william baird

Film & TV Composer | Original Music for Compelling Stories

Finding the right music for your story generally starts with finding a composer who you can connect with. 

Every composer and filmmaker have their own way of working - there is truly no right or wrong way. An important aspect to this collaboration is to make sure that the music stays true to the story.  It is important that the emotional context is provided within the musical score.

My experience and values have helped me formulate my way of working. I am sharing my process for those who would like to know how I prefer to work.

the Creative Process

Working closely with the FilmMAKEr, I seek to form a creative collaboration that will enable us both to create a MUSICaL score that complements the film. This relationship can take time to develop, but when it works well the results can be magical.


Using carefully crafted questions, imagery and metaphor - my method allows for rich collaboration between myself and the creative professionals that I work with.  

Using proven processes involving play and conversation, my collaborators find themselves able to explain the music they need in ways that they have never been able to before.  My method essentially allows for the translation of 'literal ideas' into the 'Language of the Score.'

This method takes us away from the obvious, and into the emotional core of the film.


Connecting with the story is my first step. I seek to understand what the script or film is trying to tell the audience - and make them feel. Experiencing the emotions of the film help me to understand what style of music is needed. 

Identifying with the characters in the story is important as well,  as music can aid them in communicating what they say or do.  Individual motifs can be used to connect the audience with each character. Whether a documentary or fictional film, using music to enhance each character will aid for a more rounded score.


Now that I have seen the script or film, and based on the Director's brief and the spotting sessions, I begin to sketch the required tone and themes to deliver the story and characters. I experiment with music to find compositions that will enhance the story.

These sketches will be used to formulate 'musical scenes' for critical parts of the story.  What we are looking for here is the overall feel of the sound and texture of the music. 

These initial stages of collaboration set the foundation of what is composed.


This stage is where carefully chosen colours of sound begin to paint the draft for the score. This might involve choosing speciific orchestral instruments or constructing complex soundscapes through layered textures of sounds.

Motifs are often developed for characters or places,  helping the audience connect with the unfolding story. One of the reasons that we find film music memorable is that it uses distinctive melodic motifs to capture the main characters it describes. 


With the main palette of sounds and the draft music, I can now focus on writing the score to the film. This process is the blend of being a skilled composer and a frustrated artist!  It never ceases to amaze me, after all of these years, how music "just comes out of me." I don't know how it finds my hands and heart - but it does. Finding the right melody, harmony, and orchestration blend, I ultimately find that perfect piece of music that celebrates the story, scenery and characters.

At times, collaboration with other musicians is needed when it is evident that certain areas of the film would benefit from a "unique colour." I welcome this. Ongoing dialogue and feedback with the filmmaker also helps in determining what is best for the story - collaboration always creates the best work. No idea, criticism or suggestion is ignored, as during this stage it is all about being open and inviting to the creative process.


When writing music, a composer can become emotionally attached to the pieces they are creating.

It is important to me that, as my music cues are being written, they are frequently reviewed by the filmmaker and other creatives for feedback and guidance.

It is necessary to do this so that the music stays true to the story and doesn’t become something of its own. Keeping in touch on a regular basis is important for both the composer (so they are not constantly re-writing music cues) and the filmmaker (so they are happy to have been part of the creative process in finalizing the music score).


This is the most crucial part to get right once the music cues have been approved by the filmmaker. The size of the film’s music budget will often determine the time and resources to go into the final recordings. Where virtual instruments need replacing, musicians need to be booked into the studio to record their sections of the score. This could be as small as using solo players, up to using a full orchestra - budget pending. 

An additional team of talented individuals will be employed if an orchestra is needed. This will include orchestrators, copyists, recording engineers and a suitably-sized recording studio. I use an excellent recording facility  - OCL Studios in Calgary, Alberta ( www.oclstudios.com )

When there are budget constraints, it is very common for high quality orchestral samples to be used to replicate some of the orchestra - with today's technology, the results can be convincing. However, nothing really matches the sound and emotion of real musicians playing.


Once all the music cues have been recorded, the process of mixing the music for the film cues can begin. This process can be as simple as providing stereo mixes for each cue - or (in most cases today) providing multiple grouped stems for the sound editors and/or mix engineers to use during their final mixing.

I generally have the final mixing carried out at OCL Studios (www.oclstudios.com ) as they have a great facility in Calgary, hosting a 48 channel Neve 88R mixing console and highly-experienced sound recording / mixing engineers. From here, all of the required music stems are provided to the filmmaker or their post-production facility in the format of their choice.

The aim of this mixing process is to create an impactful union of the film and the music created to embrace its story.


After each successful musical collaboration, it is always nice (if schedules permit) to have some time to celebrate with those I have worked closely with. This celebration reflects on the collaborative magic that was created, the friendships made and the hope that one day our paths will cross again to tell another compelling story.

It is important to me that I maintain relationships after each project - no matter where in the world my music takes me.  I enjoy offering my time to mentor and help others, ensuring we all succeed in telling stories and making a difference in the world.

Zak, the producer. 

2017 © McBaird Studios, a division of McBaird Partners Inc.