CFDb Interviews Jurgen Beck

CFDb Interviews Jurgen Beck ~ Composer for Film, TV, Documentaries, Commercials, and Digital Media Productions

=> How/Why did you get involved with composing?

I have always loved music. I love how it affects us. To me it wasn’t enough just to consume or play someone else’s music, but I also wanted to create it. There is this wonderful emotional experience when a piece of music comes together. On the purest creative level it doesn’t even matter whether anyone else likes it. The joy of creating the music alone is an experience worth the turmoil that sometimes accompanies the creative process. I simply just love that aspect of it.

When I handed control of my life over to Christ, the joy of the creative process was heightened to a degree that I thought wasn’t possible. There is this divine moment when the message of all God stands for and the music merge. It creates an exhilaration that is paralleled only by a few other aspects of life. You get a tiny glimpse of what God’s joy must be like when He creates.

=> Did you know right away that you wanted to specialize in soundtracks for movies? No, that didn’t happen until much later in my music career. I have been producing music for the most part of my adolescent and adult life. However, the music I wrote for my own band and later on produced on my own was more geared toward the pop and alternative music genre. Soundtrack scores from films I always enjoyed listening to, but not having been classically trained it never entered my mind of ever being able to compose the often intricate and complex music I heard on those soundtracks.

It wasn’t until I started adding simple string arrangements to the alternative music I produced that I thought that may be, just maybe, I could venture into trying my hand at creating film music.

As with many things in life, it takes learning and practicing a skill creating anything that others enjoy as well. The thought of creating the music for a film seemed like a huge mountain to climb, so as an exercise in feasibility I set out to create film music without having an actual film to score to. As I was busy working on other projects, this took the better part of four years of studying what film music composers had done and applying what I had learned. The result was an instrumental album that I enjoyed creating very much.

I always assumed that for my first true film project I would maybe get to work on a short film, just to get my feet wet. Little did I know that the first film would turn out to be a full-length feature film. The director contacted me and asked whether I would be interested in submitting music for a couple of scenes. I guess that was my “getting my feet wet” experience. As other composers had submitted samples as well, you can imagine how surprised I was when I got his call telling me that I got the film!

=> Do you only do soundtracks for Christian movies? If yes, please explain why. I create original music for all kinds of projects, including feature films, short films, documentaries, promotional films, TV shows, and digital media. My preference is to stick with films that have a distinct Christ-centered message, whether God or Christ is actually mentioned in the film or not.

I believe that as followers of Christ we are to make two types of films. In a traditional sense, the use of film should be a natural extension of being the “light and salt” that we are called to be. Light is very visible, which we could correlate with a very visibly Christian film with a distinct Christian message. As such, those films are there to give direction, among other aspects.

Salt, once in food, is usually not visible, but its presence can definitely be detected. If we continue the analogy, this would be representative of films that may not directly present the Gospel, but speak of the values we hold dear and present those in a way that is pleasing and beneficial to the “taster”. Not enough salt makes food taste bland, too much salt… You get the point.

Where am I going with this? I believe there is validity in films that are directly targeted at the Christian community, giving guidance with a very clear message. Those films may never be accepted or praised highly by a secular audience, and that is perfectly all right.

Then there should be films that become influencers. Those are films made with underlying concepts that speak of the values and concepts we hold dear to, but may not be overtly “Christian” in nature and content. Take the concept of a “savior” for example. This appears constantly in secular films. Why? Because that is how we are wired – with a need for a savior, a need for THE Savior. It resonates with us. Films we produce in that category can make use of that same concept, but then play it out in a way where we keep it very clear with our understanding of a Savior without throwing in the typical mishmash of world culture.

These types of films should act as salt, influencing culture for good without necessarily containing a strictly Christian label. That’s what the “light” films are for.

=> What other types of composing are you involved in? This would include promos, ads, or public service announcements. Anything that does not overtly oppose the values I hold true to as a follower of Christ. This automatically eliminates certain activities. For example, I have signed with two very large and popular production music services where music can be licensed for use in all types of film. After having seen though where the music can end up, I elected to not submit music to those libraries, as I have no control over where that music goes.

