Spotting

So – you’ve had the call, contractual pleasantries have begun, there’s maybe even been a meet and greet and lots of talk about wonderful possibilities, and how much everyone loves each other’s work, and then you have to actually face up to the task in hand.

The spotting meeting is the time when the composer, director, editor, various assistants and other interested bodies will sit down and go through the film for the first time cue by cue. Some people video these sessions, or record them as audio, which is maybe a good idea, although I’ve never done it. At least you can refer back to them in case of the inevitable confusion later down the line. I mostly prefer the scribble and hope approach, although with able assistance this has evolved into ‘someone scribble, someone type, then compare the results afterwards and puzzle at why they’re completely different’.

At the admin level you hope to be able to produce a cue sheet from the spotting sessions, which would have the cue start and stops, details of significant hits within cues, and specific musical direction. At a more musical level though, I always find it’s an invaluable time to be in the room with the director as they talk about music. How they respond to the temp track, both in what they say, and how they say it, is crucial to understanding where they’re trying to get to. Whether they laugh at your suggestion of using children’s toys as instruments, and whether it’s a hollow ‘who is this idiot’ laugh, or a ‘excellent, we’re both as nuts as each other’ laugh will tell you a lot about how the process is going to go.

You’re doing a lot of listening and observing, but at the same time, you are forming your own opinion of what will really work for the film. Sometimes that’s obvious, sometimes much less so. And sometimes that won’t necessarily be what everyone else in the room is thinking.

Oh, and it appears to be a side of human nature and attention spans, that you will end up with incredibly detailed notes on every individual tiny cue in the first reel, and then just one scribble for the last. Which usually says – “write music here”.

Best of luck!