Planning and Composing a Soundtrack

Part XI

I've become fond of saying "Every second of a documentary has to be planned and executed.  Everything seen and heard.  This applies to the on-site scripts, the narrations, the background scenes, as well as the photographs and drawings used."  I am also finding out this applies to the soundtrack as well.

The film begins with the opening credits and is followed by a narrated introduction.  It closes with a final narration and the final credits.  In discussing the soundtrack with composer David Rubenstein, we agreed he compose a symphonic march for the opening credits and then use a heightened score to add drama to the opening narration.  We then agreed to use the heightened score during the closing narration and then use the symphonic march during the final credits - the reverse sequence of the opening of the film.

The next discussion was how to score each segment.   We agreed not to have any music during the on-site segment introductions; a suggestion made by fellow producer Steve Sherman.  We also listened to the recorded Civil War Songs we had.  As these tended to be slower pieces, we decided to use this music during the narration for the non-battle operations.   David would then use variations of his score, using different instruments, to heighten the tension of the narration during the battle operations. 

The result is a rise and fall of the score with the rise and fall of the rhythm of the documentary.  Another great aspect of using a soundtrack is that every piece of music can start on cue and end on cue, coinciding with the beginning and ending of each narration.  

The fact that we are working on the soundtrack means we have finished the documentary itself.  The last effort was made on the credits.  These include all the "thank you's" for access to the different locations and materials shown.  We also give credit to the reference documents we used for photo and drawings.  Most importantly, we list all of those of you who have made generous contributions to help finance this film.  With all that done, we had 58 seconds left. 

Remember what I said about planning every second?  We added 48 seconds of "out takes" which I fondly call "Will we ever finish Bone Mill?"  We use the last ten seconds for our copyright notice.  Right on the mark for exactly 90 minutes.

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