Sometimes the Right Music for a Film Subverts Your Expectations

We recently began a soft-launch of our latest SoundandSEA.TV film episode, “ImprovJam: A Convergence of Jazz, Rock & Rap.” The film is a performance/documentary starring a trio from the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra improvising with local rock guitarist Ayron Jones and freestyle rapper Turtle T. As a prologue to the film┬áI wanted to introduce the SRJO, who they are and why they exist. After all, the film is part of their 20th-anniversary season celebration.

Objectives Matter

Before I begin the process of producing a video, I always ask the question: “What’s the objective?” I want to know, as specifically as possible, what result I (or my client) wants to happen after people watch a film. Education? Inspiration? Buy something? Sign up for something? Dig deeper? The more specific the objective, the better.

Knowing that objective will help you as a filmmaker (or photographer for that matter) make creative decisions that support that objective. In the case of this SRJO prologue, the objective is to inspire viewers to learn more about the band and why they do what they do. I wanted there to be a palpable sense of emotion as you watched. I wanted your heart to beat just a bit faster. I wanted to increase the chance of goose pimples raising on your forearm. At the end, I wanted you to stand up and applaud! (Well, maybe that’s a bit much. ­čÖé

As you well know, music plays a huge role in accomplishing the kind of emotions and feelings I mentioned above. So I had to make a hard choice. Do I pick one of the jazz pieces the band is known for playing, or do I go with something different? Come to think of it, the choice really wasn’t that hard from me. From the get-go, I knew I would NOT use a jazz song.


I’m a huge lover of jazz. I wouldn’t have made ImprovJam if I weren’t. But jazz (especially big band jazz) has a feel and flavor to it that, IMHO, didn’t provide the kind of emotion I wanted the audience to feel. Big band jazz is fun and playful. It makes you tap your toes and want to get up and dance. The way I see it, this prologue isn’t about jazz; it’s about two artists who wanted to share their passion with the Seattle area. The audience needs to connect with and be inspired by them.

Co-artistic director and drummer Clarence Acox
Co-artistic director and drummer Clarence Acox

I recently gave a guest lecture presentation at Olympic College’s Film School. In that presenation I played this prologue and asked the class what they thought. Here were some of their responses:

  • Felt uplifting
  • High-spirited
  • Felt inspirational
  • “I liked how we saw the behind the scenes of the performances.”
  • It would’ve felt different if we heard jazz music.
  • The music wasn’t distracting, Made me focus on what the people were saying.

Only one girl in the class commented that it kind of bothered her that the soundtrack didn’t match what the instruments were playing (although she loved the visuals). What was cool was that another person immediately commented afterwards that not hearing the music made him want to go to the site and hear what they actually sound like.

I’m not saying I couldn’t have made a great piece using jazz music. This is not an exact science. It’s all very subjective. But it’s nice knowing that I got the intended effect from the small sample audience I tested.

So how about you? What do you think of my choice?

Song used was “Infinity” by One Hundred Years, courtesy of Music Bed.

Discounts from ImprovJam Sponsors

I want to extend many thanks to the sponsors that made ImprovJam possible. In particular Music Bed and LensProToGo, who are giving my readers 10% a rental or song when you use the code 9camjam.


LensProToGo┬áis an amazing company to work with. Their employees are working photographers and filmmakers who┬ácan help you make the right gear choices for your shoot. ┬áRates include shipping so there’s no shipping sticker shock at the end of the shopping cart. And all of their equipment ships in Pelican case, so you’re ready to roll wherever you go. (They’ve hooked up my readers with a special discount. Use the code 9camjam and save 10% on your rental. Expires 7/31/15).


R├śDE Microphones┬áis a leader in providing audio equipment and solutions for the film, video and music industries. You’ll be hard pressed not to find a DSLR filmmaker shooting without a┬áR├śDE┬ámic sitting atop his/her camera.

Sliders, Stabilizers & Rigs for DSLR Filmmakers

Rhino Camera Gear is a local gear manufacturer here in the Seattle area who has been able to have not one, not two, not three, but FOUR successful Kickstarter campaigns, all ranging from 230% to over 1300% funded. Their 1300% funded campaign was for their signature product, the┬áRhino Slider┬á(video). I’ve used a number of sliders over they years, and I can honestly say this is one of the silkiest, smoothest sliders I’ve ever used; and at under $500, you can’t beat the price for that level of quality. We used their Rhino Carbon Core for this shoot.


FxFactory – Visual Effects Plugins for Final Cut Pro, After Effects & Premiere

The best way to describe FxFactory┬áfrom Noise Industries is “The App Store for NLEs”. The FxFactory application is free, and once installed, it gives you access to a whole host of plugins for all popular NLEs and motion graphics programs including Final Cut Pro 7 and X, Adobe Premiere, After Effects and Motion. No matter what computer you’re on, if FxFactory is installed, you have access to all the plugins you’ve purchased. They have plugins ranging from color correction and grading to title effects to mo-graph effects. The one I personally use the most is Nattress Levels & Curves. Ripple Training has a few┬áFxFactory plugins also you should check out. Their plugins are affordable, easy to use, and all come with full functioning trial versions (with watermarks).


Music Bed is a curator and licensor of high-quality music that can be legally used and licensed in your film or video productions. They are a popular go-to source for many filmmakers, including the likes of Vincent Laforet, Philip Bloom, Eliot Rausch, Salomon Ligthelm and Shane Hurlbut. Use promo code 9camjam and save 10% on license purchases.

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