The State of Film. (in my opinion!) / by Sean Sumwalt

I type this to you as I sit here in the Lyft after a fun evening in Louisiana judging a standstill marching band show at Central Lafourche (pronounced La-foosh!) and following a very successful recording session for the next installment of the hit Netflix series Chef’s Table! 13 incredible musicians and an outstanding view at the lead composer’s, Duncan Thum, new studio in Topanga Canyon occupied most of my wonderful afternoon this past Friday. These sessions, while sometimes stressful to prepare for, are necessary to breathe life and “move air” into a medium that is becoming less and less concerned with the art and more interested in getting the job done, as cheap as possible.

I believe, in the film world, we are at the tipping point, not unlike the one in the early 1930’s with the focus switching to “talkies.” Call it a feeling, an instinct, a hunch, maybe I’ll turn out to be wrong. Using my own experience, some of the last few film projects I’ve written music for had gotten heavily edited in the last stages of completion. Stripping much of the musical identities or themes that I had spent so much time crafting. Now, you may say, “But Sean! You need to know the wants of your client! After all they are the ones footing the bill!” I understand where you’re coming from, I do; however, when much of the industry is requesting a bland texture-less ceiling there is little room for creativity. Essentially, most film composer’s jobs can be equated to adding the thinnest layer of stucco to a ceiling in an attempt to give it “texture.” Musical soundscapes are what we are left with and that same bland ceiling gets used in an ever growing number of houses. The oversaturation of sound effects and focus of realism in film are just a few reasons that are driving the complexity (and volume!) down for many modern film scores.

Man, this sounds all doom and gloom, but hear me out! There are gems out there, I promise! Have you heard the score to Get Out? Perhaps Better Call Saul? Edge of Tomorrow? These are all scores in the past few years that are trying something different, or putting a new spin on an genre specific sound, and boy is it refreshing! See? Not so bad.

I know I’ve merely scratched the surface but I do want to open up a healthy dialog! Add in your thoughts, any recent scores that inspire you? Why? Where do you think this train is heading?

Anyways, just musings after a great session! In the meantime you can check out my music to SARGE which was selected to be screened for the coveted Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, Indiana!

Thanks for reading!