Some may disagree with that decision, but when you look at the potential of music I create ending up in some “public service announcement” that directly opposes values I hold dear to, the choice for me is pretty clear. This is not a values judgment at all on other composers who feel differently. I simply chose not to hand over control of where my music goes.

=> What is the most famous movie you’ve composed for? If famous were synonymous with most exposure, I would say “Standing Firm” would be the most famous film I have written music for. However, the effort and detail that goes into any film I work on is the same, whether it has the potential of becoming a widespread success or not. I simply enjoy the process of adding a unique musical signature to a film that engages the viewing audience emotionally.

=> What is your latest soundtrack that you are working on? I have just recently finished a line-up of short films with another on the schedule called “The Gift”. I also hope to get back to the “Reflections” series, which is not a film soundtrack per say, but is created with a film style scoring approach. So, in essence it’s a film score without the film. The series is designed to help the listener key in on vital areas in their lives, using Scripture and the music to allow the Holy Spirit bring restoration and emotional healing into their lives.

=> How long have you been a composer? I have composed (written) music since I was 16.

=> How long have you had your own company? I have had my current company since 1994, but have been producing music before under different labels.

=> How can others find your website? My official website is at http://jurgenbeck.com. Folks can also find me at http://facebook.com/jurgenbeckmusic and http://twitter.com/jurgenbeck

=> What is the process for a company to hire you to compose something? First is to get in touch and start chatting about your film. I want to make sure that I am a good match for you. While I can write in a large variety of styles, it’s still a good idea to ensure that you end up with the score you had envisioned to push your film to the next level.

If you have the ability to involve a composer early on in the process, even just for consulting on the music score, I believe that your film will benefit greatly. There are certain choices you may make based on the music input your composer may give you. So, do yourself a favor and check in early.

The other reason is that your first pick for the music score composer may be scheduling projects around the time that you would like to engage him or her. The early bird gets the worm, as they say. I have had to turn down film projects from directors who really wanted me to score their film, because I couldn’t fit them in on the short notice they gave me. That’s tragic, as I may have been able to work around it by scheduling the other film(s) around their schedule if they would have contacted me sooner. So, don’t let that happen to you.

Secondly, building relationships to me is equally important to creating a great score for your film. I want to hear about your passion. Why are you making your film? What is compelling you to tell your story? Creating the music for a film is more than just a “job” to me. I want to create music for films that I believe in, that I can be passionate about and rally behind. So, dialog is the key.

Next, we need to work out the composer agreement details. Contrary to popular believe, you have to feed your composer! You’ll be amazed at how much better everything drives when there is fuel to operate the engines. Seriously, most folks are surprised at the amount of resources it takes to produce a film score. Yes, it is possible to create a film’s music on a minimal to almost non-existent budget, but the results will show.

Just because there are composers out there that are hungry enough to get credit only, don’t assume that every composer does it. Keep it with 1 Timothy 5:18 (I’ll let you look up that passage, if you are not familiar with it.) and be prepared to pay for a quality score.

I don’t like talking about money, as I’d rather do away with it completely and just happily create music. That’s what I am passionate about. However, the harsh reality is that a very specialized and expensive to run trade such as this is not possible without sticking the funds into buying and maintaining the tools of the trade. My family will thank you for it!

Once all that is locked down, it is time to talk specifics of the film score in what we call a “spotting session”. In the session we discuss where the music is placed and what it is supposed to do. Music tells the audience how they are to feel about what they see. So, it is very important to determine what that should be. We want to hit the mark.

Out of the spotting session comes the cue sheet, followed by my disappearing from the realms of society and time as we know it and creating your magical film score.

=> Do you have any advice for anyone who might be interested in becoming a composer? Lots, but mainly to pursue your dream with a fiery passion, grabbing anything you can learn about the craft, the technology, the social skills, the marketing, and everything else that goes into becoming a successful composer. There is so much competition in the field and it is easy to become discouraged when no one knocks at your door. Don’t give up and instead learn to become a true master of your craft, determined to being used by Our Master. The rest will follow.

 

November 14, 2011

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