Score: A Film Music Documentary




An ambitious documentary on film music bites off more than it can chew.

Score A Film Music Documentary

John Debney conducts his music for Mother's Day


For a subliminal art form, film music demands phenomenal manpower and resources of time. Yet on occasion as many as ninety musicians are brought together to enhance one emotional moment. For Doctor Zhivago, Maurice Jarre employed 110 musicians to stamp home his orchestral character. However, a film score is often just an afterthought, something added once the cameras have rolled and the footage tweaked in the editing room. For James Cameron, this essential stage of the filmmaking process is postponed until the eleventh hour, at the moment when he has to convey to the composer what he’s had in his head for months. For others, an orchestra is brought in at the last minute to sight-read a score they’ve never even seen before.


Film music is such an enormous subject matter that a single documentary may seem a little paltry. Even so, the writer-director Matt Schrader seems to have corralled the lion’s share of Hollywood’s film music community, along with a slew of clips highlighting the greatest moments of cinema, from the shower scene in Psycho and the attack of the shark in Jaws, to indelible moments from Rocky and E.T. The ExtraTerrestrial. Indeed, there’s enough here to feed a whole series of documentaries – yet key composers and scores are overlooked. 'The Harry Lime Theme' from The Third Man? Nope. The entire romantic oeuvre of Francis Lai? Nope. Anything at all by Maurice Jarre? Nothing.


Even that standard of film themes, Rocky, which kick-starts the documentary, goes uncredited (Bill Conti is our man, who went on to win an Oscar for The Right Stuff). There is an entire section on Thomas Newman (The Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty, Finding Nemo), but the composer himself only gets to offer a one-off soundbite. Neither do we get a chance to meet John Williams, although his praises are sung by a chorus of admirers (including Steven Spielberg in an old interview). On the other hand, John Debney (The Passion of the Christ, The Jungle Book, The Greatest Showman) crops up so often that one suspects he may be a co-producer (he isn’t). There are a handful of interesting anecdotes (Alfred Newman’s theme for 20th Century Fox turns out to be a recycled outtake), but not enough to grab the casual viewer by the lapels. Film buffs, though, and particularly those into modern movies, will find much to relish.




Featuring  David Arnold, Tyler Bates, Christophe Beck, Marco Beltrami, James Cameron, Mychael Danna, John Debney, Alexandre Desplat, Patrick Doyle, Danny Elfman, Elliot Goldenthal, Harry Gregson-Williams, Quincy Jones, Leonard Maltin, Dario Marianelli, Garry Marshall, Bear McCreary, Moby, Mark Mothersbaugh, Thomas Newman, Christopher Nolan, Rachel Portman, John Powell, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Brian Tyler, Christopher Young, Hans Zimmer.


Dir Matt Schrader, Pro Robert Kraft, Trevor Thompson, Kenny Holmes, Nate Gold and Jonathan Willbanks, Screenplay Matt Schrader, Ph Kenny Holmes and Nate Gold, Ed Matt Schrader and Kenny Holmes, Music Ryan Taubert.


Epicleff Media-Dogwoof.

93 mins. USA. 2016. DVD Release: 2 April 2018. No Cert.