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Adding Music to a Scene, Good or Bad?

After a scene has been recut to better highlight or enhance performance, adding music to the scene may be appropriate. However, the music added to a scene has the potential to either hurt an actor's demo reel or elevate it. We've asked film music composer Justin Marshall Elias to answer the big question: "What kind of music should be added in a demo reel?"

Justin Marshall Elias

Just as the audience is invested in the characters in feature length film, those watching your reel will be invested in your performance.

There are layers beyond what they see happening with you that affect their overall opinion. Putting aside the other actors, the visual quality, and the quality of your vocal audio...we have the music. If suddenly The Beatles start playing over your performance, or Taylor Swift, Radical Face, Death Cab for Cuite, Owl City (really anything poppy, distinct, or popular) well... suddenly no one is paying attention to you. They're thinking, "Oh I know this song," or, "Hey, catchy tune," among many other things they may be thinking while ignoring your performance - your work - your creativity. The last thoughts from the casting director should be, "He/she was great," not, "I love The Rolling Stones."

Putting ambient music under your performance has the potential to increase the emotional atmosphere you are portraying. It can also make a less than professional film seem closer to fully fleshed out and realized. It becomes an additional layer to your talent by emphasizing accurately and efficiently all the emotion you're putting into the character. It also makes the advertisement of YOU, unique. An original score for a film can make it ten times as memorable. A well thought out score for your reel can do the same.

Pop, rock, country, electronica, anything vocal heavy, prominent, or well known isn't an auditory accompaniment, it's another actor in the room putting on a better show, or a louder one at the very least. By it's very nature ambient music creates a clean but textured slate for your abilities as an actor. The music is the plate and you're the food, it surrounds and supports you and most importantly displays you.

Justin has given ContrarianMind clients the opportunity to use a selection of his ambient music for their reel. Using the playlist below, select three pieces for each scene you believe could use ambient music to help give it a little more of an impact. We have the full tracks.

TIP! It's best to listen to the samples on low volume, for it helps you imagine the music's proper place in the scene.

If you would like a custom-made score, contact Justin directly.


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