Meet the Jury – Mark Sayfritz
Did you ever end up with goosebumps or teary eyes out of the blue while watching a production and asked yourselves where that came from? No doubt the music used in the movie contributed to it!
For the newest episode of our “Meet the Jury” series, we got the opportunity to ask our jury member and professional composer/sound designer Mark Sayfritz some interesting questions and are happy to say we received truly inspiring answers! Thank you to Mark for sharing your expertise with us. It was a pleasure to work with you!
Mark, you have a lot of expertise in scoring and producing music for both feature films AND corporate films. Is there any difference in how you approach new projects in each of these two worlds?
With feature films, your point of contact / briefing is usually solely the director and their vision. With corporate films, its often the “client” or advertising agency that dictates the vision. This can mean there are many people with an opinion on what purpose the music should serve. They frequently don’t have the creative / artistic background that a director in a feature film has, after all they have developed their career in a corporate environment.
A director in a feature environment is often driven by the music enhancing the narrative, often a more subtle pursuit. It can be the music is hardly noticed and serves to wash the scene with a colour or energy that hints or gently points the viewer. This can be true in a corporate film too, but its often more bombastic in its approach. The job here is to reinforce the brand or sell product.
I often heard from young composers that they fear limited creative options when doing music for corporate films or advertising compared to feature films. Is there any truth in that?
I would say its as limited as the imagination of the director, or in the case of Corporate films, the clients / ad agency. The commercial films are often less flexible as there is a clear corporate identity pre-existing which the music has to be aligned to. I would generally agree, though i have worked on advertising campaigns with fiercely creative teams. Always a joy when this happens!
What are the main advantages and what are the downsides when you score and sound design for short form productions like advertisements compared to a long feature film?
Films can take months of round the clock application and often 7 days a week schedules which can be enormously draining.
Ads can also be as intense; in some cases, I’ve actually spent months scoring a 30’ ad campaign as there were so many levels of corporate input and huge financial risks. For instance, in the case of launching a new car to the public that cost hundreds of millions to develop there can be many departments with input and U turns along the way.
In general, I would say ads are considerably less time intensive and require a more opened eared, flexible stance.
There are many disadvantages having multiple voices chipping in with a diverse vision when it comes to writing music. “Too many cooks spoil the broth” is a phrase I’ve heard many composers use :) In Feature films, the big advantage is generally just one point of contact and because of the sheer scale of it your often left to your own devices to just get on with it. I’ve found myself in front of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Abbey Road studios and the director and producers haven’t even heard the cue till its being put down. Considering all the associated costs with such a production its an incredible amount of creative freedom to have! That would never happen in a commercial / advertising ecosphere.
What is easier and why: composing a huge, monumental score from scratch for a long-form movie or writing a catchy, 30 second tune with instant high recognition value? The advert is obviously vastly more achievable, rather like walking to the shops compared to hiking up Everest in the case of a feature film. When setting out to compose a long form feature the task seems so incredibly huge you can’t look at it as a whole or it would almost be overwhelming.
It’s best to see it as bite size chunks, or just small foothills, hiding the large mountains that lay ahead!
How do you think does music affect the viewer’s emotions towards a company? What are the possibilities? What are the dangers? Do you think customers are aware of that element or does it more happen on a subconscious level?
This depends on the narrative of the campaign and the picture content. If the brand is seen as powerful then the music is licensed to hit hard and express that value. When i did Audi bull campaign for the RS6 it gave me the opportunity to furnish the score with something that really reinforced that. I chose to use a very subtle throbbing synth part that started subconsciously at very low frequencies. Over time as the narrative of the bull being tamed developed it allowed the synth sound to reveal itself as a rumble emphasising the cars power over taking that of the conquered bull. It went from almost a subliminal drone to a huge pulsating growl, but oppositely to the way that the picture and narrative would seem to dictate. That counterpoint allowed for something really special.
When a new client asks you to sound design their campaign, how do you find out how the company “sounds” for you? How do you choose style and orchestration?
Lots of talking, researching the brand, mulling over previous campaigns etc. There’s normally at least some sort of storyboard presentation to bounce back to the client against. Quite often i get brought in as they want something to be edgier and maybe more (pro)aggressive in tonality.
There can be a lot of submissions and sweating before commonality is found, i enjoy those journeys immensely.
What was the most challenging project you worked on so far?
Hmmm difficult one! I’ve had feature films where the director and the producers went to war over the score and i was being pulled in all directions. Ultimately this ended in the scoring process dragging on for over a year, and the music being written end to end numerous times.
Recently i was asked to write a symphony based on my witnessing of the northern lights in conjunction with extra synthesis, plied with artificial intelligence derived from the filming of my experience, all shot deep in the Artic Circle. Then to take that and perform it live at Brahms Salle in Vienna with a large Orchestra. That was seriously challenging, thank you Huawei and Ogilvy Mather Berlin for the invitation!
Mark Sayfritz is a highly renowned English composer and artist who shares his time between London & LA. He started his musical journey as a recording artist/record producer and, multiple gold-selling albums later, Hollywood knocked on his door to request film scoring duties.
He has now scored over 20 US features, global TV series and countless advertising campaigns including numerous DnAD pencil & Clio awards and nominations for numerous clients including Nike, Audi, Reebok and the NBA.