Mood Music

Last week, we brought on a new producer to help get some forward movement on this LEVEL 7 feature project I’ve been working on for a while now. The great thing about bringing someone new onto your project is that they bring all of their individual experience and ideas to what you’re doing, which forces you to take a look at the work from a whole new perspective.

One of the sales tools we’re using in presenting the LEVEL 7 project to potential financiers is a two minute trailer cut from the short film we made last year. The new producer thought it might be an interesting experiment to revisit this trailer, not only with some new visual material, but with different music than the score we currently have in it. The score, done by the talented Mr. Deane Ogden, is fantastic, but for the very quick trailer, this producer suggested we try sourced music as a way to hook the viewer and hold the whole thing together thematically. Sourced music is music that already exists and hasn’t been created specifically for your film project. In this case, we’re looking for an existing song that enhances the narrative and emotional content of the trailer’s visuals, and ideally is something familiar enough to the viewer that they have a positive reaction to the work overall.

Pairing music with visuals, whether it’s creating the score from scratch or finding the right song for the scene, is one of my favorite parts of filmmaking. I have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever, having failed at more attempts to learn instruments than I care to mention. Some would also question my musical taste, which I’ll simply sum up as eclectic. Nonetheless, for me, the right music makes the film, so I was up to this new challenge and immediately began combing my own music library, which currently consists of 5,225 items amounting to 13.9 days worth of listening entertainment, according to my iTunes calculation. (And this doesn’t include older CD’s that I have yet to load on the computer.) When I exhausted the possibilities within my own library, I began searching online. Talk about trying to find a needle in a haystack!

In desperation, I threw out a tweet looking for help in finding that perfect track. I got a lot of great responses with inspiration across the entire spectrum of music and I tracked down and listened to every single suggestion, comparing it to the current cut of the trailer I’m working with. Sadly, I haven’t yet found the perfect song to accompany this piece, but I do have a few contenders while my search continues.

I’ve uploaded a low res version of the trailer with no audio so you can see what I’m trying to match the music to. It’s no easy task. The trailer contains elements of horror, action, and science-fiction. Trying to find a song that communicates all of those different genres in one cohesive piece…well, that’s the reason films are scored! But I’m sure the perfect song is out there somewhere, and I’m determined to find it.

SilentTrailerΒ β€” Click to View

Note: due to copyright laws, I can’t use a piece of sourced music publicly without obtaining the rights. The presentation of the trailer with the sourced song would only be in private presentations, so I can’t post it here. But I will give you the list of my contenders and if you’re so inclined, you can play them in the background against the trailer to see how they might match up.

I narrowed my list down to four songs that I think created very interesting and very different viewing experiences with the trailer:

My current favorite is Land of Confusion by Disturbed (thanks to everyone who suggested Disturbed, which led me here). This is a high-octane cover of the original Genesis song, which is a favorite from the 80’s. The sound pairs well with the trailer and the intensity builds nicely along with the visuals. There is some very cool thematic overlap between the lyrics and the story playing out in the trailer with this character who wakes up in a place that he knows nothing about, only to be pursued by forces he doesn’t understand. The downside is that the lyrics eventually go to a place where I think the parallel ends, and it sort of loses its relevance.

The next best pick is Dragula by Rob Zombie. This one works for me because of the sound texture and tempo. Thematically, there’s not much relevance, but you can’t really hear the words anyway, so that doesn’t matter too much. On the downside, I think it’s a little dated and a little loud for a presentation. Sometimes the folks we’re talking to are looking a little bleary-eyed from living the Hollywood lifestyle, and hitting them with Rob Zombie before they’ve had their third round of Advil and coffee might not be the best sales approach.

On a lark, and to try something different, I tried E.T. by Katy Perry (with Kanye West). Before you judge me, this one was NOT in my music library before this project started. However, I started searching iTunes with terms like ‘alien’ and ‘space invader’ and eventually stumbled across this bizarre song, and I was surprisingly amused by how it worked. But I think it becomes too much of a joke to be effective. ‘Playing against type’ is the term used when music is paired with visuals that don’t match thematically, such as a big bloody shoot out set to Jingle Bells. While the subject matter of the song and trailer possess some entertaining overlap, the genre of music seems to go against type in the case of E.T.

