in the same direction again.

WHAT IS A COMMON MISCONCEPTION PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?

I think the biggest misconception is that anyone who can compose or play music, can compose music for film. Film scoring is more about understanding story and supporting narrative than creating beautiful music. As a composer you want your music as a supporting role – you don’t really want people to notice the music while they’re watching the film. It always has to be about the film, not about how much you can shine as a contributor.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU REGULARLY ENCOUNTER?

Time is always a big factor in completing a project. It takes a huge amount of discipline to sit down each day and write a certain duration of score. It’s often an exponential process in that the going is really slow in the beginning when you’re trying to establish your themes and you tend to write more music towards the end when you have your themes and sub-themes. You’re also under a lot more pressure towards the end and you have to hit a deadline, which for some people works well – I’m one of those!

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU OFFER SOMEONE CONSIDERING A CAREER IN POST-PRODUCTION SOUND?

Understand how story works. Ultimately it is all about the story that is being told. Understand how what you want to do supports that story and enhances it. Every person, from the production designer through to the VFX team, is creating elements that will tell the story and fulfil the director’s vision. So if you want to write music for film or television, start by taking a feature film or short film that you know well and write the score to it. Then compare it to the original and see what works and doesn’t and why. Also, work on as many projects as you can, even if they don’t pay at first. It really is a case of, “practice makes perfect”.

 

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