Written by: Esteban Jaramillo
Music in screenplays is a highly divisive and complicated topic. When writing scenes, a song can come to mind and become so ingrained in the narrative that the writer feels compelled to include it.
For this topic, I’ll be discussing music’s contributions to a screenplay’s tone, pacing, and theme, as well as the use of diegetic music. I will NOT attempt here to navigate the issues of song licensing.
Yes, this is a real-world pragmatic issue that every screenwriter will need to keep in mind when writing. For this article, however, I will try and talk only about the writing of existing songs within a screenplay in terms of the effect of the reader and narrative; the techniques of using music to improve a piece of writing.
I will NOT be talking about musicals or movies about musicians – as often these kinds of
films work with a unique score, so scripts for films like Whiplash (2014) will not be discussed,
as well as musician biopics. That’s an article for another time.
The writing of a script marks the beginning of a long process where it is torn apart and put back together by producers, actors, directors, editors, other writers and ultimately – itself.
Unless you’re the director or a prominent producer, nothing about your writing will be sacred, and that includes your music choices.
There is, however, the value in using the song to indicate tone. The tone of the moment, when ambiguous, can be highlighted by the music selected to underscore (or score) the scene.
— To be continued in our January 2020 Issue of Cut Frame Magazine. —
More about ”The Track Kicks in Specifying Songs in Screenplays”.
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