Speaking of playing against type, there was one more song that I tried, almost by accident, and this one was in my library already; Delilah by Tom Jones. There is absolutely no reason to pair this song with the trailer, but there is an suspenseful sort of intensity to the way Delilah starts that seemed oddly appropriate when I played it next to the trailer. It’s absolutely wrong for the presentation, but it’s a hoot to watch.

There’s about five seconds of black at the front of the trailer. If you do decide to watch it against any of those songs, wait until you’re a few seconds in and then cue the track.

For now, the search goes on. Now that you’ve had a chance to see what I’m trying to put music to and you know what I’ve been listening to, I’d love to hear any new suggestions!





12 thoughts on “Mood Music

  1. So, I’ve got a bit of a list together.. funny how just overlaying a different song can give a whole nother mood to a video… I’m assuming there will still be audio ontop.

    Honestly, the first thing that came to mind while watching this video was the eMOTIVE album by A Perfect Circle.. a bunch of the tracks.. specifically…

    A perfect circle – Passive
    A perfect circle – Freedom of Choice (instrumental stuff)
    A perfect circle – counting bodies like sheep
    A perfect circle – annihilation

    But for other suggestions..

    Rob Zombie – House of 1000 Corpses – The Bigger the Cushion
    Clint Mandsell – Supermarket Sweep
    Haujobb – Cross Fade
    Renholder – Death Dealer’s Descent
    Billy Idol – Burried Alive

    And for some a little more upbeat or pop’y

    Brainbug – Nightmare
    Prodigy – Invaders Must Die
    Nine Inch Nails – Discipline
    Agent Provocateur – Red Tape
    Curve – Hell Above the Water
    Yoko Kanno – Run Rabbit Junk

    • Holy Morrow that’s a list! This is some serious work here, Dave! Thank you! Great calls, every one of them. I think the only two that I’ve tried are the Rob Zombie and NIN tracks, but I’m going to give them another listen just to be sure. I’ll check all of these out. Thanks for the help!

  2. Hi there,

    I thought I would make three suggestions that seem to line up really well with your trailer (at least to me).
    1) Fever Dream from the 300 soundtrack composed by Tyler Bates ( This has a strong beat throughout the whole trailer that matches up quite well.

    2)Welcome to my nightmare by Alice Cooper ( Matches up well “sedation” and “break down” lines to emphasize your scenes if started with the vocals. Kind of a quirky dark look at it.

    3) Prayer from the Ergo Proxy soundtrack by Ike Yoshihiro. ( A dark pulsating soundtrack that helps to increase tension and scarier elements.

    Hope this helps; I had a lot of fun looking through music for your trailer!

    • These are great suggestions! Thank you so much, Amanda. I’ll be checking these all out β€” I haven’t gone over any of them yet. BTW, I LOVE the 300 soundtrack. Nice call!

  3. Hi Matt,

    A friend sent me a link to your site, i write/produce/sing for Cold Divide, and after seeing the tracks you have already been looking at and watching the trailer, id like to suggest our music for your consideration.

    All of our releases are available for streaming here:

    (The “weaponized” EP is our current release)

    I can also provide instrumental versions and may even have some tracks that are yet unfinished that might work ( which i can show you if you’re interested)


    Dave πŸ™‚

  4. Gazelle Twin- I am shell I am bone.

    (tryed this with the trailer, at first didn’t feel very fitting but as the piece built up, the changes in tone kinda timed in with the events of the trailer..) (try to time 0.52 in the music to 0.47 in the trailer. Gives a good feel.)

  5. Mad World (Alternate Version) by Michael Andrews

    If you want creepy, this fits the bill. Plus I feel that slow melodies coupled with action are pretty dramatic.

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