There is nothing like the soundtrack to a movie or television show that isn’t managed by David Klotz. From American Horror Story to the beloved Stranger Things and Game of Thrones, it is no secret that he holds the power to evoke the most incredible audible moments on the screen.
When Klotz was a child, he was fascinated with movies and dreamed of one day moving to Los Angeles to make movies. His obsession with Spielberg’s movies and Star Wars movies led him to Emerson College’s film school in Boston, where he met many like-minded people passionate about film and filmmaking. After leaving Emerson, he followed his dream and moved to Los Angeles with the intention of becoming a screenwriter. He realized, however, that he felt as if he wasn’t among the great writers when he moved to LA, as there were thousands of them.
“At the same time, I was still in my early 20s, so I started playing in bands and playing guitar, as well as singing vocals,” David Klotz recalls. “I always tell people when I talk to young college students: just do anything and everything you love, and it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to stay focused on one thing, because being a musician still steered me towards music. I found that interested me as I got older, more than writing, acting, directing, etc.”
The Various Roles Of A Film’s Music Department
Upon graduating college, David Klotz got his first job as an adult at a company called PolyGram Films, which back then had a music department. The experience there gave him a taste of all the jobs he didn’t know existed, such as music editing and supervision, scoring engineering, composition, etc. His path eventually led him to the role of music editor, a position he enjoyed immensely, which has led to a long and successful career.
As the music department holds many roles, each of them holds various responsibilities that help manifest the film’s soundtrack. While they might sound similar, they are different, such as supervising, editing, composing, conducting, and mixing.
“The role of a music editor specifically is that you are working with the composer and the music supervisor, and your responsibility is physically putting the music into the show, cutting it into the picture, and making sure it works and is the right choice,” Klotz explains. “As a music editor, part of the responsibility is adjusting the music when the picture changes, for instance when visual effects are updated. You’re constantly having to take the composer’s music and make sure it still works as a piece of music. It’s a creative, rewarding job because you’re working hand in hand with the director or the producer trying to make the film work. You’re there to help tell the story.”
Additionally, he notes that sometimes a composer’s cue might not work the same way after changing scenes, so a music editor needs to do something about it.
“We have a lot of tools and also the composer gives us all of their tracks, so I can say, for example, Hey, let’s lose the drums in this section, and why don’t we bring in the strings here?” David describes. “It’s cool when you’re on a mix stage and see the work you did on the big screen, and everyone’s like, That scene works so much better because of what you do with the music, and it’s fun. The role of the composer, on the other hand, is the person who’s actually creating the score. They’re writing the music that’s going to go into the film that the music editor will cut in – so that’s very different. It’s obviously far more creative because you’re writing the music and hiring musicians to perform the music. As they are different roles, they go hand in hand together. I think it’s very helpful for those who have a good music editor.”
In most cases, music editors are responsible for creating “spotting notes”, which are notes made while watching a film with the director, the whole crew, the music supervisor, the composer – everyone is present.
“The music editor takes notes, and their notes are like the music bible for the show,” Klotz says. “It shows where the music starts, where it’s going to end, what kind of cue it’s going to be, and everyone references that all the way through the process. That’s what the composer uses to write his music and score, and then to make sure that when everything is delivered at the 11th hour, you got to wrap things up so that nothing’s been missed.”
Behind The Music Of Stranger Things & Game Of Thrones
The composers had a lot of work to complete for the recently released new season of Stranger Things because it was the most epic season yet. Before the department even started receiving the pictures, the composers began writing ahead of time, building a library of cues.
“Because it was such a big season, and some scenes were so epic, they were getting scenes early, too, so they’d have to compose immediately,” David explains. “For example, they were trying to write scenes almost a year ago from now, and we’re getting some of the big set-piece scenes to compose music for and a lot of the library stuff. We found places to drop in throughout the show here and there that worked, but a lot of the time, in theory, they worked in places. As the show would cut together, we’d find out they needed to be cut better or shaped better, so that was part of the role that I did. It was a big job, especially with such a popular show that involves a huge writing process.”
As also a member of the Game of Thrones music department, David edited some iconic pieces and hard sequences throughout the series. Despite the fact that it was probably one of the most difficult series he has worked on, he believes it was fun to be part of the musical team.
“One of the hardest episodes I ever worked on was during the final battle with the White Walkers,” David recalls. “It was really tricky, because it was almost just one continuous piece of music for the whole episode. We needed ways not just with the music, but with the sound design as well as to find peaks and valleys. Our composer wrote various versions of this battle scene, and then the picture would keep changing. We also had some creative ideas from the director of the episode coming in during our mix. We had also multiple picture changes because the visual effects were late and it was challenging.” Because, with all the action music, there are a lot of tempo changes and fast-moving strings that are not easy to just cut out.”
David Klotz And His Contribution To Films
As a composer, it is your duty to help tell the narrative. David Klotz has always aimed to improve the storyline by developing and editing scores that are in service of the program and the narrative.
“I like when I see that music has made a scene work better, and it’s so satisfying if you watch a scene with music that doesn’t work or with no music, and then you write the perfect cue for that moment,” David says. “Then you step back and realize that you’ve actually made a difference and that the audience will appreciate this scene so much better from the tiny little contribution. It’s powerful at this point because even as a music editor, the power that I wield when I’m just cutting in music. I find it funny because I’m working on a scene on a show that probably costs millions to produce with all these incredible actors and visual effects. I could slap on one piece of music within a second and completely change the meaning and tone of the scene in a great way, pushing and pulling the story all because of my contribution.”
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